I’ve lived in Florida for nearly twenty years now and I still find it funny when people “tease” me about my free thinking spirit or strange thinking as I’ve heard it called. What most people don’t know or understand about me is that I am very aware that my thinking is different from the norm. I love being me, I love being different and I absolutely love my free thinking spirit.
I was born in San Francisco in the 1970’s. Growing up there, what I remember most is family get togethers and lots and lots of people. There were people who looked like me and people who didn’t. I had friends of all shades, shapes and sizes.
And then it happened…I moved to my mother’s home state of Alabama to live with my grandmother. I lived there for a couple of years during middle and high school. The years I lived there were probably some of the darkest and worst times of my life. Unless a person was born there, one, especially a free thinking, spirited kid from California, could never understand what pure hatred, negativity and ugliness looked like.
I loved being with my grandmother. She taught me things I would have never learned or appreciated in California. I learned how to wash clothes without a wash machine, pick fresh fruit and veggies, sew without a sewing machine, cook without processed foods, share without thinking what I’d get in return, to respect others, to do right because it’s the right thing to do and to act like somebody with some sense. However, what I remember most was not only how blacks were treated in the south by white Americans but how we treated each other. Living in Alabama was the first time and the only time I experienced bullying by my own peers. Prior to moving there, I had no idea that my skin was “too dark” or that my hair was “too nappy” or that my last name rhymed with so many other negative things. Living in California I grew up understanding that we are all different in some way but that people were just people.
When we finally moved back to California, I was lost, confused and scared of everything and everybody. Life for me had changed drastically. I had the privilege of spending my last two years of high school at an all girls Catholic school. Being there helped me to recover some of what I’d lost in Alabama. I was no longer that “black girl with the nappy hair and funny last name.” I was just me. Again, I was able to have friends that didn’t all look like me or talk like me. I found the girls and administrators at my school to be some of the most encouraging, loving, funny, and beautiful people I knew. I know for certain it had nothing to do with the religious aspect of the school but simply people who wanted to be their best and helping others to be their best as well.
We live our lives never knowing which situations will break us or those that will make us stronger. What I am most grateful for is that I had the experience of growing up in a place that allows people to be different. I’m grateful that my experiences in Alabama didn’t strip away the heart of who and what I truly am. I love that I don’t have a keep my head down mentality. I’m not afraid of growing or changing. I’m not afraid to seek or ask for help from any person of any race. I’m glad that I see the bigger picture. I don’t care what others think or say about me. I’m grateful to be a free and reasonable thinker. The only thing that defines who I am is me and personally, I think more people would benefit from being more open to the differences of others then taking the time to learn from them.
Learning from others…:)