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Strong-minded, Confused, Plus Hopeful
Flights were always a mind-boggling experience for me. I know it’s an everyday thing now, and that planes navigate the skies much faster than we could speed along the highways in our cars. Yet every time that I landed hours past and tanks of gas away from my start, I was simply left in awe. It wasn’t just the flying, but it was also the number of people that I come across in airports. Each person starts from different points with a unique destination in mind. I wondered, ‘Where were they all going, what was their purpose for going, and who was each person?” I easily find myself creating back stories of who all the people I pass at the terminals are. But that’s where I got in trouble before, and it’s a habit that I have to break. I have a second chance at friendships that I missed out on because of my attitude – one that I despised in others, but couldn’t see in myself. When I was preparing to leave for college, I constantly daydreamed of all the lifelong friendships I would form. But one semester in, here I am with endless acquaintances held at a distance just far enough for me to feel like I’m still a child stuck on the outside. It’s not that I haven’t met anyone that would make a good friend for me, but I was so eager to test what I was learning as an anthropology major and psychology minor that I categorized everyone before I truly knew them. It was a hate of that behavior that drove me to my major in the first place and without even knowing, I was exhibiting it. This I am determined to change.
As I’m standing here staring at a massive heap of items I am no longer convinced were necessary, I sneak a thoughtful look across the room at my mysterious roommate. She seems nice enough. We went for coffee earlier, and she spoke of the fun of high school, how excited she is for college, and how she was glad to have met me. Apparently I’m much nicer than some of her past roommates. In comparison to my other roommates she was quite different. I had always felt like the minority in these sorts of new situations and for the first time I’ve been paired with someone who may stick out a bit more than me. Not my goal of course, but her deep brown skin will certainly draw attention away from my mixed heritage of which no one can quite figure out and everyone is too worried to ask. Truth is I’d rather they did, but maybe that’s offensive to others. I mean, if I asked Jordyn if she were black would she be offended? It’s clear that she is… at least I think it’s clear, but who knows? Some people think it’s clear that I’m Korean, but I’m Japanese and Cuban.
I wonder what she thinks of me. Does she think I’m some bimbo that uses my exotic appearance as a bargaining tool? Maybe she’s annoyed with me for being a minority too but not having so many negative stereotypes. She seems intelligent, but it has to bother her that people will assume I’m smart when they see my Japanese father but only feel temporary intimidation at the sight of her father. I suppose it’d be inappropriate to ask her how she felt about the way other people saw her, but maybe she’d understand my curiosity as anthropology major. I doubt it. . So before I let my curiosity spew words my common sense doesn’t agree with, I’ll head to the School of Social Science welcome bash. It seems sort of cheesy, but maybe it’ll be fun. It’s about time I let myself make some friends worth having anyways.
Of course the first person I see is Caden Wells. He’s a developmental studies major. Not really a study close to mine, but then again, maybe he could help me figure out exactly how I managed to become such a socially awkward mess. Though for now, I’ll keep that a secret and hope no one here finds it to be true. We’d met a few months ago at orientation and been texting and talking online occasionally. He was another person I was anxious to get to know. It seemed interesting to me that a rich, young white male who could easily glide into his family’s highly successful media marketing company chose developmental studies as a major. Plus, I may have paid a little too much attention to his facebook page and found out that his roommate and longtime friend is very attractive. Potential? I’m hoping so.
“Ellison! Hey, over here!”
As I headed over, I planned my words carefully in hopes of satisfying my curiosity on both topics of interest. We went through casual small talk for a while and I started to contemplate easing into conversation about his family and his major. But wait, old Ellison beats around the bush in conversation. This Ellison is blunt. So out with it!
“So I’m just curious. With all the opportunities your perfect little All-American family can offer you, why are you here? And as a developmental studies major? There’s got to be a catch.”
Those were not the right words. Is it too late to ask about his roommate?
Throughout the fall term, Caden and I became what I think of as acquaintances plus. We spent a lot of time together without ever bothering to learn anything about each other. It was nice that he was so willing to make plans when he clearly had better things to do. He never mentioned it, but I almost felt that the potential of a real friendship slipped away when I’d spoken so stupidly that first time we’d met up during welcome week. The fact that in spite of that we remained friendly gives me hope that I can still make him a real friend over the next few months. Of course, it was inevitable that he and Jordyn would get to know each other as well. I wonder if they see me as judgmental. Part of me hopes they are just as innocently blind as I was. I didn’t even realize the way I was thinking until I was home. When my mother asked me about the information that truly mattered about my friends, I didn’t know. I knew about majors, family backgrounds, and outward appearances, but I couldn’t tell her where their parents were from or their favorite styles of music or about any of their personal beliefs. Step one when I see them again is to learn these things, and hope with all I have that they see my efforts as an indication that working out a friendship with me is a worthwhile risk to take.
Students, anthropology is not just some easy major where you people watch for four years and get a degree. So I warn you now, if that’s what you’re looking for you should find another major and spend your free time staring through a window from Starbuck’s.
I can’t help but giggle at the dry humor of this professor. While the joke really wasn’t all that funny, it reminded me of my mom’s awkward humor and managed to bring me a sense of warmth in a setting that I was now accustomed but not adjusted to. It was the end of week two and more significantly the last day that students could rearrange their classes. We’d quickly had students switch out of courses for the anthropology major track as well as gained large group of more hesitant newcomers who couldn’t quite decide what path they wanted to follow. No matter who was around me, this class has been and remains a high point of my day three times every week. I’ve already learned so much about why people are the way they are simply from class discussions and documentaries that we’ve watched. I’m even starting to see some of what we’ve discussed in some of the people I’ve met here. It’s so eye-opening, and so much more relevant than everything I was forced to study in high school. Never have I felt so confident that I will be able to be successful in something that actually interests me. Perhaps that’s the naïve freshman in me, but I’m hoping it’s just a more mature and informed me.
I never would have thought that the class that created such enthusiasm for the future in me would also incite behaviors that would make me look backwards with regret. Being so eager to judge accurately made me forget that I shouldn’t be quick to judge at all. While there are circumstances and influences that mold us all into groups of people, there are also unique characteristics and events that pull us all away from these molds. I can’t think of a generalization that I fit into, nor should I look for one to put my friends into. With this thought, I’m back on campus. Semester two, I am ready.