Breathe Easy, You've Found Me ((HUGS))

People will wonder why this blog is needed, why minority midwifery student? It's very simple actually; I was looking for this blog...but I couldn't find I created it. We all have unique experiences, and every experience, every story, can help someone else. I am a black girl from the hood at an ivy league professional school. That, alone, is reason enough to write. Somebody was looking for this blog. Someone wanted proof that what I'm doing can be done - even when you come from where we come from.

To that person especially, WELCOME.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Me and U

U has left some comments on the previous post...I'm going to respond here...first, here's a glimpse of my description of U, who I have spoken of here on this blog before:

I think sometimes defensiveness is a protective mechanism elicited to keep from having to feel all that stuff that you have only just been confronted with in this, your (first?) attempt at friendship with someone who shares the same skin as you but not the same upper-middle class/beautiful text-book diversity of color west coast neighborhood/very little KKK-esque racism upbringing...and does not feel the need to ignore that to make you feel better. I hope you continue to talk about what it is you liked and didn't like about the life you've lived. I also hope our conversations become messier, less safe, less defensive...more time goes on. But even if it doesn't, there is love, because even without naked, vulnerable conversations, we are here, black women, learning midwifery together…

Hey U!

After reading the comments I was tense. I compartmentalize a lot. I saw blog world and school world colliding, and it didn’t feel good. But that’s neither here nor there in this moment, because I want to respond:

There is no one “why” that I’m doing this (planning to pursue a PhD). There are many reasons why I might be doing it, but those reasons are still being processed. One might think they know why they’re doing something, but as time goes on they may gain clarity enough to say “oh, maybe I’m doing this because I want the status that comes with it…and not just because I want to help inner city pregnant teens…” and one comes to that realization by seeing, learning, that it is entirely possible to do what she says she wants to do without a PhD. Why am I talking as though I’m not talking about myself? Crazy. I have a lot of reasons for coming to this institution, and a lot of reasons for planning to pursue a PhD afterwards. The why is not solid, even though you think it is. For everything I’ve told you I want to do with this education after graduation, there are ten things that I haven’t shared. But not even that matters, all that matters is that I…I…say that I am unclear about exactly why I’m getting a PhD. That’s only for me to say. You’re right I’m working on how to survive this current experience. But that’s not to say that figuring this out is going to provide me with a road map for surviving a doctoral program. Sure, they’re similar, but definitely not the same. If this program is soup, the doctoral program is gumbo…you eat them differently…you can swallow soup without chewing if necessary…you could never do that with gumbo…

The last half of that comment…my, my, my. We already know that we differ on a lot of stuff. I’m not interested in going along just to get along and I work hard to wear the mask less often (hence the ease and smoothness of how my “no’s” are coming out, even to the dean ;o)…I’m not interested in learning new ways to move in silence…and the very real threat of someone spitting in my food for agitating or questioning them isn’t going to automatically make me shut up…for every restaurant and job, there is another. You don’t have to sit there and be nice, U, you can get up and walk out. I’ve been thinking a lot about that whole idea of not being “fake” as long as you’re telling yourself the truth…I remember we talked about this in terms of playing the grad school game…about telling yourself the truth no matter what lies you’re telling someone else…but let me be clear about something…there is a price to be paid for wearing the mask…for smiling when you don’t mean it, for saying things that go against your soul, for sitting silent…even when you fear someone pissing in your ice tea…there is a cost…and I think you’re already paying it. Your rituals surrounding being presentable and your concern about other people’s perception of you are an example of how your “being a chameleon” has not left your identity untouched. One way I’m paying for it is through the constant reprogramming required to separate the lie I tell them on occasion from the truths I’m trying to tell myself and the energy that takes away from other things more worthwhile and a million other ways.

It’s weird to hear you talk about allowing this experience to change me. It makes me cringe. Not because I think I am supposed to come through this experience as the exact same person I came in as, but because I’m imagining what it means to you that I grow in this experience. I’m imagining what values you think I came in with that it would be better for me to grow out of. I just explained to the man what I’m trying to say…it was so direct and so clear but I think my way of speaking straight, no matter how uncomfortable for others in person, is probably worse in writing…and I’m being conscious because I know that in the comments you were trying to take up for me :o) But I want to say, I am absolutely trying to keep the most salient aspects of who I am which is inseparable from where I come from as I go through here and beyond. I think that might be uncomfortable for you? Aren’t people like me, from where I’m from, supposed to want to “better” themselves through school…and wouldn’t it be sad if I didn’t take this opportunity to come out the other end changed? (sarcasm)

To stop being Loving Pecola from Maple Street is not growth to me. I’m not trying to come through this experience a washed up, blanched out, supremely educated, mannerized, nodding, replica of everyone else. Learning how to smile and nod and keep my kool-aid free of spit is not the goal. Maybe you’re thinking “that’s not what I meant!” But that’s what I see you inadvertently asking… I’m not interested in being a chameleon…blending into the background wherever I am…I already did that, in my teens. That’s my idea of losing yourself. Losing yourself to the background…where you’re supposed to be. I’d love to say that to blend into everyone else’s background is not your destiny, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself. I know it is not mine. So, you see, I’ve already lost myself love, now I’m finding myself.

1 comment:

U said...

Hey LP,

Tired, just finished call, but I feel the need to respond now rather than later...I don't want to process my thoughts too much bc then I'll censor them and I don't want to do that.

First, I feel the need to apologize...not so much for what I said, but bc of the drama my comments brought to your blog. Dark daughta, if you read this, I had no intention of rubbing you the WRONG way, although I did expect a reaction. I've visited your blog before, without invitation...I have to admit that I haven't read much, only bc my computer freezes up on most attempts to visit your blog (a busier site than most + slower internet speed = slow times). I mentioned this to LP, adding "yeah, she's deep". I felt the need to challenge you, yes, but maybe that came across as hostile, an attack. Don't know what else to say about it, I just wanted you to know that.

p.s. I don't have my story on the internet, but I do have a blog - "The Baby Dance" (LP has a link). I'm thinking of shutting it down bc it's mentally draining to keep up with it, but feel free to peruse.

Next point:
LP I think it's interesting how you choose to describe me on your blog, pasting a section of a previous post. Why that particular description? I think it's telling...but we can talk about that later.

I remember how I first became aware of that post. We were talking about something (can't remember exactly what, but something relevant to the post?) during lunch and you asked,"Have you read my blog?" And I told you that I hadn't, and you said,"You're going to get mad". That's when I immediately got turned won't tell me what you're thinking, to my face, but I'm supposed to read it? Were you protecting me or yourself? When I actually read it, yes, I did get mad and I told you why in the email I sent to you afterward. My "why" being that when all three of us parted ways that night I was angry with myself bc I hadn't told you what I was really thinking....I also told you that I hold back from speaking up because when I'm honest sometimes it can be brutal. I think that might be the case here with all that's gone on in the past couple of days.

I say that only bc I think it's hard to know you both in the blog world and in the school world. There is tension on my end, too, maybe for the same reasons. There are the subtle differences between what I read and what I see, and even then I know I'm not getting the full picture. It was wrong for me to conclude that you knew your "why" for pursuing a PhD, in that you had it all figured out. You say that you don't and I understand, but I wanted to emphasize that there was a "why" that you had at the beginning and maybe one day I'll come to understand how that's all changed.

You responded to my analogy about spitting in food/ice tea/what have you....Read my comment again, bc nowhere in it does it say that anyone, including you, should PUT UP with this behavior from someone, only that there is the potential for this behavior (i.e. "impeded progress"). You said:

You don’t have to sit there and be nice, U, you can get up and walk out.

That's a nice thought, but not always feasible. When you have three kids to take care of and bills to pay that's not always an option, even when the deepest parts of our being wish it were so. Yeah, there is a price to pay for wearing that mask....but when your back is against the wall, you do what you have to do...and that's something to be determined on an individual basis, of course.

Okay, I'm gonna make this my last point..I'm fading.... You say that you are wondering about what values I had in mind for you, as far as having them change in this program and perhaps the next. You know, I have to say....I can see that your perception of my class (and privilege, as you mention often enough) and my background are going to tie into these types of conversations perhaps for as long as I know you. When you say that I'm from an upper middle class (my mother laughed at this, poor lady), textbook diversity of color neighborhood, etc., you mentally put me in this box that I, personally, feel trapped in. I feel that I can't win and it makes the dialogue that I find so necessary even harder. LP, I don't have ANY values in mind that I think you should grow out of or grow into and, contrary to what you might think, I don't think of you in terms of your background as much as you think of me in terms of mine. Who you came in as is what has drawn me to you what way could I even imagine trying to see you "better yourself" here, when you know that in MY experience I feel that I'm less happy than how I was when I walked in! I'm right there with you, how can you forget that? Who (and if it was me, show me) said you were trying to come out "washed up, blanched out", etc? If you think that's my personal goal, I would say think again...I am just as good at blending in as I am at standing out and I thrive on those moments when me, the black girl, show "them" (in various contexts) that yes, I can do it and I can do it better. This isn't about what I think you should do, as I made clear when I made the analogy of people on the sidelines (ME, your family, your friends, etc.) trying to teach the player on the court how to play their own game. I don't have answers FOR you. What I do have, however, is faith in you. That whatever you come up against you will find a way to move through gracefully in YOUR own way. I just don't want you to get psyched out of it. When I think of Dr. Dumas, I think of you bc I see her in you (or vice versa, you catch my drift).

Anyway, gotta get rest now. We can continue this in "real life", my preference, or I can join in again here if you like. I don't think blog comments are my thang anymore, too be honest! I'll catch with you later.