Growing pains. When your way of life, your view of the world, your relationships with others, and many of your long-held beliefs are questioned, you feel: angry, betrayed, uncertain, awkward.
Random stranger at an Urban Outfitters in Greenwich Village a few months ago. “How do I look?” he asked me.
It was interesting living in a country going through such obvious growing pains. Though I grew tired of blogs and magazines that take for granted that the universe does not revolve around the ism-spattered dichotomy of the American presidential race, I was grateful for the growing pains. Grateful to be in the mix. Things my peers and I have talked about for years finally began making front-page news: ideas of blackness, ideas of whiteness, self-identification, multiple selves, multiple worlds. Beautiful and painful to watch it awkwardly bubble to the surface on Fox News headlines and CSPAN call-in shows.
These days I’ve been thinking hard about the summer of 2004. About this time four years ago, I had just graduated from undergrad, felt burnt out from working so hard, and was pretty unsure about where I fit. I moved back to Toronto to freelance full time, and my first week back happened to coincide with bell hooks’ first visit in years. She had a major talk scheduled, open to the public, but I got a special invite to a much smaller, intimate lunch with the petite legend earlier the same day. I was exhausted from having just moved across the country again, so I didn’t come with questions. I came to be in her presence. To be among other active thinkers, doers, fighters. To somehow feel connected to Toronto again.
There was no connection. The fighters were too busy fighting amongst themselves — over who was most oppressed, the most fierce in their activism, the most righteous. bell was uncomfortable, and I walked away from the session feeling even more alienated and uncertain.
There’s something about being a perpetual outsider that has made me unsure of what it’s like to be inside, and unsure especially whether or not I want to be there. It’s not the insider status I dread — it’s the borders that divide the two that make me weary.