Self-Identification Is The Hardest Part Of The Test

Self-Identification Is The Hardest Part Of The Test

Why boxes asking to identify your race/ethnicity can spawn an identity crisis.
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As a child, I remember struggling on how to identify on standardized tests. Specifically, in the second grade, I remember marking myself down as Hispanic/Latino when asked my race/ethnicity and then having a teaching assistant correct me to let me know that I could only put down I was white.

As if one person couldn’t be more than one thing -- as if I either had to identify with being white or being Puerto Rican. Back then, however, as an eight-year-old sitting in a classroom with mostly white children, I felt like I should identify as white, and push the other half of me to the sideline. After all, if that was how one of the oldest (and in my mind, wisest) people in the room saw me, then I should align my identity with their perception -- right?

Wrong. I was so, so wrong. Letting others define me was something I continued to do until fairly recently. It wasn’t until I was half-way through high school, maybe around the age of 16, that I first started to acknowledge that I was Puerto Rican to the people outside of my family.

Even then, people still questioned my identification -- citing my blonde hair and blue eyes as evidence to support the notion that I could only consider myself a "white girl."

According to some people I’ve come across because I didn’t fit the perceived image of what a Latina was, I couldn’t identify with being one. In their minds, I didn’t look resemble Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, or America Ferrera and, thus, should not identify myself on any test, survey, or application as being Hispanic/Latino. Thus, the struggle continued, with one, new, change: I now, being in high school, checked the box titled, "Prefer Not to Answer."

After years of thinking I could only identify with one-half of me or the other, I’ve come to one conclusion about the concept of checking off only one box for both your race and ethnicity for standardized tests: the whole notion is completely ridiculous, and identity crisis spawning.

In my low points, I still get confused on who exactly I am, despite the fact I’ve repeated to myself that I can be more than one thing, that not every Latina is has a certain skin pigment, a certain accent, or certain facial features.

Still, in the back of my head, I can’t help but doubt myself. Should I identify as solely a Caucasian person -- pushing aside the half of me that’s grown up in a house full of Spanish speakers, Puerto Rican food, and a dad born outside of the 50 states? Or should I identify as a Latina -- knowing fully that because of the fact I do look like a white girl, I haven’t experienced as the same struggles most have, such as discrimination, profiling, and flat out racism?

By identifying as this, am I appropriating the struggles of Latinos, a struggle that is not fully my own?

These thoughts only come up every once in a while, when yet another person questions how I identity. It’s frustrating. It makes me question myself. It makes me my hate taking standardized tests, filling out applications, and doing anything where I have to check boxes that assume I can only be one extreme or another, and nothing in between.

To the people who question me, and how I identify: I respect you, and your identification. All I ask is that you respect me, and allow me to go through the struggle of how to identity without your insertion of perceived notions of what I look like, and thus must be. I am aware I am white. I am aware I am also a Latina.

Making me choose between a box that reads Caucasian and a box that reads Hispanic/Latino is unreasonable. Why can’t we, as people, accept that someone can be both?

Cover Image Credit: Raquel Solla

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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When Words Are Not Enough

Sometimes you just need to be.

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Life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs. We all desire easy fruitful lives where no one ever dies and no one ever leaves. Instead, we suffer through hardships and great trials that test our faith. These conflicts often leave us worn down and feeling helpless. This is the time when words become a languid breeze, going through one ear and out the other. This is what you should do when words are not enough to satiate the pain you hold in trembling hands.

Focus all your energy into just being. No one expects you to get over the tragedy that occurred in your life, so don't force yourself. Just eat, breathe, and sleep until you feel up to doing normal tasks. Whatever circumstance that has stolen your breath and turned your life upside down won't go a week in a couple of days or a week. Wounds like yours don't go away instantly; instead, they take time and nurturing. Sometimes it's best to keep a sore covered but in some circumstances, know that seeing someone is okay.

These tragedies you face are real, and they try to break down the very substances that make you who you are. Counselors and therapists can help you make sense of the burden you carry. There are many reasons why you might be hesitant to see a therapist, but if the burden you carry becomes too much, a therapist can help you lighten that load.

Know that what you are going through is real and it is tough, but you will make it out on top. You are a survivor and a success story. Every single bad thing that has tried to tear you down hasn't succeeded, and this will be no different. Trust me, your story is not over.

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