Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Identity crisis – when does it stop?

Reading a blog a few weeks, I began to ask myself – who am I, really?  Growing up Latina in an Anglo world…I feel like I’m stuck in the middle and am not quite sure where I belong.  I want to believe that I’m embracing my Latin heritage (through cooking).  I feel like I can travel anywhere through cooking.  However, growing up in a strict household, I feel like I missed out on many things.

In a typical Latino household, you’re surrounded by family all of the time.  Birthday parties, quinceaneras, dances, loud music.  In my own household, we occasionally went and saw family (mainly my mom’s side) whenever we convinced my dad to take us.  We listened to classical music (I actually enjoy it very much).  We're a subdued family.

My dad is quite the introvert and homebody.  Anywhere and everywhere we went, everything we did, we did it as a family.  This can be both good and bad.  The unfortunate thing, for my mom, was that she didn’t know how to drive.  So when I had a school event (like the tennis team), my dad would drive me everywhere.  Even after I got my driver’s license, I never got to drive somewhere by myself.  It wasn’t until I got to college and got my first car, that I was able to drive alone.

Browsing through TV channels a few weeks ago, my attention was caught by a show on CNN called Latino in America.  What does it mean to be a Latino?  How much will Latinos influence our country?  How much has America improved and been influenced by all of the things that Latinos do, that other Americans don’t?

Growing up I never had sleepovers. I didn’t want to bring any of my friends home; I wasn’t allowed to talk on the phone (well not quite…my dad would listen on the other line and then ask afterward what I was talking about with my friends, thus leading telling my friends not to call home).  I simply didn’t want to talk to my dad about what I felt were personal conversations between my friends and I, especially when they were going through a breakup or something of sorts.

Looking back at my childhood, I feel like I was held back and missed out on something, perhaps a real look at my culture.  My dad is one of those people that doesn’t want to be a typical Latino family.  I kind of have that same outlook he does.  He wants to be proud of where he’s come from and what his family has grown up to be, what they’ve accomplished.  Who doesn’t?  But I want to do it in a manner that one can still proud of all of those things, accomplish something, still be proud of one’s heritage and not be ashamed.

Even now I roll my eyes at Latinos who are “stereotypical” Latinos.  (by the way, I really am trying to change my outlook on that).  But why?  It would almost seem as if I were the puzzle piece that didn’t belong.  Many typical Latinas are pregnant or have gotten pregnant while in their teens.  Many Latinas (if not most) dress provocatively and have major attitudes.  Many are dark skinned.  Most have a Spanish accent.  Me?  Light skinned, no Spanish accent, definitely not pregnant (or have been), not much of an attitude.  Is it a personality thing?  Sometimes I feel like I haven’t quite come out of my shell, although I’m pushing myself more on that.  On one hand I think, did their parents not teach them enough values?  Don’t those kids have enough common sense to not do stupid things?  One comment about a story in Latinos in America was that a mom, whose daughter got pregnant as a teenager, said, ‘What will the family say? What will the neighbors say?”  Why does it matter what other people say?  My dad worried about that ALL of the time.  What will people at church say?  Is it a cultural thing to worry about what other people will say about you and your family?  Why does it matter?   I think it might have to do a little bit about putting on a good image (things aren’t as they seem).  Why does image seem like everything?   Why are we putting on this image?

At what point does the identity crisis stop? I’m not just talking about Latinos anymore.  There’s teenage identity, midlife crisis.  Can menopause be considered as some sort of crisis?  How do you know when it’s stopped?  How can you cope and deal with it effectively as you’re going through this crisis?

Sometimes I still feel like I’m struggling against my own culture, still trying to find where I fit in.  I haven’t quite found the answers to my own questions, but I hope I find some answers soon.

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