Sunday Sit-Down #11: On My Way

Each Sunday, I’m working my way through my experiences with race. I’ll share stories and memories from throughout my life. I know I’ll encounter moments of growth that I wish I could relive. I’ll also have to think back on choices that I wish I could remake. Come join me each week. It’s also day 28 of the Slice of Life challenge.

High school.

If you’ve ever worked with high school kids, you’d know that it’s a time of profound drama, often bordering on melodrama. The years are steeped in a quest for self and identity. To a high schooler, it feels isolating and alone – like no other could possibly understand what they are going through.

Adults in the lives of high schoolers know it’s something that EVERYONE goes through.

This is the quirk of high school. It’s also the charm, if you happen to like kids that age.

I was no different. My big quest for individuality had all the major pieces to it: tension with friends, a longing for any semblance of a dating life, pressure to succeed. I was discovering myself, mostly through writing, musical expression, and just plain being a floppy old goof.

And, like absolutely nobody and everybody, I saw college as a fresh start.

It was my time to consider and craft who I wanted to be in this world, and what I wanted to be for myself and for others.

That included my attitude and actions with regard to race. I was hot on the heels of discovering that injustice and inequality was still a problem despite my early learning to the contrary. My high school’s newspaper article on Black English seemed like such a small thing, but it sparked such intense controversy that I knew there had to be more. I just didn’t know what.

So, when I packed my bags for my time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I set my resolve to “unpack” my current belief system where it came to race and identity. I set out for school with the mission to better understand our world and the people in it.

I’m still not there. I think the “there” of understanding is a moving target, just like any ideal should be. But setting off to college with this intention held a key part in shaping who I am now.

I’ll dig in a little deeper next week. See you then.

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16 Responses to “Sunday Sit-Down #11: On My Way”

  1. arjeha Says:

    I agree with you that we never understand because that target is always moving. However, each experience, good or bad, each person we talk to brings us one step closer to that understanding. Understanding. like learning, is an ongoing lifelong process.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes! And I’d also add that there are folks we learn from because they push us forward in our thinking, and there are others we learn from because we’re learning compassion for a different place on that spectrum. A lifelong process, indeed.

  2. Anita Ferreri Says:

    This is a very interesting reflection starting with the angst of teenagers and then moving into reinventing oneself as more inclusive in thoughts and deeds. It is an interesting perspective and I will be back to watch your journey.

  3. cmargocs Says:

    You were a bit ahead of me…I really didn’t “see” race issues until I went to college, and witnessed ugly racism for myself. Like you, I still feel like I am developing in this discussion, this learning that began in college.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      And yet – we with our learning in college are still ahead of the folks who never made that discovery until recently. Or, more sadly, have not yet gotten to that place in their thinking. I’m still trying to figure out how to meet those folks with compassion.

  4. Juliette Awua-Kyerematen Says:

    What grabbed me is this sentence, ‘I think the “there” of understanding is a moving target, just like any ideal should be. ” Yes that is true. We are always learning about each other, gaining experience and assessing our environment.

  5. Shaista Says:

    I find this whole concept of race very intriguing. Most cultures are steeped in racism, and we don’t even realize it. But like you said, the target is moving, and we’re very, very slowly getting there. While a few years ago, people accepted being at the receiving end as a cultural thing, it’s a-changing now.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      I would absolutely agree. There is a LOT of colorism and classism across cultures. We can only hope (and work for) things to change for the better.

  6. hzreflections Says:

    “I set out for school with the mission to better understand our world and the people in it.” Loved this line- so important for everyone to do. I wish all people would strive for this.

  7. Fran Haley Says:

    This line – “It was my time to consider and craft who I wanted to be in this world, and what I wanted to be for myself and for others” – what a different world it would be if everyone realized that it is never to late to arrive at this time.

  8. Tim Gels Says:

    Lainie, I’m kind of (I don’t have a good phrase, so I’ll say impressed? In awe? Curious?) at the idea of someone (you) consciously shaping oneself at a relatively young age. My circumstances in my teen and early adult years helped me to become someone I’m either happy with or at least not ashamed of regarding race and so many other things; I didn’t necessarily pick them.

    That certainly doesn’t mean I’m “there,” either. It does, however, mean I don’t have as many things I want to undo (at least that I’m aware of at this time). As always, thank you for sharing these posts each Sunday.

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