A reflection from student intern, Sheila, about the subtle moments of life, both good and bad.
A little while ago I asked someone for their life story. This is a random thing I do whenever someone new starts working at my restaurant (#serverlife), to see if they can stay on their toes. The response I got back was that this person was only 18 years old, and that they were too young to have a life story. I proudly said, “I am not too young for anything…. Only to rent a car for a good price … and I can’t run for president.”
Someone asked why I couldn’t run for president, and if you didn’t already know, it’s because you have to be 35 years old to run for the president of the United States.
Overhearing the question, my boss turned around and started laughing. He thought I couldn’t run for president because I wasn’t born in this country. For those who don’t know, you have to be a natural born citizen of the United
States to run for president. I was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland… (aka in this country).
He laughed and asked me if that was racist.…
I said, “Kinda…”
If you didn’t know what a microaggression is, that was one.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a microaggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”
Some people do not see microaggressions happening because it can be so subtle. These are statements/actions that we hear or see every day– but no matter how common, microaggressions still have underlying meanings attached to them.
“Shalia. Sheyla. Chalia. Shayla. Sheila.”
These are the ways my name has been spelled and/or pronounced over my 22 years of life.
If you know me, saying my name wrong is one of the most hurtful things you can do to me.
On my first day of class, I walked in five minutes late because I had to go to the bathroom. When I finally walked in my professor yelled out “Sanchez!” as I confusedly looked for a seat. I realized the professor was speaking to me, hoping that I was the person that missed attendance and that their class wasn’t going to be only the 12 people currently seated.
Now, back to my original point, people have called me a bunch of different things in my life but I had never gotten “Sanchez” before. I corrected my professor, as I always do with my first name, and took my seat.
It wasn’t until 2 hours into our 2 and half hour class, I realized there was no one named Sanchez in my class. There was no one else with an “S” sounding last name in the whole class, actually.
Why in the world did my professor call me Sanchez?
Why would people continue to pronounce my name wrong after me correcting them for months?
Why do people continue to tell me I am pronouncing my own name wrong?
Recently I have noticed when these things happen more and more often.
When I face microaggressions, I challenge them! I fight for myself! I question why people believe these things to be true of me but the real question is… why I constantly have to fight these things? Some folks will tell me not to bother, that people don’t know better and I can’t let these tiny moments in my life impact me as much as they do.
I want you to know: I hear you. I don’t want these tiny moments to hurt. But it doesn’t change the fact that I shouldn’t have to deal with these things, I shouldn’t have to correct my professor or my boss, I shouldn’t have to waste my energy worrying about someone seeing me in a different light because of how I look. It gets tiring, sticking up for myself and challenging people.
While writing this blog, I spent my free time thinking about two moments. Knowing that these people did not intend anything negative by their words but it still filled this week with many headaches and moments of disheartening doubt. Why would anyone care what a queer latina women would have to say? Would they even believe what I wrote?
With all the personal demands I face during a week, I needed to take care of myself after thinking about why these moments in my life deeply impacted me repeatedly for the past week. This is where I talk about one of my favorite things in da world!
I actually wrote another blog about it last year. If you like to read it, here is the link 🙂
Self-care sounds simple, it is taking time to care for yourself but often times folks have a hard time finding that time. This is very important for people who have marginalized identities, the energy it takes to live in a world that sees you as the other box is tough and annoying. Personally for me, trying to make the world a better place for me, people who share the same identities as me, and those who don’t; without any self-care makes me tired and an overall meanie.
I have been lucky enough to be in the Social Work department, were often professors remind us of self-care and work in the Women’s Center, which was one of my self-care spots on campus long before I started interning here. The Counseling Center also offers many resources to handle academic and personal stresses, as well as the Peer Health Educators from the Health Education Program at the University Health Services. The Mosaic Center has been great about supporting me after I talked about the microaggressions I faced.
If you are reading this and think you need support, please reach out. There are people reaching out to help you too.
Making myself feel awesome and unstoppable is powerful always helps me feel better.
Self-care looks different for everyone. There is no one way to do self-care.
Watching Netflix, taking a long shower, going dancing with your friends, being alone with a good book or eating those tacos you have been thinking about all week.Those tiny moments of self-care can keep you from feeling burnt out and help motivate you throughout your day.
This is how I deal with microaggressions, I take care of myself! That hour of Netflix comedies is enough for me recharge and continue to ask people, “what did you mean by that?”. *evil laugh*.