There’s something in our basic human nature that makes us want to belong — it makes us feel that we need to fit in with our surroundings. But me? My whole life, I have hardly ever fit in anywhere. Give me a questionnaire, and I probably won’t know how to define myself. When asked about my career, I settle for “writer” because it’s easier to explain. But it’s leaving out so much. I am a writer, yes. But I am a blogger, an author, a parenting expert. I am a TV host, public speaker, and spokesperson. I wear many hats on any given day that cannot be so easily summed up.
And what about my racial background? Am I white? Hispanic? All of the above? My family does not have Spanish last names but we’re still Latinos. Even my accent is undefined because I was born in the U.S. but then moved to Chile, where my perfect English set me apart in school. Then I moved back to Miami and married a Peruvian American. So my Spanish is not 100% Chilean and my English is not 100% American. I’m too white and too blonde for some, but then again I have too much of an accent to not be asked, “Where are you from?”
It used to bother me, but not anymore. Instead I choose to see that it has given me the advantage of being able to navigate different worlds.
But being a mom to two kids, this poses an additional challenge. My kids want to fit in, like most tweens do. I actually suspect that’s one of the reasons why they prefer to speak English rather than Spanish whenever they can. However, I am trying to teach them it’s more important to carve your own path and to create your own box when others have a hard time classifying you. Defying expectations and avoiding classifications might be tough, but it gives you a wonderful sense of freedom. Hopefully at some point my kids will focus less on pleasing others and what others would prefer them to be. They need to find a way to feel proud of themselves regardless of how others see them. No matter what the world tells them, they are free to be themselves even if they break the molds and stereotypes. Actually, I hope they will find the strength to push boundaries and expectations. They can create their own box, their own classifications, their own happiness.
It’s taken me many years to realize this so I don’t expect it to happen overnight for them, but I didn’t have somebody to hold my hand throughout the process. I will be here supporting them every step of the way, because they helped me find where I do fit in: with them.
Your true sense of belonging is found with those you love, and who love you just the way you are — and no box can define that.