I have been reading the amazing book, Waking Up White by Debby Irving, for several months now. It hasn’t taken me this long because it is bad. It is excellent, but unfortunately, time gets away from me a lot.
The book discusses what Debby does to make herself more culturally aware in her life. It is painfully honest, and at the end of each chapter, she poses a question to the readers to answer about themselves to not only understand others, but to also understand themselves and how they fit into the entire narrative of race. Today, I’ll be answering the question at the end of the chapter “Headwinds and Tailwinds,” which discusses advantages people are born with that they do not even realize and have little to no control over.
Consider each of these tangible and intangible aspects of your life: work, sense of belonging, social connections, choice, education, healthy food, legal protection, housing, transportation, medical care. How easy or hard has it been for your to attain each?
Work: It has been fairly easy for me to attain work. My first job at the age of fifteen was at a day camp that was already familiar with my sister and her strong work ethic. It was a family-run business, and the owners developed strong relationships with their employees. This being my first job, I was able to move up to higher positions as I aged and gained experience. By the time I graduated high school and needed a letter of recommendation for childcare jobs I was to attain in college, my bosses were more than happy to write letters for me. This set me on a path of ease to obtain work throughout my schooling due to my mounting experience.
Sense of Belonging: This one is trickier. As an introvert who did not really know themselves until between sophomore and junior year of college (aka, an anxious, bisexual, androgynous person), I had a hard time finding people I fit in with because I did not even know what kind of a person I was. I wanted to be the “best girl,” as if that would make me feel like a girl (spoiler alert: it didn’t.) Now that I know who I am for the most part, I find it a lot easier to be myself. The only issue is that I can get along with people really easily, but I still do not know a lot of people who are… like me.
Choice: Right now, my choices are restricted by money because of my internship. Overall though, I grew up in an accepting and empowering house, meaning choices were encouraged. My parents ALWAYS gave their two cents about what they thought of my choices, but I still had choices.
Education: Man, I was set up with education. My parents settled in a highly rated school district, and I got amazing education all through my elementary and secondary years. This allowed me to get into a good college, too.
Healthy Food: Another thing that’s restricted by my limited funds right now (as well as my picky pallet and the fact that my favorite fruit is out of season), but for the most part, all of my local grocery stores have a wide selection of fruits and vegetables that are more affordable with store loyalty cards (thank God).
Legal Protection: TECHNICALLY my legal protection is a-okay right now. IF I decided to go legally public with being androgynous, things would definitely get tricky due to the state of how gender is being handled in our country right now. A lot of things would… stop being protected, I think. And that’s scary.
Housing: I have always had safe neighborhoods to live in, and though I cannot afford my own rent alone right now, my parents are able to split the cost with me, so collectively, I am able to live in a stable environment where I do not fear being attacked, robbed, or that I’ll be kicked out.
Transportation: I have a car. But I need to park it very far away from my apartment because of the cost of parking at my apartment building. Getting to and from school every day (which is 12 minutes from my apartment) becomes a 40 minute commute of various modes of transportation including walking, the free bus system, and my car.
Medical Care: This is up in the air sometimes. I have been switching insurance about one a year for the last three years, based on which of my parents’ insurance is better. This means it is really hard to get a consistent price and coverage on psychological services and my anxiety medication. It would become increasingly harder if I ever decide to act on my androgyny.