The Whole Picture

I don’t know how to explain it to you—what it looks like getting by, getting by in a world that devalues you. Getting through in interactions that contain more of the same.

You can’t rage every day at all of the injustices. You can’t even react to every violation. You can’t mentally register, much less voice, every grievance.

Doing that would let it consume and define you; you can’t do that.

Doing that would require unlimited energy; you don’t have that.

You certainly don’t have that to just spend fighting "the system".

You want to live a life beyond how one aspect of your identity interacts with a broken system.

And, yet it does define you, and consume you, in its own way. The art of ignoring or internalizing in some moments, speaking up or pushing back in others. How to sidestep things, how to step up, when to do each. How to couch things. How to silence yourself when the fire burns in your belly. How to moderate your truth to make it easier for other ears to hear.

And—the barrage—the incessant assault of volleys across the bow, you don’t get to control that. It just comes.

And, so, you manage. You do what you can. You do what you must. You cope. You live life. You create a dance that works for you. You blossom and bloom and live a life that is much greater than this one defining feature. And, yet, it’s there. And, you speak up when you must. And, when you speak up, people lambast you for speaking up, even as they use the fact that you did not speak up another time as ammunition; or maybe they just bicker with the way you choose to speak up, the forum, the words you use, the facial expressions that you pair with your words, the clothes you wear.

In speaking up, you run the risk that they will define you even more narrowly still. That's the tradeoff; as you clamor for your freedom, the walls tighten further, even as your words chip away at the walls encircling others, giving them breathing room. 

I don’t know how to explain to you what it’s like to straddle two worlds—one where you fight your oppression and one where you get along with it and ignore it. 

It’s hard.

If someone shares with you their lived experiences with racism, sexism, heteronormativity, subjugation, or economic oppression—of fighting against cultural norms and rules that trivialize or isolate them—remember this. Remember how hard and how tricky it is; embrace their message with every ounce of generosity of spirit and love you can muster. That doesn’t mean you need to agree with their point of view, but you should respect it, strive to hear it, and understand the bravery involved in their decision to speak.   

And, if you’re living this reality, be gentle with yourself. Recognize that navigating this dance is hard and there is no one right script.