Tag Archives: family

On When Things Hit Close to Home

by Heather Charles, B.A. ’10 + M.A. ’12

When I was an undergraduate I had several people tell me that I should just pretend that my family wasn’t poor, that I hadn’t gone to a bad school, that I didn’t grow up in a rough neighborhood, and that I hadn’t been abused. I was supposed to pass, which should have been even easier for me because I was white. I was deeply offended by this, I am not ashamed of where I come from, I have no reason to be. I went to Stanford, what do I have to apologize for? I am proud of my working class roots, because even though it was difficult it made me stronger, a better human being, a better teacher. I also found this advice to be terribly impractical. For one thing, I had an accent, and for another I could only reference what I knew and having never seen rich people before Stanford I really only had one truth to talk about. I couldn’t lie about my mom when it was visibly clear to everyone that she had had me as a teenager. I couldn’t make up stories to hide the fact that my summers were spent looking after my brothers and sisters and reading books. There were things I obviously didn’t know about, foods I had never seen, cultural references I didn’t get, and locations I had never heard of. I developed some close relationships with people more privileged than I was so that I would always have someone to call when I needed something explained to me, which was quite often.

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On the Merit of Blurred Lines

by Surabhi Nirkhe, ’13

I am tired of discourse that divides brown from white, the oppressed from the oppressors, students of color from white students, and the underprivileged from the privileged. Tracing and retracing these lines prevents us from creating identities that are much more complex, often in the spaces where these lines blur.

In her recent STATIC article, Holly Fetter ended with a powerful statement that resonated with me: “unless we confront our fears and make active changes to educate ourselves about the perspectives and experiences of those in other communities, we’ll never be able to see past the illusion of isolation”. To me, the recent mixer held between Sanskriti, the South Asian student organization, and the Stanford Israel Alliance represents just that. I did not attend the mixer, but I have been a part of similar events at Stanford, and I can honestly say that experiences which have pushed me to interact with individuals from outside my community have been some of the most valuable.

I do not mean to say that I don’t hold opinions; I do and I hold on to them very strongly. Continue reading

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The Tragedy of Grey Matter

by Alex Nana-Sinkam, ’13

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I grew up glued to a reality of black and white. Don’t freak out, this isn’t an essay on the struggles of mulatto identity in 21st century American suburbia. I left and will continue to leave that dance to my 18 year old, boldly naive, college essay writing self (but damn did I do that introspection justice; always did picture my words metaphorically synonymous with a rebellious Taylor swift song). This essay is neither about the way I was raised. Because yes, my parents taught me morals. But no, never once was I presented with a blue vs. red pill. They never asked me to swallow, without doubt, an understanding of the world that was not my own. I’m also lucky to have never been made to feel like my soul searching was mindful ambling all for naught.

Instead, I was my own Oracle growing up. And for whatever reason, I painted my own Matrix in (what i considered to be) vibrant hues of black and white. My compass pointed me North or South, illustrated right versus wrong, narrated good against bad. [1] I credit my success throughout the first 1.8  decades of my life in large to my presumptuous moral understanding of the world during these years. For long enough it served as a nexus for my motivation, most crucial decisions, lifestyle choices, and appreciation of those people who added substantially and positively to my growth as a human being. Maybe now, such a stark outlook on existence would prove harmful (still paring this one out). For a while, though, the profound belief that being a skilled hurdler simply meant practicing, that divorce was wrong, that cheating (in or on anything) was never (not ever) acceptable, that skipping dance class was weak, that drinking was irresponsible (as was sex), or that working hard should not ever be question but simply nature, gave me a focus and ambition I could not even attempt to recreate today. Continue reading

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On the Violence We Do to Ourselves

by Aracely Mondragon, ’13

It is often easy to paint violence and oppression as something external to ourselves, say the aggressors is the white able bodied male because yes over history and institutionally there is a system with hierarchies set in place that is extremely violent… this is a vital conversation but so is that of our interpersonal relationships. What about the violence that goes on within our closest relationships and within ourselves? By violence I don’t necessarily mean physical abuse, but harm that can happen at both an emotional and psychological level. When you are bombarded with messages from society that try to tell you you’re not good enough, that you don’t belong, or that who you are is someone to be despised …. you have to think how much of that do you internalize? How much do you start believing and then disseminating? The more I think about all the small expressions of hostility I thought I had just let slide off, I realize how much of it I swallowed and let fester inside. I can’t help but think of what harm I have done to myself and others…. Continue reading

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Home Sweet Home

by Rachel Kelley, ’12

“Home” – like community, like identity, like so many of those important words- is an emotional idea with a lot of meanings. A home could be a house as easily as a city or a continent. It could be an M.O. that’s routine as much as a group of people who have infinite (and perhaps not always impressive) impressions of us.

I was home every day of winter break. It hasn’t changed much in the time I’ve been away at college: sunsets over snow-covered Rockies still distract rush-hour commuters, the stuffed dog I’ve had since I was three still inhabits my bed, and my brothers still eat strange combinations of food at strange hours of day. Perhaps it is because home hasn’t changed much, that makes me so aware that I have.

I don’t always feel “at home” when I’m at home anymore. OK, big deal, right? I’ve been back and forth between my Stanford and suburban Denver homes for 3+ years now. Feeling slightly out-of-place and cooped-up when home is normal, even expected. As a friend of mine wisely pointed out, the vexations of breaks can be welcome reminders that Stanford student life – where my schedule revolves around me, myself, my friends, my education, my priorities, my whatever – is not real life. The individualistic independence of my student lifestyle is mostly an illusion. Living with my family means living with an awareness that my agenda is not the agenda – there are four other people’s needs to consider.

During this winter break, I experienced the usual annoyances of brotherly messes and parental guilt-trips, and I think I handled them rather gracefully. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was not so adept at dealing with a more abstract and troubling set of irritations. Each time I get on a plane going back to Denver, I bring memories of the ideas, places and people I’ve encountered home with me. All have somehow expanded my understanding of the world, but I tend to focus on the encounters that teach me about problems and solutions – in other words, what’s wrong in the world and what to do about it.

As a result, I see problems that used to be invisible to me. Continue reading

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