Limited. I’ve never been afraid to dream big, to dream of accomplishing the impossible, because it never crossed my mind that, even if I worked hard enough, I wouldn’t be able to achieve it. I grew up in a small town along the border of the United States and Mexico, and my area usually finds itself ranked amongst the most dangerous, most uneducated, and lowest-income places in the country. Some people gape at the idea of growing up in a place like this, but, quite honestly, I never felt the effects of this as a child. I dared to dream of attending Princeton University at the age of nine, and spent the next nine years working to achieve that dream. While many people in my high school, which has been referred to as a “drop-out factory,” were awestruck at the idea of even applying to such a university, I knew the conditions of my community would not define and limit my life. Now, as I sit in my Princeton dorm, all I see are limitations on my future, my culture, and my community. I now know that up until this point, I’ve lived a privileged life because I never worried. I never thought I, or any of my friends, couldn’t be exactly what we wanted and set out to be.
Unwanted. I’ve never felt unwanted by society for my fundamental characteristics McAllen, Texas, my hometown, is composed of mostly Hispanic families who share common values and traditions that are at times different than those in mainstream America. Naturally, I never felt out of place, and almost always found spaces with people who shared my perspective. Now that I have moved out of this community, I thought my differences made me special. I thought they helped shape a different point of view for people to consider, that people wanted to consider. I never thought speaking Spanish and celebrating quinceañeras, posadas, and Semana Santa would make others view me, along with my friends and family, as “killers” or “rapists.”
Limited and Unwanted. In light of the recent election, these are the two feelings that keep surfacing in the form of rage and tears. While being Hispanic and female are fundamental aspects of my identity, those identities do not define my values and morals. I never thought being Hispanic would make me think and believe that I wasn’t capable of doing anything. No, not capable, because I recognize that I am, but held back due to misconceptions that have festered in our society. Misconceptions that our new president-elect, Donald J. Trump, promotes; misconceptions that make me question how much I will actually be able to achieve going forward, and how much of what I have achieved thus far has been a result of the “hand-outs” Trump condemns.
As much as I am Hispanic, I am also American. I was born and raised in the United States and have never spent significant amounts of time in Mexico. I wouldn’t be comfortable calling Mexico my home because I don’t see my past or my future there. I see my future here, with the Hispanic populations within the United States. With my fellow American people.
Last year, I left my home and spent nine months attempting to make a new home in India. So I know what it feels like to be a foreigner despite the time and energy you put into making a place your home. I know what it feels like to never be fully accepted by a country because of the color of your skin or your perceived ancestry and ethnicity. But I never thought I would feel that way in MY home, in the United States. As a Hispanic and as a woman, I feel unwanted. I feel limited. I feel like a foreigner intruding on a land and on institutions that are not my own.
I’ve heard countless people talk about being disappointed by the election results, people who have personal morals and values that don’t align with those Trump represents. But what I feel, and what I’ve been hearing friends and family back home describe, is much more than disappointment. It’s a heart-wrenching fear for the fragility of our lives, for our futures, for our collective voice. Wednesday, November 9, 2016 is a day that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The day was a constant rotation of sleep, tears, and talking to friends who were doing the exact same thing. Sorrow hung in the air; many people suggested we were acting as though someone had died. Truthfully, something did. A part of us, a part of me, did die that day. The part of me that carried blind optimism and faith in the American people, in humanity, was not called in to question but crushed by Trump’s victory.
Many people argue that most Trump supporters aren’t racist or sexist, and while I try to understand how that can be true, it doesn’t change the fact that the leader of our nation—of our home—talks disparagingly about who we are as a Hispanic community and fights against our success. The idea that “not all Trump supporters are racist and sexist” doesn’t take away from the fact that we are afraid. We are afraid of a country that has been our home for the entirety of our lives. I am afraid.
All day I’ve heard people around campus asking: “What do we do now?” And as I sit in tears, fearful and fragile, I have to ask myself as a Hispanic, as a female, “What am I going to do?”
Last year, I spent some time at a monastery learning about Buddhist practices and ideology. Several of the teachings focused on the art of meditation and how we must empty ourselves first in order to fill ourselves with love and compassion. The monk who gave these teachings described humans as cups and told us that, in order to inspire and influence others, we must first do so for ourselves. We must fill our own cups with knowledge and understanding before we can begin to overflow and fill others with that same knowledge and understanding. I think that’s a great place to start. We all need to rid ourselves of hatred and judgment, because only then will we be able to build ourselves into the people who inspire change, who inspire acceptance.
I am not fleeing the country, I am not attempting assassination, and I am not yelling “Fuck Trump” on street corners. Instead, I am going to continue to strive. Though I recognize the limits I face and know that there are groups of people in this country who don’t want me, I will strive. I will strive to learn, to include, to understand, and to fill my cup and find ways to overflow so that others may fill their cups as well. And together, maybe, we’ll find a way to feel safe again; we’ll find a way to be proud to call this great country of immigrants and opportunities our home again.