What Am I to You?
(a piece spoken to RAs in training, Spring
What does your gut say to you when
I call myself a Southerner? And that my great grandmother lived
in a house that her husband built for her which happens to sit
on a recently paved road or that she lived on that farm for almost
a hundred years? And that my grandmother and grandfather have
lived in my home town for their entire lives and that the house
in which my mother grew up is less than a half-mile from the house
in which I grew up? What do you think about me when I say that
I went to R.J. Reynolds High School which was donated to the city
by R.J.R. Tobacco? Or that the school Auditorium seats 2,000 and
has had such names as Houdini perform there? What sort of people
do you think my parents and grandparents are? Into which cultural
stereotypes would you place me?
If I told you that my other grandmother
is paying for my college education would you call me lucky? Perhaps
a bit snobby? Or if I told you I've lived in England for 3 years and
visited more foreign countries than I have fingers and toes? Would you
call me a world traveler or a lucky son-of-a-bitch? What does your gut
tell you when I say I've bartered with native Kenyans and seen thousands
of water buffalo marching toward a watering hole at the break of dawn?
What does this tell you about the type of person I am?
But then, how would that mesh with me saying
that smoking on the campus of my high school is a state felony and the
Auditorium in which I slaved for four years is so run down now that
the electrical system blew itself out four times while I was there?
What if I told you that my parents divorced when I was five years old
and my mother has been unemployed twice in the last 8 years and that
I've learned the value of a dollar by both watching and working with
her to pinch and save and spend carefully to get us back into a comfortable
state of living? Or that I'm still dealing with the repercussions of
their divorce, even this year?
What if I told you that I believe
that there is no such thing as perfection even though I constantly
strive for it? What kind of person am I for having urges to drop
out of college and become a graphic artist, and live off of my
passion for creating? That I almost transferred out of Haverford
because I was unhappy here and yet still question my comfort here?
Or if I told you that my roommate and I my freshman year verged
on hating each other because of personality conflicts? That I
can be both stubborn and moody? Does this change the value my
opinion? What if I told you that I sometimes see more wrong than
right with Haverford, and wrestle with myself everyday to keep
on fighting for what I personally believe is the better way? How
does that jive with your seeing me on Committee and out in the
Community? But my real question to you is what do each of these
things say about me and who I am?