I’ve come to realize that thus far I’ve primarily highlighted the positive aspects of my journey. I’m so young and found what I was passionate about in life. I found a way to start working towards it. I’m living on an island where it doesn’t get colder than 70 degrees (F) while Chicago is competing with Antarctica for the most inhumane living conditions. I’m grateful and I’m blessed but above all, I am privileged.
During undergrad, I took several courses categorized as the social sciences. Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, and Gender Race and Class, to name a few. To me, it was not enough to be learning about the scientific basis of the human body and mind; our world is much more complex than that. We are creatures of habit, yet constantly evolving. We exist in communities, societies, populations, but fight to have individual voices heard. The year was 2014 and being “Woke,” was the latest trend. #BlackLivesMatter had become a national movement. For the most part, the narrative of social justice conversations were The Colored Man v. The White Man. Understandably so, because the systemic basis of our country is the oppression of anyone who is not The White Man. Therefore, by extension the conversation also addressed The Colored Woman v. The White Woman. The Colored Woman v. The White Man. But also, The Colored Woman v. The Colored Man.
The general ranking is as follows in order of greatest amount of privilege to least:
1. The White Man
2. The White Man
3. The White Man
4. The White Man
5. The White Man
6.5 The White Woman
7. The Colored Man
8. The Colored Woman
9. The Colored LBGTQ Men
10. The Colored LBGTQ Women
***Note: I’m unsure of the ranking of the LBGTQ community with respect to Caucasian population, therefore I did not include it as it is not anything I have studied or come across in credible sources.
But there is another, interpersonal ranking in which White woman make more than Asian women who can make more than Black women who can make more than Latina women.
***Note: The only sure tier is White women obtaining significantly larger income than Colored women. The actual discrepancies within the different races that Colored women identify as can differ depending on demographics, familial support, and type of job.
I may be an American-Pakistani, Muslim woman. But I am ridiculously privileged compared to other American-Pakistani, Muslim women. I was born in America. My skin tone is tanned but my voice is without an accent. My English does not give anyone the ability to question whether I belong here. I never saw poverty, I never saw violent crimes. I hardly experienced extreme racism and I was well sheltered, protected and loved by my family. By no means was my life perfect. But it was and has been good.
My immigrant parents faced adversities. My immigrant parents faced extreme racism. My immigrant father worked three jobs at a time so him and my mother could move out of a poverty-stricken area. My parents did everything and survived everything they have for the potential child (ME!) they would have one day and their desperate ambition to want more for that child than they had for themselves. Before I even turned 6, we moved into a beautiful neighborhood with an incredible school district. My mom made me breakfast every single morning and drove my sister and I to school. The population in our small town was predominantly white. 98% white. I did not notice until middle school when that sort of cultural difference begins to reveal itself. Not being allowed to sleepover, having earlier curfews, our family dynamic being different than others- it developed into eventual teen angst as expected.
Cue the identity crisis, the divide between rebelling and sticking to your roots. The whole nine yards, I lived it. To get to this point, where I have the maturity to remember and be ashamed of how I behaved is a gift. I do not think I would have gotten to this point had I not gone through that. Because what I did in that period of time was constantly, consistently, compare myself to everyone around me.
I wanted to be the same. I wanted a name someone knew how to pronounce without glancing twice, I wanted to stay out as late as possible, I wanted to wear whatever I wanted and say whatever I wanted. I yearned for privacy from my parents because I assumed they could not possibly understand. My father had completed his undergraduate degree in the states but I dismissed his experiences as they were over a decade from where I was standing. I did not understand privilege, I could not empathize the way I have learned to today. All I could see was the blind comparison between where I was and where everyone around me seemed to be.
To an extent, I can see why I was like that and why so many people in that age group and period of time are still like that. We are limited in our understanding of the world. We are limited in our understanding of how there is a life beyond school, beyond the people you see on a daily basis because we are not taught to be ambitious or want more for ourselves than where we are at the moment. We are expected to succeed and pursue new opportunities but only within a safety net. Moving far, taking non-traditional routes, exploring new avenues is seen as provocative and adventurous. Beyond that, its deemed unneeded and problematic.
Yet, that is one of the only ways that encourages you to be different. Why are we so focused on people being as similar as possible? Constantly grouping people together based off similar interests, personalities, hobbies. Sure, there is an argument for compatibility and the ease of understanding but one needs to be equally challenged and introduced to ideas that are different than the ones they have been exposed to all their life.
When we compare ourselves to one another, we are not asking in what ways do we differ and how is that beneficial, instead we are salivating to be the other person, to have what they have, to want what they want. We want to be able to follow what someone else did, walk in their footsteps and obtain what they have. More often than not, what we consider inspiration is imitation in a hope to feel closer to what someone looks like or does. We compare ourselves to other people as a form of measurement. For some, that measurement is of success. I see so many posts and comments about tearing down someone’s job or lifestyle in an attempt to justify someone else’s. People saying I may not have become a lawyer but I am equally successful as a banker. I am working equally hard by being a stay-at-home mom. I have been as challenged in my role as a blogger as are doctors.
Instead of forming supportive unity, we are pitting ourselves against one another. You do not need to compare your job to one with high regard by society to emphasize it’s importance. The reality is: NO TWO JOBS ARE ALIKE. Even if they are regarded similarly, like doctors and lawyers being considered to be high-status jobs- they differ hugely. You do not need to compare your successes to someone else’s to validate that your successes are indeed successes. The more you compare, the unhappier you will be because the reality is there is no comparison. The more you attempt to draw comparisons, the more you will realize you have started down an endless road. There are doctors who are also mothers, there are bankers who are also musicians. People are unpredictable, their interests do not have to be limited to a single choice.
I am privileged in so many ways but as long as I was comparing myself to other people, I could not remember a single of my own individual blessings. Instead, I saw adversity everywhere because I was so focused on wanting something that I did not have. Something that I did not even need. I needed a scale to be able to understand where I was so I made one up sensing the differences between myself and others around me. Instead of grounding myself by comparing who I am as a person now versus a few years ago and what I have accomplished over time, I focused on how many barriers I had broken down in assimilating to those around me.
The worst part? I did not do it for myself or because I even wanted to. I did it because I thought it was what I was supposed to do and it did not make me happy. I found no substance, no meaning or sense of fulfillment in becoming more similar to the other people I had cherished for so long. It was a difficult and strenuous lesson learned but it is the reason I do not conform to anyone today. The reason I am not afraid to be completely honest about who I am no matter what situation I am put in. I determine my own morals, preferences and allow my actions to solely be dictated by myself. Not what anyone expects of me and not what I think is the norm or socially acceptable thing to do in that situation. I am no longer afraid to venture out on my own, to take a risk even if I am the only one doing so because I finally understand that it is so much more meaningful to be different and seek out people unlike you. There is no better way to learn about this world and how vast it really is.