What AM I? I’m Just…ME!

“What ARE you?” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question throughout my life, I’d be retired by now. It’s the question I’m asked the most followed by “when do you plan on having kids?” which is then followed by, “You don’t WANT kids?”

The “what ARE you?” question would stir up a lot of anxiety in me as a child. My olive-colored skin, dark hair, dark eyes and high cheek bones attracted attention and curiosity because they weren’t the norm in the small southwest Kansas town I grew up in. As a teenager when someone would ask, “What ARE you?” I would quickly respond, “What are YOU?” That always resulted in priceless expressions and some good internal chuckles for me.

I remember as a teen when people would use the derogatory term for someone of Mexican descent and then realize I was standing there. They would get embarrassed and say, “oh! Lindsay, YOU don’t count.” First off, I’m part Spanish. The derogatory term for someone of Spanish descent is different than the derogatory term for someone of Mexican descent. I would gladly (mostly sarcastically) take these moments to inform them of the correct offensive word because it really was a great opportunity to educate bigots on geography and culture:) Secondly…”you don’t count?” Uhhhh…still not sure how that was supposed to make them seem less pathetic?

What ARE you? It was difficult for me to answer because I knew my “ethnic ingredients” consisted of many different nationalities and I just figured that’s how it was for everyone else. That’s why I didn’t understand why most people didn’t answer “other” when marking what their ethnicity was on forms that requested that information. I haven’t done the Ancestry DNA test but my sister has. My results would be similar so I’ll post it below in case you’re curious. I think I will have stickers made after I do my test so I can stick it to all the appropriate forms that require that information 🙂

29% Irish
17% Spanish
17% Native American
10% Scandinavian
9% Asian
5% Western European
4% African

As you can see by the information above, telling people “what” I am isn’t easy because I’m a lot of things. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life, and at times, has caused confusion and internal conflict. I’m currently attending graduate school to become a licensed clinical social worker. In one of my classes the teacher told one of the students that if she wasn’t there to become a “radical” social worker (radical social workers have radical liberal views), she should consider a different career path. The NASW (National Association of Social Workers) even endorsed a political candidate. These situations prompted me to ask if there was a list of political, anti-religious, personal opinions that we needed to believe in order to be “worthy” of becoming a social worker. I expressed in this class that if there was a list of specific personal criteria in order to become a social worker then the admissions office needs to make sure they are more selective by asking what people believe before accepting people into the program, but that would be discrimination. I’m working toward an MSW degree to become a therapist. To be an effective therapist I believe it is incredibly important to put your personal, political and religious views aside.

Take a look at the following definition: a social institution, in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established.

Is the definition above a definition for social work or organized religion?

Here’s some questions which consumed me the last few months…

  • If I didn’t vote for the candidate that correlates with the social work belief system, am I worthy of an MSW degree?
  • If I attend the Catholic church, am I worthy of being a social worker?
  • If I am mostly pro-life, am I still worthy of being a social worker or a feminist?

I believe in same sex marriage and in the right to love whomever you wish and I still feel worthy of attending the Catholic church. In all of my years attending the Catholic church, I have NEVER heard anyone say, “If you support the LGBTQ community, you should consider a different religion.” The truth is, though…I’ve never felt like I have belonged to any one particular group. As a kid it wasn’t unusual to see me playing football with the boys one minute and playing Barbies with the girls the next or sporting my Jordans complete with a Jordan jersey and mesh shorts one day and decked out girly-girl as can be the following day. I remember in grade school I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a football player or cheerleader for Halloween so I wore a jersey with a cheerleading skirt? In high school, I wasn’t part of any clique. I played sports, I was a cheerleader, I was in the band, I sang in the choir, and I participated in plays and scholarship pageants.

There’s so much emphasis put on the importance of community but I don’t believe that identifying with a group is for all of us. Being part of a group is preferred by many people and that’s great if that’s what is meaningful to you. I’ve discovered that intimate relationships are the type of relationships I feel the most comfortable in. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “If she attends the Catholic church then she prefers groups.”Attending Catholic services is just one of the ways I feel close to God. It is a very intimate experience for me.

People rarely believe me when I tell them I have a fear of public speaking because I used to have a radio show that was broadcast to thousands. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that it was because of the intimate aspect in radio. As I would broadcast, I would imagine I was talking one-on-one with someone because that is what felt natural to me. I can’t do that in front of a group because I can’t stay focused due to the fact that I can see that I am speaking to a group. And just because some of us don’t prefer groups, doesn’t mean we don’t experience unity. I have the best supporters/cheerleaders a girl could ask for!

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue my education in social work. There are a lot of aspects I love about social work that I believe will fuel my soul. I will remain authentic and true to myself. My mom taught me early on that there’s a universal language. That universal language is compassion. I’m just going to keep on speaking that language! I’m also going to keep attending the Catholic church because there are a lot of aspects I love about Catholicism. My upbringing in the Catholic church, along with the guidance of my parents, is where my spiritual foundation was built. My faith is a huge part of who I am and what has helped me through my darkest times. I am very proud of the woman I have become and my religion is a huge part of who I am and what keeps me positive, hopeful and brings me peace each and every day.

Labels often lead to assumptions; assumptions can be right but can also be false.  I would like to ask a favor. Please don’t assume…

– That because someone is pursuing social work that they believe all wealthy people are evil and greedy.
– That someone who is homeless hasn’t tried to find employment.
– That because someone attends Catholic church that they don’t support the LGBTQ community.
– That just because someone attends church every week that they live by the word of God.
-That just because someone isn’t religious or spiritual that they don’t possess strong morals and values.

I’ll stop there. You get the point.

So “what” am I? I’m just me. Following my heart.