Mythri Gandrothu

 

A part of neither world

You never noticed these things as a child
Your innocence blinds you from the truths of the world
Until a day that seemed completely unremarkable you finally see it
The truths behind the woman with blond hair
Or the man with a thick brown beard speckled with grey outliers
Or the old lady with leathery freckled skin
You see yourself through their eyes
No longer are you simply a little girl, six years old running about in a sugared frenzy
Now you are the brown girl with hair pulled tight into braid
A hairstyle your mom did for you everyday
A girl running about spread a weird curry smell
A girl whose parents are clearly rooted from a different soil, yelling in words that are harsh and chilling, and not English
 
At that moment you are not the same little girl
In some ways you have grown up in ways those people who stare never have
This growing or more likely changing comes with great benefits
It comes with a desire to be liked by people who will never like you
And strive to be someone you can’t possibly become
Be ashamed of who you were and who your family is, which broke your mother’s heart
Be soft spoken and blend into the background while constantly searching for those stares that tell you how futile all this is
By middle school you hate yourself
You so desperately want to be a nobody and blend into the background
So when your mother tells you about taking a trip to India there is a weird joy
A deep desire to feel a part of a group aches for this opportunity
 
At this point your fingers can’t help but tap nervously against the plastic table you pulled down from the seat in front of you
You’re on the soil of your people
The people who have skin like toffee with thick long hair and eyes that look too dark to be brown
In every possible way you look like them and they see you as a part of the group
Well this is true until your mouth opens
Frantic to get connection that can finally make you feel a part of something bigger than yourself
But the way you speak, drawn out words and emphasis on the wrong syllables
What you wear, jeans and baggy T
Who you are, too tied to The Office memes and Taylor Swift songs
At this point, you realize you don’t belong
 
It’s not like your life had shattered
I mean you never really experienced that acceptance
You couldn’t understand what it meant to have that go away
It felt the way it had always felt
You were the odd one out
But in your heart you realized that unremitting feeling continued
It bore a hole into your soul and settled in there
It hid from the surface hoping you would forget but you couldn’t
 
It’s been years since that trip
Years since you thought that you would feel accepted so completely for your identity
But you understand now the gift of that identity
The gift of resistance against all expectations of what you are
Or should be
A resistance against preconceived notions of your identity
Notions that you break with every breath you take
And now you understand the strength you have in being completely you
Noticing stares and realizing you’re the outlier
And strangely embracing it
 


Mythri Gandrothu is a Indian American who grew up struggling to understand her own identity in America and India. She realized she didn’t fit the expectations people placed on her. But through this she grew into becoming a more empowered person.


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