Yesterday my good friend and flatmate Max Moore (https://www.flickr.com/photos/138404630@N05/) took some new acting head-shots for me. Along with my current change of perspective on many-a-thing brought on seemingly by my entrance into my 20’s last year, it got me thinking further about why it is I speak so frequently of my mixed race, and of my Caribbean heritage. A trait, I know, certain people may find frustrating, but do not mistake me, it is not out of some strange arrogance or out of a need to tell people everything, it is out of a fascination and a pride for my heritage. You see, these features of mine, the blonde roots of my hair mixed with the size and texture of it tell stories of a history so rich and fascinating I feel almost overwhelmed to have been a product of it.
Since I was a young child, as many others do, I struggled with self image – and to an extent still do – I compared myself to many of the people around me, and to the images presented on Film and TV. What came as a result, much of the time, was a warped perspective on my appearance. I’ve always mentioned on my blog in passing of how coming to Uni has helped with that, and has opened my mind to my heritage, but this post is here to go a little further into this, and to express the importance of noticing your distinguishable features.
Moving away from home, which I have treasured and still do treasure as a big part of me was an extraordinary moment in my life. Coming from the sleepy, and not terribly diverse town of Maldon to a Uni whose biggest feature is it’s large diversity was an odd and life-defining moment. It was a time in my life where my thoughts were being challenged, where my ideals were questioned and where I met hundreds of people, all from different cultures, nearly all feeling exactly the same but looking completely different.
Feeling exactly the same, but looking completely different. Different cultures, different backgrounds, different understandings of what it meant to be a human, to have the features we do and yet still showing a confusion and a misunderstanding over a lot of it. That was … refreshing and eye opening. It gave me a chance to stand back and go “Okay so this is actually a thing, it is a true feeling, a true predicament”. What do you do with a predicament? You find a solution. My solution was emphasising and discovering the wonder in my own features that some others had tried to help me find previously.
That discovery came from researching into the side of my heritage I formerly knew very little about. The side that meant I looked into the mirror every morning and felt conflicted in my perception of it. But I will be honest, I never set out to find my identity in the research of my Dominican history, I never set out, for that matter, to research it as fully as I have. Most of it was by accident, or by sudden impromptu interest. Yet, during a creative writing seminar, something in my brain felt the need to try something different, to learn something completely new, to write from a different voice.
What followed was a still, long process of finding out these facts, and events, harrowing and inspiring, the terrifying and the endearing and realising what they meant for me.
So what did it mean?
It mean’t that now, at 21, still early in my life, I can look in the mirror, I can look at the featured image on this post, and I can smile. I don’t have to look at these features, and find them handsome or appealing, I merely have to see them for what they are: a manifestation of my creation, and of the history that came before it. The way my hair knots itself together and looks as if it should belong to a different skin colour, but that still, somehow, looks right.
Let me stress again, I am not being arrogant here, I am not positing myself as a godly creation, I still have anxieties but in the chase to find my identity I reached a stage of contentment. I got to the point everyone, regardless of race, should find themselves in. While my features belong to both black and white races, what I am saying is not race specific. There are features we all have, the nose of our fathers, the smile of our mothers, but with these features comes a slight difference. What a spectacle it is that that is a truth, what an example it is of how fascinating this world is. We are a product of our mothers and fathers genes, and the genes of our ancestors before that but we still retain our own distinguishable features. You see, these features of ours tell a great many things, they hold magic in them that can travel time and hold memories of the past, of the struggles and the survivals that those pasts represents. These features of ours are almost incomprehensible, and even when we deny their beauty, we surely cannot deny their significance.