Embracing Change and Adapting To It
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
Reflection questions: Have you ever had an identity crisis?
What culture or ethnic groups make up your identity?
How can you embrace your identity or resolve any feelings of conflict about it?
For many people, accepting, embracing and adapting to change is one of the most difficult things they need to do…
In life, you need to be like a chameleon, able to change and adjust with the changing times. Don’t be afraid of change. Embrace it. Learn from it, and grow from it. Change just enough to fit into your new environment, but don’t lose yourself in the process. Don’t stay stagnant in that job or position; you have to advance yourself because you have to evolve with the earth. Unless you want to be the odd one out, educate yourself as much as you can.
My story of adapting…
It was the fall, and when Thanksgiving came, I went to Atlanta, Georgia, to visit my older sister Chitalu. I had heard Atlanta was going to be the new L.A., so I thought it was where I needed to be to further my career in communications. I didn’t want to be in New York, the media capital of the world, because it was too fast for me. Atlanta was the perfect setting, I believed, to strengthen my identity and blossom into a young lady. I was growing independently now, embracing change and looking forward to my future.
This visit to Atlanta was not my first. I had gone there the summer before for a bridal shower with my mom, but we hadn’t stayed long. This visit to see my sister was more intimate and educational. My sister had a small apartment in the Dunwoody area. It was a very cute one-bedroom apartment, and since she didn’t have any furniture, we had to sleep on a mattress on the floor. My sister, as always was a gracious hostess. She knew a dream of mine was to see the CNN headquarters in downtown Atlanta, so she took me there.
There were differences…
Thanksgiving in the South was different than what I was used to, so I will never forget that time. My sister’s boss invited us to her home. It was a beautiful, huge house and full of people. The dinner table was decorated with a cream tablecloth and autumn leaves as its centerpiece.
At first I felt too intimidated to talk to anyone, but our hosts were so welcoming that I soon felt like a part of their family. After feasting on the delicious meal, we engaged in healthy conversations and playing board games. It was a magical experience. Just driving out of the driveway, I was amazed by the huge trees that were dropping their leaves, leaving a trail of fall’s changing weather. I was in love with this place.
While there I was able to go to a swap meet, where I got my hair braided into micro braids, and I really stepped out of my comfort zone when I chose brown for the extensions (I usually chose black.) Before actually going to the swap meet, we stopped at a restaurant that was new to me, it was The Waffle House, a restaurant which was famous for its large waffles. I was also able to visit the Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody, where I was amazed at the variety of stores available, and there were all kinds of sizes ready to fit the average woman of today, which was different from my experience in Seattle.
In Atlanta, I adored seeing more people who were my shade and every other shade of color from all over the world: Africans, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans, Mexicans, Indians, etc. Each ethnic group brought a taste of their food and culture to America with them. Atlanta is so culturally diverse that everyone mixes with each other. I think cultural integration is important because it created open-mindedness and reduces xenophobia – the fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners.
Southern hospitality definitely grabbed my attention; everyone was open to meeting and greeting you. By comparison, in Washington, people were more reserved and kept to themselves. So I had built the mentality in my head that people didn’t want to speak to me, and my mother has often told me that it reflects in my face. She says my face makes me appear unapproachable.
My visit to Georgia was both refreshing and a learning experience for me. That visit was a defining moment for me in growing into adulthood.
At this point, I was forced to come to terms with my own identity and what it meant to be black or dark-skinned in America.
My identity crisis…
Beginning in middle school, I had an identity crisis. In Australia, I was labeled as African. But when we moved to the States, I was so in love with the idea of being called African-American. I felt I finally belonged with a group that shared my skin color and sense of culture.
It wasn’t until college that I realized who I really was and what it meant to my place in the world. In my Anthropology class, we were asked to write an ethnography (the study of different ethnic groups) paper. I chose to do a paper on Gambia, and distinguish how African countries are different. I interviewed some friends who were from Gambia. My goal with this paper was to talk about how Gambians formed communities after they migrated to Seattle, and how they stayed true to their cultures and celebrated their heritage while embracing the changes they experienced in the United States.
After writing this paper, I knew that my cultural identity was important to me. I was questioning whether it was okay for me to use the title “African-American.” Using the term made me feel guilty, like I was denouncing my African roots…I should be proud of my Zambian roots. But for some reason I found African-American culture more appealing.
My identity had been solidified; I was indeed an African living in America, or a black person living in America. I had finally gotten the answer to the question I already knew.
Return to, and answer the Reflection Questions above…
This is an excerpt from my book “Strengthening Your Identity While the Shadow is in front of You”, it is my personal journey with bi-polar disorder…it is not medical advice…for that you should consult with your doctor.
I wish you strength, courage and joy in your journey to learning to live with your mental illness or anything you struggle with in life.