Posts by María

Collector of random facts, extreme internet surfer, compulsive doodler and certified klutz, at your service.

This is 27

Around this time last year, I saw my plans of studying abroad come to an untimely end after my scholarship applications were rejected.

I was understandably discouraged, but still determined to give it another go ’round. Staying true to that promise, I submitted my applications once more with hopes of a different outcome.

Today, I write this after facing rejection for the second time in a row.

Yes, that’s right. I didn’t get a scholarship this year either.

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That awkward moment when your scholarship applications are rejected for the second year in a row. (Source: Know Your Meme)

I would be lying if I said reading through those generic rejection emails didn’t feel like a punch to the gut. As much as I would like to preach detachment, a redemption arc would have been particularly welcome at this point.

Feeling like one of your lifelong dreams is slipping through your fingers is also a bit disconcerting, to say the least. Although I’m trying to reason with myself by holding on to the mantra, “This isn’t a dead end, but a detour,” it’s still sad to have to put something you care about (and which you have fought for so wholeheartedly) on hold indefinitely.

In moments of clarity such as this one, I realize that this is just part of my story, a blip on the radar, a small inconvenience; that just around the corner, better things might be in store for me.

I certainly don’t know what meaning all of this holds (if any), but I hope it will make sense in due time. As a matter of fact, when I look at the circumstances that have brought me to this particular crossroads, I realize things eventually fall into place and someday, I will come to that coveted understanding which now eludes me.

The truth is that at 27, I still have a hard time letting go and exercising patience. Everything I do is imbued with this sense of urgency, and as irrational as I know it sounds, part of me feels like this can’t wait. Perhaps the hardest thing is coming to terms with the fact that it has to, regardless of how desperately I want it or how much of myself I have poured into this.

Saying yes opens you up to a world of possibilities, but that doesn’t only include the wonderful stuff you rave to your friends about, or the good news you share with your parents and siblings. It also encompasses the failed ventures, embarrassing faux pas, and many other ways in which you can (and do) fall flat on your face from time to time.

It’s neither pleasant nor empowering, much less encouraging, but this is what 27 looks like for me. In the interest of preserving my sanity, I will move forward with a new line of questioning.

To quote the wonderful Hallease:

What will I become from this failure?

I figure that in the face of this impasse, that will prove to be a more fruitful endeavor.

Besides, I’ve always reveled in a good challenge.

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Taking a leap (and falling short)

2017 has been a busy year.

I’m happy to say that the promise I made to myself at the end of 2016 wasn’t in vain. Sure, the results weren’t exactly what I expected either, but it has been an interesting ride nonetheless.

Let me explain.

After a series of succesive disappointments, I saw myself welcoming a new year. The previous one hadn’t been kind to me and I was looking for a respite, a fresh start. I really needed to regain my focus, so I commited to changing those things that upon looking back on 2016, I simply regretted or wished I had done differently.

Or so they say. (Source: thefw.com)

Now, I know there’s a lot that can be said about the futility of New Year’s resolutions, but there’s only so much complaining you can do until you realize it’s time to do something.

“I can’t change the situation, so I’ll change my approach” – you tell yourself, and before you know it you’re starting to make plans, phone calls, lists and so on and so forth, and now that the ball’s rolling you also realize that you have no intention of stopping it.

This isn’t much of a revelation at this point, but this year has served as an important reminder that the best thing to do if you want to achieve something is just to get started.

While I contemplated whether I would finally be applying for scholarships to pursue a master’s abroad, I was actually making projections for 2018. I questioned whether I would be ready to take the TOEFL or the GRE, or if I would even be as competitive as my peers. There were so many reasons I had conjured up in my mind as to why this dream should be pushed even further back, and I had all but convinced myself of it until a friend changed my mind.

“People like us are really good at rationalizing. Don’t wait another year. Do it now.” – he said to me.

And as it turns out, he was right.

That single conversation over Facebook messenger changed the course of my 2017 for good. Shortly after I began researching about the requirements for the scholarships I would apply to and their respective timelines, the exams I needed to take beforehand and who I would ask for recommendations. At that point the plan had been effectively set in motion – the rest was just following through with it.

At the beginning of this year I had already registered and started preparing to take the TOEFL. February came and went and with it, so did the test date. Though anxious about my performance, I would eventually check it off my list after seeing the results. I then waited patiently until the call for applications had been issued.

Ultimately, I applied to two different scholarship programs. I painstakingly pored over my statement of purpose, writing and rewriting sentences and paragraphs until it was just right. I managed to secure the recommendation letters and the remaining documents required of me. I sent them both in trying my best no to attach any expectations to this adventure, and then I waited again for a response.

Much to my surprise, the people on the other end of these applications wanted to get to know me better. What I remember most about the interview process are the two-hour long bus trips to and from Santo Domingo, cab rides in the big city and walks along the Winston Churchill. There was more waiting involved and with each trip, a bit more anticipation than before.

I honestly didn’t expect to be called in for any sort of interview, much less anything with the word ‘final’ attached to it, but it happened. “It’s so close you can almost touch it” – I told myself, and then I would daydream about the possibility of studying abroad and what that would look like for me. These were the thoughts that helped tide me over while I waited some more, this time for something definitive.

All or nothing.

Yes or no.

Good or bad.

I recall how the adrenaline rushed through me as I opened those emails.

Charlie Bucket

“Go on, Charlie. Open it.” (Source: space538.org)

All of a sudden I was Charlie Bucket, eagerly holding a Wonka Fudge Mallow in his hands, hoping to find that elusive Golden Ticket once he unwrapped it.

Click.

Load.

“Thank you for applying…” – I began to read.

Charlie Bucket 2

“Fooled you, didn’t I?” (Source: Youtube)

But just like Charlie before me, upon opening it I instantly realized there was no prize. The chocolate, sweet as it was, became a distant afterthought in the face of such bitter disappointment.

It was yet another humbling reminder that no matter how much time, effort and resources you expend on any given enterprise, there is no guarantee that things will work out in your favor.

I had spent the majority of this year wholly invested in the scholarship application process, checking things off of my list, going from one thing to the next, waiting and anticipating, traveling, procuring documents, and the like.

But somehow, it hadn’t amounted to anything. It hadn’t been enough.

At least that’s what I told myself in the weeks that followed, while I tried to adjust to the novelty of not having anything else to look forward to – no pending emails or deadlines, forms to fill out or tests to take. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t miss the bus trips to Santo Domingo. After five or so of those, it becomes less of an adventure and more akin to torture. I’m sure you can relate.

Am I wrong, though?

Anyways, time continued on its wayward path and as is often the case, it brought some perspective along to share with me.

Sure, I was disappointed, and that’s not a bad thing. Honestly, it’s normal to feel that way when something you care about doesn’t work out. We generally hope for the best and want to believe that we can achieve the things we set out to do. Hell, I would have loved to write my own triumphant story about earning a scholarship to study abroad, but I’m sitting here now with a different story to tell and in the end, maybe something more meaningful to say as a result.

Everyone loves a success story, but not many people stop to think about all that it implies. Success is rarely (if ever) linear, yet we torture ourselves with thoughts of attaining it, apparently unaware of the sweat and tears, mistakes, struggles and disappointments that precede it.

And herein lies another important reminder that this experience rewarded me with: failure isn’t final – it’s just a part of the process. Again, this is anything but revolutionary at this point, but it’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re feeling like you’ve hit a dead end.

“[Failure] isn’t fatal, so don’t act like it’s fatal.” – Seth Godin

It is so crucial to mantain a healthy sense of perspective, and sometimes you’ll need other people’s help to regain it. While it was very tempting to look at this whole experience as a washout, I was forced to reexamine my position the more I thought about it.

I had been looking and learning about these scholarships before graduating from college (more than four years ago!), but had deemed them unattainable for whatever reason. To be honest, my assessment was probably accurate then.

Notice the emphasis on that last word? That’s because another important thing that we fail to take into account is timing. Thankfully, I’m not the same person that I was four or five years ago, and as a result, the judgments I had previously made about my own self no longer hold up.

“You have to realize that where you’re at right now is not where you’re going to be five or ten years from now.” – Franchesca Ramsey

I may not have been prepared to apply for a scholarship straight out of college, but I did it now and somehow obtained better results than I had expected. Who’s to say I couldn’t make it all the way through the next time around? The only thing stopping me is choosing not to try again.

Spoiler alert: I’m not ready to give up just yet.

“Nobody gets to name you. Find your identity in the one true place.” – Jamie Tworkowski

With that being said, the last thing I wanted to mention is that regardless of the outcome, no one thing, person or institution can define you. Scholarship recipient or not, I am so much more than this one experience.

In that same vein, only you can determine what success means to you. To me, it’s about being persistent and proactive, about welcoming new challenges and pushing your own boundaries. Great results are rewarding, but they don’t tell the whole story – the one you and I are currently writing day in and day out, word by word, struggle after struggle.

Whatever you do, try not to lose sight of that narrative.

 

 

 

Things come full circle

A lot can change in a couple of years.

As a matter of fact, it was a little over two years ago that a spontaneous night out for beers prompted me to start this blog— an idea that had been silently taking shape in my mind for much longer, but had never materialized until that moment.

It was after that night that I decided to embark on this social experiment of sorts, making tweaks and pivoting as I went along. This was particularly important to me because I needed to take a leap without knowing where I would land beforehand. No particular reason or end goal in sight, really— simply because I could.

You see, people like me plan. I calculate every step that I take, making contingency plans along the way just in case my first option doesn’t pan out. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, seeing things strictly through one lens is limiting. Part of me also felt that I needed to shake things up and switch gears— again, just to prove to myself that I could.

Many things have happened along the way: trips to places I had never been before, adventures with friends, unexpected roadblocks and disappointments, as well as other more pleasant surprises.

I knew that the nature of this project would likely put me in uncomfortable positions at times, but I also assumed I would be enjoying myself a great deal— if I was willing to take a leap of faith to get there, that is.

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Beer? Brewing? Get it? So punny! Source: Know Your Meme

That’s what happened that night when I decided to hit up Vino a Beber in spite of what had honestly been a veritable trainwreck of a day (pounding headache included). In that moment I found some welcome release, but in hindsight something much bigger was brewing behind the scenes. I didn’t know it then, but would come to realize it in due time.

You see, in the spirit of giving up some control, I continued to hang out with many people and try my hand at different things, but this was especially true with the same person I talked to over beers that night at Vino a Beber. We went to the movies, we talked as we walked home after work, and sometimes we made impromptu pit stops for mojitos. Fun fact: I’m particularly fond of the strawberry ones at Moji Bar.

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Where did they even come from, though? Source: Know Your Meme

After doing my own thing for a good year or so, this person had just made their way into my life without so much as a warning. Maybe that’s why I was also taken by surprise when I realized I actually liked them. I wasn’t looking for anything but all of a sudden, there it was.

I can’t help but marvel at the irony that the minute I decided to throw caution to the wind, other things seemed to align all on their own.

Although I had no certainty this would work out, I figured that this was the time to say yes, and so I did. “If all else fails, at the very least it’ll make for a cool story down the line”— I thought to myself.

That’s typical of me. I’m always bracing myself for disappointment. My sisters think I’m a total downer, although I personally identify as a realist. I figure that this way I’m not caught off-guard if things go south, but when they go better than expected I’m pleasantly surprised. It works out, regardless of the outcome.

It has always been that way, to be honest. As a teenager, I was already carving out a life of solitude for myself— sans cats, but with plenty of books instead. My plans drastically differed from those of my peers, who were happily dating, celebrating Valentine’s day, going to dances and doing all the other things that teenage couples do. At the ripe old age of 15, my goals were pretty clear-cut: graduate high school, go to college and earn my degree, and live out the rest of my life in peaceful hermitage.

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Welcome to the rest of your life, kid. Source: serenesforest.net

Of course, I was intrigued by the notion of romance, but ultimately I felt like it just wasn’t made for me. So I acted accordingly and did my own thing, adjusting my expectations in the process (i.e. renouncing them altogether).

“If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be”— I reasoned, and save for certain moments and occasions, that worked out pretty well for me.

Keeping all of this in mind, you could probably imagine my surprise as I witnessed things moving along nicely and dare I say, getting better with time. My contingency plans hadn’t prepared me for this, but I was happy and had all but tossed them aside somewhere along the way.

Despite the healthy dose of skepticism that I carry around with me, at one point I conceded that this was the real thing, and he agreed. I think that’s also when we decided to get married.

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This speaks for itself. Source: memesuper.com

I mean, sure. I caught a bridal bouquet once, so I guess that means something in ye olde wedding lore. But still, me? If my teenage self could see this she would probably roll her eyes in disgust, and the mere thought of that just makes me laugh.

Conspiracy-Keanu

That moment when you realize it’s all connected. Source: imgflip.com

Make no mistake, though.  This is real life and this is my full circle moment: the story of how one ‘yes’ led me down a path I never saw myself traveling and with a person I never would have imagined, but who I am currently —and happily— sharing my life with.

From one yes to another. From one night of beers to a lifetime. It’s funny how it all works out, and the ways in which time changes everything.

 

Marching on

“To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” –  Cornel West

I came across this quote a while ago. Maybe it’s the stoic in me, but I thought it offered an interesting perspective and I couldn’t help but feel like it was speaking to my own experience— an all too familiar feeling.

Still, isn’t it nice when life leads you to the words you can’t seem to conjure up on your own?

As someone who finds themselves constantly frustrated by the things happening all around, it’s very difficult not to give into the seeming hopelessness of the circumstances, and when you live in a developing country, you don’t have to look too far to come face to face with the plight of its people.

When I think of all the challenges we face, it’s difficult not to feel like we’re just too far gone, or that it’s just ‘too little, too late’ at this point. I have felt helpless many times over in the course of my life, which is particularly difficult to come to terms with given that this is home. It is the country of my parents and their parents, and my own too. It has seen me grow, leave and then return.

I don’t cling to any brand of nationalism, but I also see the good in it. I see the beauty of its landscapes, the warmth and kindness of its people, the resilience we’ve all become very well acquainted with after being dealt so many blows. “This is worth protecting”— I tell myself, and I ache a little all over again just thinking about it.

I think that’s what Cornel West was referring to. At least that’s how I feel most of the time, anyways: swinging like a pendulum between “There’s nothing I can do” and “I have to do something.” I’m also sorry to say that this ambivalence often finds me contemplating a possible course of action instead of actually doing something.

That all changed a few weeks ago, though. I finally took a chance to get out of my own head and use my feet instead.

I woke up exhausted and unwilling on a Sunday morning in late March, with no one to accompany me. I didn’t know exactly where I was going either — my spatial intelligence is admittedly lacking— but I got out of the bed and found my way.

IMG_20170326_104019598

A snapshot of protesters on their way to the Monumento

It was nice to see that so many other people had chosen to march as well, that they had decided against despair. I hope that at the end of the day, no matter how steep the climb seems, I always go back to that same place.

To read more about my experience at the Marcha Verde and my life as a young adult in the Dominican Republic, feel free to read the article I wrote for hola, rita.

 

Struggle, defeat and ‘feeling too much’

2016 was a rough year for a lot of people. I realize I’m not the first to echo this sentiment, but since I’m including myself in that group, I thought it important to emphasize this point.

Last year was challenging in ways I could not have foreseen and it definitely took its toll in other, more subtle ways which I am still trying to process.

When I look back, I specifically remember the feeling of dread that seemed to intensify as my birthday inched closer. In past years I haven’t been exactly ‘celebratory’ by most standards, but 2016 found me completely dejected at the thought of it.

I didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t want gifts. I didn’t want people congratulating me. I didn’t even want to acknowledge that particular Sunday as anything other than a day of the week.

“What is there worth celebrating about my mundane existence in this world?” “What’s the use, anyway?”

That is essentially how I felt about the whole thing; that was my thought process going into it. At the heart of it all it wasn’t really about turning a year older, but coming to terms with the realization that time was passing while I remained still…and unaccomplished, and unfulfilled, and directionless, etc.

Turning 25 was just another unwelcome reminder of the fact, and I just didn’t want to deal with all that it implied. Instinctively I knew better, but I also felt miserable, and deconstructing my own feelings seemed like an undertaking far too ambitious to even attempt at that point. I was genuinely exhausted.

With that being said, you can only ignore things for so long until they surface again, and that is exactly what happened on New Year’s Eve, when it all hit me full force.

People around me were eagerly making plans to ring in 2017, but at most, I felt detached. I had spent the majority of the day at home, feeling like I was going to burst into tears at any moment and struggling to keep it together.

Source: Know Your Meme

Sure, I’m a nostalgic. I’m particularly fond of the past and I tend to idealize it. It was New Year’s Eve, after all. But somehow, this was different—I felt very fragile.

I was in the middle of a Youtube binge when I got a call from one of my friends. She was at the nearest fast food joint and she wanted me to meet her there. She had a gift for me.

I got dressed hastily and made my way there by foot, where I greeted her with a big hug and the best smile I could muster. I was really happy to see her, but I felt awful. I tried really hard to keep my composure as I opened her gift: a notebook and a picture of us and some of my other closest friends.

We spoke about a lot of things, and after being rendered incapable of reading the note she had written for me, I joked about being a sentimental mess. One thing led to another and I opened up about my year at length, and that is when I realized that I had not reached out to many people, much less talked about how much I had been struggling.

I had spent the majority of the year pushing things aside for the sake of pushing on, but it was all finally catching up to me. It didn’t feel great admitting that I had been feeling so hopeless and defeated, but that was the truth.

And I think it was also the turning point.

Upon returning home, I sat at the edge of my bed and cried. I cried for the year that had transpired, for the people I had neglected throughout (myself included), for those I hurt, and for the hardships endured. I cried because I was sad and ultimately, just really tired.

It has been a really rough year — I finally concurred.

Now, you might be wondering why I’ve taken the time to mention all of this, or why I have chosen to focus so much of my attention on things that are inherently unpleasant. And yes, while I recognize that I could have very easily just glossed over all of this as if it had never happened, I simply don’t want to.

Looking past the fact that this exact attitude aggravated an already difficult situation, I think it is also important to acknowledge that I am not the only one who feels this way. A lot of people struggle on a daily basis to get out of bed, to find meaning, to feel worthy or reach out to other people. A lot of people suffer in silence.

We compare ourselves to others because it is simply in our nature to do so, but in the era of social media, where everything is carefully curated and everyone around you seems to be living their best life, knowing that you are struggling can make you feel more alienated than ever.

I have oftentimes wondered why people don’t talk about these things or why we have such a hard time acknowledging our worst moments. The conversations I have with my closest friends reaffirm that I am not the only one who feels this way, but I also don’t see other people having these discussions on a greater scale. Being vulnerable doesn’t come easy.

With that in mind, I suppose this is my humble contribution to this discussion: admitting that I struggle too, that life gets to be a lot at times, that I get overwhelmed and anxious and I give into the most negative of thoughts; that I spent a great part of last year in a serious funk and it took me until it was virtually over to recognize it as such.

Source: newnoisemagazine.com

Source: newnoisemagazine.com

Coincidentally, last year I also read ‘If You Feel Too Much’ by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, a nonprofit which helps people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

Although at first glance it may seem like a string of different anecdotes haphazardly collected over the years, there is most certainly a unifying theme that connects them all, and that is hope.

The hope that even though we struggle, things can get better; that we can still find beauty in the midst of hardship; that although we will most certainly face defeat, we will also celebrate victories down the road.

This feels like a particularly timely reminder given the circumstances I previously described, but also a very important thing to keep in mind going forward.

“I’m starting to believe those things, that the best is yet to be, that life comes back, that the dreams that live inside me are there for a reason, that life is not just a tragedy, not just a story about losing. It is also a story of surprises and grace and redemption, of conversations and moments that feel like miracles.” – Jamie Tworkowski

I lost sight of that for a while, but I think it happens to all of us at one point or another. However, rather than keeping silent, I am choosing to be open. In the spirit of the work being done by people like Tworkowski, I am choosing to talk about it.

I am convinced, now more than ever, that he is right in affirming that we need to fight to remember the good, to remain hopeful, to uplift other people and serve as that reminder to them that things do get better, that we are in this together, and ultimately, that they are not alone.

As for me, I have decided to welcome 2017 with enthusiasm and a renewed sense of purpose, going out on a limb as I pursue my dreams. I don’t know how things will turn out, or if they even will, but I figure at the very least, I will be happy knowing I gave it my best.

It is most definitely worth the trouble.

What happens ‘After Dark’

“It’s not as if our lives are simply divided into light and dark. There’s a shadowy middle ground. Recognizing and understanding the shadows is what a healthy intelligence does.” – Haruki Murakami

Yeah, I know. It has been a while since my last post.

I began to read Haruki Murakami’s After Dark soon after finishing 1Q84, but for some reason the task proved to be quite laborious. The 248 pages stretched on for months, and looking back, I can’t say the experience was particularly memorable or exciting.

Now, this might have had more to do with my own mood and state of mind at the time. Settling into a new job and its own rituals is a process that often requires a lot of energy and attention, so there didn’t seem to be much space for other things like reading.

In spite of this, I managed to move forward and finish the book, albeit at a very leisurely pace. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as 1Q84, but I do recall the imagery fondly: snapshots of a city late at night, neon signs and seedy motels, late-night breakfasts at Wendy’s and chance encounters with people who soon become friends.

And that’s really what struck me the most about this story in particular: the overarching theme of how our lives intersect in unexpected ways, at seemingly the right (or wrong) times, and how this ultimately alters our path.

I have always been fascinated – and a bit tortured – by the idea of fate. When you look at it that way, normal interactions and decisions often overlooked are suddenly not so mundane anymore. You get a glimpse of these threads that weave in and out of your life, and you get the idea that all of this is much more intricate than you could have ever anticipated, and most likely beyond your comprehension at this point.

But I can’t just marvel at it, I have to pick it apart too. That’s usually when the barrage of ‘what ifs’ make their appearance. Sometimes barreling out violently and making my head spin; other times dripping out slowly, like the last bit of honey trying to make its way out of the bottle and onto your pancakes.

In my case, the taste is decidedly more bitter than sweet.

On the benefits of being stubborn and living in Wonderland

“But…” – I interjected.

A familiar tingling began to invade my nostrils: a troubling warning that tears would soon follow. As I fought with myself to keep them at bay, I tried to make sense of what the woman at the other end of the line was telling me.

“Well, you can take the picture with a wig or without one. You’re beautiful as you are and God loves you either way.” – she added.

Unsolicited platitudes from a stranger. Great. And here I was, thinking things couldn’t possibly get worse.

I stumbled through a ‘Thank you’ before hanging up the phone, but I didn’t mean it. It still amazes me that even in the face of such situations, I can’t help but being polite.

You’d think getting a new ID would be a relatively uneventful occurrence. One of those things you complain about and put off for months, yet eventually get around to. But I guess you have to account for some variation when you’re a woman in a third world country who just so happens to be bald.

Thanks to a governmental decision to redesign them, everyone else was getting theirs re-issued as well. I even had the opportunity to avoid the throngs of people and go with the rest of my coworkers, but I missed the chance. As much as I didn’t know how I would manage the impending nature of this situation, I knew my wig-wearing days were over and there was no going back to that. I refused to do so, even for something as harmless as an ID picture.

newid

Since I needed answers, I took the initiative to call the nearest center to ask about their policy on head coverings. After all, I reasoned, I wear headscarves every day and the purpose of an ID is to be able to readily identify its bearer, right? Besides, many other countries have policies that allow for certain accommodations given religious or medical reasons, and I have a legitimate medical condition.

These were the thoughts I looked back on as I stood in the patio right outside the office, phone still in hand. My expectations had been shattered in a matter of minutes and a palpable frustration had been left in their stead. I tried to regain my composure, but I was angry.

“Don’t I matter?”

“What about my rights?”

“What about other people like me?”

“Am I supposed to just tolerate this blatant violation of my rights and my privacy?”

To add insult to injury, I was also reeling from the exchange with this mystery lady, who despite what I assume were good intentions, had managed to be completely dismissive of my very real concerns and gone on to lecture me about my life: a life she knew absolutely nothing about.

As a general rule, if you don’t know someone very well, please refrain from spouting generic advice that will most likely not be very useful to them. This should be a given if you’re interacting in these contexts. In this case it’s not just annoying, but unprofessional.

Anyway, I digress.

When I went home that day, I shared the ordeal with my mom. I explained my frustrations and found catharsis in doing so, but we both knew I was powerless to change anything at that point.

With a look of worry drawn on her face, one I’ve come to know so well throughout the years, she asked me: “What are you going to do, then?”

The answer, though not easy to come by, had finally become clear. I knew exactly what I was going to do.

“I’m taking it bald.”

It was then that I realized this was no longer about a piece of plastic or a photo, but about my identity and being able to present myself as I wished. I needed to be true to myself, and since I had to go on ahead and get that new ID anyway, I was going to do it on my own terms.

Given that the deadline was soon approaching, my sister and I went to do that not too long after the aforementioned incident. As it turns out, a lot of other people had the same idea that day, and we spent the whole morning switching from one seemingly endless line to the next.

“This is what you get for putting it off until the last minute” –  I told myself. I’d like to think the ridiculous wait time served as enough atonement to last a lifetime.

After more hours than I remember, it was time to finally take the picture. Surprisingly, by the time I stood in front of the camera and took off my headscarf, all I could really feel was a sense of peace.

No hesitation.

No backpedaling.

No regret.

The certainty behind my decision carried me throughout the day. The moment of truth had come and gone without fanfare, but I had done the right thing for me and that was honestly the most important part of it all.

Now, whenever I flash my ID, people see the picture of a bald lady staring back at them. It has gotten significantly less awkward to do so with time, and I guess it also helps me to continue normalizing my baldness and accepting myself. Pretty nifty, huh?

Now, do I still object to these restrictive policies that don’t account for specific segments of the population? Hell yes. Do I think people like me, who wear head coverings for legitimate reasons, should be subjected to this of type of treatment? Most definitely not. I may have been comfortable exposing my bald head in front of strangers, but other people aren’t, and shouldn’t be forced to do so. They have a right to choose how to present themselves just like I did (within certain guidelines, of course), and they shouldn’t be denied that right. I guess the people in charge don’t realize that things like that could open you up to undesired public scrutiny and yes, even discrimination.

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Source: memecrunch.com

But hey, I guess this was a more pleasant experience than the last time, when they printed that I had alopecia and I wore a wig on my old ID (against my own will, obviously) under a section titled ‘Distinctive Features.’ You know, just so that in the unlikely event that I later became a wanted fugitive, they’d be able to recognize me under my disguise and track me down thanks to that singular piece of information.

It’s so absurd it almost doesn’t seem real, but I know it was, because it happened to me. But there’s a reason they call this country the Wonderland, you know?

Everything is backwards.