The thing about difficult discussions is that afterwards you always end up learning a little bit about yourself. In some cases you realize that some of your opinions are more malleable than you first thought, and in other cases you end up solidifying your stance on a subject even more than before. So even though difficult discussion are not always the ones we want to have, they are sometimes the best ones to have, especially when you’re going through a time in your life when your viewpoints and opinions are still so fresh.
To my surprise, I ended up facing a lot of these discussions throughout my time in Merida. And although it wasn’t always easy to understand the counterpoints of my fellow peers throughout these discussions, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to discuss these issues because they taught me a little something about myself each time.
What I want to do now is talk about the three discussion that I found to be most impressionable. (And of course my obsession with lists, won’t allow me to showcase it in any other fashion so please bear with me.)
- FEMINISM: Actually the first discussion on this topic wasn’t a discussion at all, but it has struck me as the most important. In reality, this conversation was more like a quick fight that stemmed from another discussion, but it was rapidly put to a close by the other student’s desire not to get into a difficult discussion. (And seeing as how it was over lunch, who could blame them?) But the thing about this very quick conversation was that it went something like this: OTHER STUDENT: “Well, you’re being such a feminist.” ME: “Well I am a feminist. Is there something wrong with that?” That’s it. Two sentences. But in those two sentences, I did something that I have never done before. I finally took pride in claiming that I AM A FEMINIST. Now see, this is something that may seem weird for a woman who grew up in an all-female household, and who participated in an all women’s college-prep program known as the Scripps College Academy, but I have always been a bit ashamed of calling myself a feminist. While I have never been ashamed for the beliefs I have held as a feminist, I have been ashamed of what other people assume that I am because I am a feminist. For once, however, I was more comfortable in my beliefs than in other people’s perceptions of my beliefs. And I guess this is just a part of maturing: accepting yourself in spite of other people’s opinions. (Now I am a person who believes comedy can explain almost anything. So for those of you who may also be going through the same issue about being a feminist like I was, please watch this short video of comedian Aziz Ansari embracing feminism: Aziz Ansari on feminism. The video is 4 minutes long, but the part about feminism starts at around 1:00 and continues to around 2:40.)
- SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: During our time in Mexico, the Mexican government published a jurisprudential thesis, stating that defining marriage as strictly between man and woman was against the Mexican constitution. And a few days after, the Supreme Court of the United States finally legalized same-sex marriage throughout the entire nation. So needless to say, this created a lot of talk amongst the students in the program. Now the issue of same-sex marriage to me is a no-brainer; I believe sex/gender shouldn’t be a barrier to marriage. This is a belief that I stand firmly on so this discussion wasn’t something that challenged my beliefs so much as my character. This conversation in particular was a conversation that lasted about a week and a half, continuing through e-mail long after the face-to-face conversation was over. What this conversation helped me learn about myself is that there will be times in my life where I will need to end difficult discussions — an act that is difficult within itself for someone like me who wishes to avoid being rude. There reached a point in the conversation.however, where I knew I was no longer gaining anything beneficial from understanding the opposite side to the discussion; I had reached a point where I understood all that I could at the time and could not push myself further. I knew from the start that we would agree to disagree, but I hadn’t known that at some point I would need to end the conversation. Though in doing so, I tested a part of my character that I have rarely used; I admitted my limitations and was brave enough to stop a conversation that was no longer productive. Now, this isn’t to say that in the future I won’t have discussions about this topic. Afterall, with growth comes new understanding. But I realize that at this point in my life, I have understood all that I can for now about the counter-stance and I think it’s okay for people to make those limitations known.
- NATIONALISM: Now I don’t know if what we discussed could really be labeled as Nationalism, but it’s the closest one-word phrase I can think of. As a whole this conversation was about personal pride in being a U.S. citizen, and through this conversation I came to the realization that this is something I lack. Now again, this may seem weird, seeing as how my mother and many other members of my family are members of the U.S. military, but I have often lacked pride in knowing that I am a U.S. citizen. While I am proud of the virtues that the United States is meant to uphold (i.e. liberty and justice), I am not always proud of the actions that my nation takes (i.e. wars for natural resources and the maintenance of detention centers.) Through this conversation I also realized that I have often felt apart from the general United States community. How could I not when people continuously rage that undocumented people, such as my own grandmother, should not be in this country? How can I hold pride for a country that constantly ignores all of the great things my family members, as many other immigrant (documented and undocumented) families, have provided for it and its people? Although I always knew this is how I felt deep down, before this conversation I had never really given it much thought. And now that it has been brought to my conscious awareness I want to find a way to have pride for my country, and I think that starts with me helping to make the change I want to see in my country.
Difficult discussions like these will never go away, but I wouldn’t ever want them to. I want to thank my fellow peers who were brave enough and devoted enough to have such difficult discussions with me. And while we may not have agreed on everything, I hope like me, they have gained new-found knowledge about themselves and are appreciative for having taken advantage of the opportunity to do so.