Holding Two Spaces

5 Mar

Someone I recently met asked me how I’m able to hold two separate spaces at once. I was a little taken aback by the question. It feels so natural to me, I never considered how I do it. I also didn’t think it would be so obvious to someone I had just met that I am split, torn. And it was a reminder that some people don’t do it; they bring their whole selves wherever they are.

I’ve already written about the gap I feel between my “Oakland” self and my “OC” self, and my struggles to reconcile them with each other. My halves almost feel like different people and there are few people in my life with whom I am comfortable sharing both. My activist, conscious, fighting side and my messy, needy, lazy side.

But it shouldn’t strike me as strange that I feel split. As the American-born daughter of traditional Chinese immigrants I often straddle two cultures, two sets of values, and two sets of expectations. As a woman of color who spends much of her time in spaces dominated by white women (hello liberal arts and nonprofits), I’ve learned to see things from different, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives at the same time. As a fundraiser, I deal with a lot of disdainful attitudes toward money and internalized oppression coming from activists as well as racism and classism on the philanthropic side.

As a bright-eyed and eager student at Berkeley, my whole world shifted when I discovered “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.” I had never read intelligent, heartfelt, and wrenching writing on the experiences of being educated, activist women of color who are called on to continually bridge the gaps in their communities – while, like a bridge, also being walked on over and over from both sides.

I recently re-discovered it in my attempts to bring some wholeness back into my being.

The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
Mediate
My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful

Kate Rushin

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