You have got to be kidding, I muttered to myself as I shuffled through the pack of students pushing through the foyer of the dining hall, my small 5’2 frame hunching down to protect my neck and ears from the backpacks being slung across shoulders and cuss words flying overhead, respectively.
It was a bitter November afternoon. I was knee-deep in comment writing, the days were getting shorter, and I had been mistaken for a student five times that week.
The most recent mistake had been so wholesome: I was on the path and a colleague called out to me, asking if my “pesky teachers” were “piling on the homework.”
I smiled and shrugged, managed to slip out a joke, creating some friendly banter, and continued to prioritize placing one foot in front of the other on the red brick path below.
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of a plow truck rolling down the road. I peered out the window, over the sill, taking in the view of the layer of snow that had accumulated over night. Great, I sighed as I stumbled into my closet, my mind already going through the motions of what I might wear.
Okay, if I wear my Tims, I run the risk of looking too black, or maybe too young, or possibly too “Brooklyn.” I slipped the boots on. Whatever, they’re just going to have to take me as me today.
Standing in the doorway, I glanced down at my feet and paused— Here goes nothing.
Managing to make it to the office in one piece, I sat down in the big armchair with my laptop on my thighs, refreshing my email as the coffee machine hummed in the background. I pulled up my calendar, realizing that with a bit of maneuvering, I could manage to squeeze a 36-hour trip to New York in that weekend. Nice. That would give me enough time to take in approximately four subway rides, two pizza slices, a bagel, and four encounters with that hilarious guy from the bodega. I looked down at my Tims again, this time, my self-consciousness less heavy. At ease, I missed the presence of someone else in the room.
“What’s got you so jazzed up?”
“So, I managed to find a way to squeeze a trip home in this weekend. I’m just really excited.”
My excitement was met with skepticism and a smile.
“Sometimes I am honestly just confused as to why you came here. If you hate it so much, why did you even take this job?”
I paused, squeezing my eyes shut, buying myself a moment to think about what I wanted to say. I knew the smile was meant to soften his sharp words, though they still cut deeply. Once again, I would have to defend both my decision to come here and my home, my identity, myself.
I don’t hate it here. In fact, not at all. Sometimes I just need to find familiarity for a bit. I miss my home, my friends, my family. I miss seeing people who look like me and think the way I do. Every day here, I am reminded of my difference.
Yes, I said that I am different, that is okay. I don’t fit the mold of a typical Deerfield person. In fact, I think I am the antithesis of the traditional Deerfield person. I am here to tell you, however, that there is space for me here. Deerfield is a community that, at its best, has space for all of us. So yes, I am going to go home for 36 hours this weekend to soak up all the great stuff that makes me me, so that I can share it with the community.
Hopping off the soapbox in my head, I replied. I smiled and shrugged, managed to slip out a joke, creating some friendly banter, and continued to prioritize placing one foot in front of the other on the red brick path below.