For the longest time, I always felt out of place. Growing up as a Mixed kid in a mostly White neighborhood, there were very few who looked like I did. Even less who had a similar upbringing. Visiting relatives made this even clearer. I don’t have the Blonde hair or blue eyes like the Latvian side of my family. I’ve got similar hair, but a lighter complexion than my mother’s. And although my relatives always made sure I felt part of the family. I knew that I was slightly different. After all, I was Mixed between the two.
Moving away, both the Europe and Los Angeles, has meant acclimating to the unknown. Finding my place in unfamiliar territory, adopting to new customs, and ways of living. Sometimes, it can feel like you never truly belong. But sometimes that lack of belonging becomes something really special.
So much of being Mixed is simply acknowledging that you are different from most. That difference can make you feel unsure of your place. Because after all, human beings are tribal by nature. And our developing society is not yet past the fear of dealing with the unknown. We tend to want the unknown element to declare whether it’s a friend or an enemy.
When you are an unknown. For a moment, you become the center of attention. Being this center is at first uncomfortable. But there’s a power that comes with embracing this state of being. When all eyes are upon you, the room is yours to mold. Without a firmly declared place, it means you get to create your own. So take the opportunity despite the fear that comes with it.
There have been times in life when I’ve declared myself one thing or another. Just to make those around me more comfortable.
I’m a film director.
I’m an American.
But after years of trying to fit into the expectation of my environment. I began to do something very simple, but evolutionary. I used these aspects of my upbringing as descriptors. Not as characteristics.
My mom’s side of the family is Black.
I create films.
I was born in America.
These phrases are my beginning, a new entry point. And that’s how it can be communicate who I am to the wider world. It’s how I can create my own place.
A New Place
Each human being on this earth is beautifully different. We all have common experiences. With our own separate perceptions of how we view those experiences. Shaped by the way society perceives and treats us. Growing up, my perception of feeling out of place was almost completely a negative. Like anyone, I wanted to be accepted without question. And I perceived those questions as detriments against my character.
But I decided to take those same questions and turn them into entry points to my character. To use it as a way to begin a conversation or correct a behavior. So now all the questions, curiosities and occasional stares are like a badge of honor.
You don’t know who I am or where I come from. It’s within my power to let you inside to widening of our worlds. Because my place is everywhere.
And so is yours.