I grew up in a very homogeneous community. Everyone talked the same. Everyone dressed the same. Everyone thought the same. Everyone had their birthday dinner at the same Mexican restaurant.
I always felt different, but never expressed my feelings. I didn’t think my friends would understand what it was like to be a black kid with a single mom growing up in a white community with a bunch of privileged kids. I suppressed my feelings so much that I often forgot that they were even there. I didn’t want to make myself any more different than I already was by not pretending that my life was perfect. So what did I do? How did I try to juggle my thoughts, feelings, and ideals growing up in this community? I tried to fit into that “everyone” standard. I bought the same clothes as everyone. I used the same lingo as everyone. I forced myself to formulate the same thought patterns as everyone. I even had 3 of my birthday dinners at the same Mexican Restaurant as everyone.
It wasn’t until coming to Cornell that I realized how unacceptable my complacency was. I rarely questioned things and I was simply going with the flow in almost every circumstance. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I was blown away by how different everyone was. I was genuinely so confused by the fact that people were okay with wholeheartedly being themselves. There were so many different groups that were passionate about different things and had different ways of expressing their passions. It was overwhelming and eye-opening. I didn’t realize how much of a bubble I was in until I left Alabama and was in a heterogeneous community. A community where everyone wasn’t like everyone else. A community of individuals.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved where I grew up. I still visit my high school teachers whenever I’m home. I still talk to my friends from high school on a daily basis. I still go through old videos from growing up on my laptop when I’m bored and cry for hours over all the #mems. But that place never fully let me be me.
I always had opinions. But, I never acted upon or even expressed them because I knew they were outside the norm. I never talked about controversial topics with my friends or posted articles about politics or social problems on Facebook because I didn’t want to be “that girl”. I was scared of the looks I would get in the hallway or from my friend’s parents if I dared to think differently.
Then, I got to Cornell. A place where thinking different and being different was the norm. And if I’m being honest, it was frightening. I watched my friends do extraordinary things my first semester here and was upset with myself because I wasn’t doing extraordinary things. I felt a void. I struggled for months trying to figure out what I could do to make this feeling go away.
It wasn’t until one Tuesday evening in November that I realized what was wrong. I had no passion. I didn’t have anything that thing that I was fighting for. Even though I was in the perfect physical space to do whatever my heart desired, I didn’t know what that thing was yet. I knew I loved people and wanted them to be happy. But 18-year-old Liz sitting in her college dorm room had absolutely no clue how to use that to fuel the fire that was stirring in her heart.
However, as soon as the results of the 2016 election came to light, everything was clear. I realized that people were hurting and scared. It finally hit me that there were so many problems with this world that me sitting on my bed wasn’t gonna fix. And surely enough, I was mobilized. I found myself and more importantly, I found what I was passionate about. Change. No longer was I afraid to express myself. No longer was I afraid to stand up for what I believed in because I finally figured out what I was fighting for. So I got involved. I rallied. I protested. I posted those controversial articles on Facebook and I had those hard conversations with people from home. Was it tough? Obviously. But was it worth it? Absolutely.
I found my voice. I realized that I can make a change. You can make a change. We all can make change as long as we continue to support each other instead of tearing each other down. As long as we don’t settle for the norms and stand up for what we believe in. Now, I feel empowered. I feel able to do whatever I set my mind to.
Platform helps women all across the country have their voices heard. It empowers women to no longer let the restraints of society hold them back from what their future has to offer. This is why I love Platform and all that it stands for. It’s a movement that is beyond necessary.