My life is like a Rorschach test: What do you see?

I was recently reading In Touch magazine or some other pop culture entertainment bit. In said magazine, I came across a little snippet on Miley Cyrus and how she likes to be the same person at home, the airport and everywhere else.  A singer, as opposed to an actor, has that luxury to be true to themselves. An actor must always get into their role and it’s dangerous for their career, if audiences conflate the private and public entertainments roles. The article tidbit on Miley triggered a thought process in my brain. I wondered to myself how others view me. And this is what I came up with for the moment.

When people first meet me, I’m often a canvas onto which they project their vision, fears, past or futures. I’m a collage. I’m a Rorschach test.  That sounds rather remarkable, daunting and perhaps unbelievable.

Let me dig in a bit more.

Ethnically, people don’t know what I am. Even my fellow Puerto Ricans often mis-identify me. Almost every racial and ethnic group in Berkeley, for instance, thought I was a member. I am not exaggerating. I once got a rental apartment because the landlord thought I was Indian.  Other times I got extra servings at an Ethiopian restaurant because they thought I was Ethiopian.  A long time ago I got offered an extra apple at an event (don’t ask) because they thought I was Israeli.  In Spain, a woman argued with me stating that I was indeed Tunisian instead of American. In Egypt at the market I got an extra better deal because they thought I was French. And the story goes on and on.

Age-wise, I also pass for differing age groups, albeit usually younger.  For many, I am their own personal projection screen. Admittedly, I do not correct people’s incorrect age assumptions.  My son thinks I just turned 28 and a work colleague believed it as well. I act young. I speak “young”. I know pop culture. I dress young. Whatever “young” means to you.

Interestingly, my own experience growing up in the South Bronx as a poor child is often viewed very differently as well by people depending on where it is that they meet me and where they are at in their own life path.  Many believe that I am basically the poster child for resilience. Others believe I am the poster child for pulling oneself up from one’s bootstraps. And yet others see me as the success story of how indeed it takes a village to raise a child. Of course, I am all of the above and everything else.

In terms of my leadership style and role, to some I’m fierce and to others I’m down to earth.  To a few others I’m just the boss and to a few others after that, I’m hilariously crazy.  Luckily, for me and for the majority of my past work places as well, I’m not perceived as a tyrant.
Who am I?
I have grand empathy and, in a way, have lived many lives. I grew up poor. I’ve lived abroad and in dorms as well  (at the age of 14). I’ve lived in 17 cities. I speak two languages fluently. I’ve traveled to all but one of our 50 states.
In a way, it is kind of cool to be a Rorschach test. It actually gives me great insight into the thoughts and beliefs of others. Perhaps, I even state this in a Machiavellian tone. If only you could hear me dictating this post. I kid. I joke. I snark. I’m me however you perceive that to be.

7 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing. Interesting how words and use of Glenn Ligon’s painting illustrate the perception of identity and race.


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