I’m teaching CORE 103, a first-year life-skills class at Drury University, and post my weekly blog focused on the class content.
I spent my first year as the financial minority, working in one of the top most affluent areas in the United States. It was also my first job after college and it all seemed new and exciting. On my first day, I informed by my co-workers, as they sipped their expensive drinks and lounged in the sun, that I didn’t fit in—I was young and probably a little uncultured, but I was smart and determined to use it to my advantage. I will always remember their words and that moment, but it didn’t faze me; I was used to being an outsider. What I confirmed, however, is that the harder you work, the quicker you advance—and I was only too happy to prove them right, I didn’t fit in—I was going to step right over them and continue to move forward. I’m glad I was able to do this so quickly.
In my second year, I was the racial minority, known to most as the “white girl.” At first, I was regularly asked by supervisors and colleagues about how I felt working in this area. Because I didn’t think about my experience in the traditional terms, honestly, I was excited that I’d been allowed a glimpse into a world that I’d never known: a world of soul, community and fun. I was fully aware that I didn’t know much, but lucky to have friends willing to answer my questions and let me join the party. In hindsight, I should have stayed here much longer than I did.
And my third year, I was the religious minority, immersed in a distinctly different religious environment—one of the highest concentrations of this religion in the world at the time. This was a year of trouble. Not because of the people or the culture, but the solely the work environment. It was a time of little success, the business was difficult and the customers were unhappy to not be fully represented in a product selection that ignored their religious views. It seemed that I couldn’t make much progress no matter what I tried. I remember wanting to discover more about the culture I was immersed in, but to no avail–there was never enough time to stop and listen. or so it seemed. To this day, this world still seems a little mysterious.
I think if this was a story, we’d expect a big awakening moment, like a burst of light that carries with it an enormous lesson. I’m not sure that moment ever took place in all of its cinematic glory. But I did make many close friends while I was there, ones that I greatly miss to this day. They were different from me, but at the same time, we were exactly the same.