It had been three months since I had first arrived at Nobles, but walking through the hallways that day felt so new for me. Fidgeting with the sequins on my lehenga, I convince myself that I’m in hyperloop. I’m going so fast, so that’s the reason why barely anyone is asking me about my clothes. I scan my surroundings after every class, looking for someone like me. Does anyone even know it’s Deepavali, or “Diwali,” as they call it in the North? I was foolish to think that I could just continue traditions from one school to the next. In my head, I’m recoiling and squirming in shame.
To be an outsider at Nobles is terrifying, and it doesn’t take much to be one. To be an outsider at Nobles isn’t always what you normally think: that someone has a different background, that someone has different values, that someone doesn’t have the same interests. It’s more like subtle pushes of, “they’re a little different,” or “that just doesn’t feel right,” or “they’re a little weird.”
The final straw for me was witnessing some downright disrespectful experiences in my classes. I’ve had many classes in which a classmate- usually someone very smart, or intellectual- says something insightful, and there’s a collective (albeit silent) sigh across the room. At Nobles, there’s a dangerous practice of judgement from the sidelines, and it makes me so sad for our wonderful, blooming community. When I first came to Nobles last year, I tried my very hardest to refrain from being my true self in class for fear of that lowkey shaming. It was torture, because I loved analyzing patterns in history, or speaking only Spanish in a Spanish class, but the pressure of “fitting in” won out.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this aspect of Nobles’ environment has forced me to go from a textbook extrovert to an introvert of some sort. Part of that, to be fair, could be just the process of maturation. However, I feel this force
pushing on me from many aspects of the environment, driving me inwards.
When I think of pressures I've felt to conform at Nobles, beauty norms immediately come to mind. Why can’t I look as pretty as the cute girls wearing fashionable denim skirts or intricately designed halter tops? I recently had a bit of an epiphany about this, actually. I hate wearing jeans (they’re uncomfortable, can you blame me?), but with the new dress code, I had to buy five pairs. Anyone who knows me knows that I love flowy, floral, Indian-type clothes- and birks. So, the first day I wore jeans, I was apprehensive. Yet, what happened after I got to school was shocking- I felt like I was on the top of the world! The reason why, I believe, is a little more subconscious than jeans just being slim and flattering. Smiling like an idiot as I strutted down those same hallways, I belonged. I looked the same- maybe not as fashionable, though- as those girls. I wore a nice necklace, traded in my birks for sandals, and rolled up my jeans to the rounded cuffs.
But...what happened to my culture? My sense of self-expression? Let’s go back to the example of the classmate. Logically, scientifically, what happens to a person in that experience? How long before they give up trying to be their true self? How long before they start to limit their academic potential? How long before they limit their happiness?
One thing I’d like to stress is that it isn’t all bad. I’m an outsider in many parts of Nobles, but not all of it gets to me. There are some aspects of my identity that I’m not willing to give up. For example, I faithfully use my Shattuck locker everyday- even though nobody else does!
Learning about someone’s experience is good and all, but I want to take this time now to talk directly to you. Yes, you- the you that is reading this right now. Whether you see yourself as an outsider, an “insider,” or a combination of both, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone.
If you’re an outsider, embrace it today. If you have a controversial opinion, voice it. If you’re sitting alone at the Castle, you take the initiative and introduce yourself to someone.
If you’re an insider, take some risks today. When you’re the norm, the burden is on you to make an inclusive environment. Encourage a friend or classmate to tell the class something they mumbled under their breath. Help your teammate who doesn’t understand a drill.
To be an outsider anywhere is like continually pushing a rock up a hill, never reaching your goal to fit in. As a community, we can not only help each other push the rock, but we can demolish it entirely.
By Anushka Harve, Staff Writer, October 2018