“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sandra, are you Haitian? You don’t look Haitian. Oh, you’re from another country. You listen to New Kids on the Block. You’re not Black. Throughout my elementary, middle, and high school years, these were some of the comments I had to hear from my peers. I blamed their reactions in part on not being exposed to other cultures. I used to stare in the mirror and wonder why did the other kids think I was so different. At the time, I used to giggle and laugh at the comments. I also didn’t realize the negative effects it would have in my life.
I was born in Haiti. A small island in the Caribbean. Haiti became the first Black independent nation on January 1, 1804. I grew up in Pierre Payen, a small rural area in the Artibonite Department of Haiti. My father was an educator and mom was a homemaker. Since my dad was the local school’s director, I started school very young. I began reading and writing at an early age and that’s when my passion for reading began. Reading books gave me an opportunity to visit different places and go on adventures.
As a kid, I was exposed to many different people and cultures. The missionaries that opened the school worked closely with my dad. They would visit frequently. Because of this, my family and many of our friends had access to things that most people in Haiti did not. I remember when one of my dad’s best friends got a television. We would gather at his house on a weekly basis to watch the news and comedy shows. Once in a while, the kids got to turn the knob with all the numbers as opposed to the one that turns the television off. It was glorious!
While flipping through the channels one day, I stumbled upon a show that captured my attention. It was Lost in Space. I loved the idea of space, aliens, and visiting different worlds. I tuned in every week to watch these old episodes of the series that were translated in French. That show is what started my passion for Science-Fiction.
I moved to America at the age of nine. My love for books and Science Fiction is what helped through the struggles of moving to a new country, learning a new language, and making new friends. And it was not long after that I fell in love with Star Wars.
Star Wars became my outlet. Whenever I was going through a tough day dealing being teased for having an accent, reading way too many books, or getting straight A’s in school, Star Wars helped me to cope. I would run home, pop in my VHS tapes and be hyperspaced to another world. A world where it was common to look and be different without judgment. A world where you can be a scoundrel and find love. A world where you can be a tiny green alien and not be judged by your size but for your wisdom. A world where a woman can lead a Rebel alliance and shoot blasters. A world where you can be a villain and find redemption in your final hour.
For years, I kept my ‘Geeky’ lifestyle a secret. My family and a few friends knew about my double life. I would think back at the memories of being teased for being and thinking differently and shut down. I didn’t want people to laugh at me because once in a while I like to dress up as Han Solo, wear a Darth Vader mask, do my hair as Princess Leia, and blast the music of John Williams while I painted my nails. As I grew older, being a teacher made me realize that it was time to step out of the box and live as me.
I choose to no longer live a double life. It’s exhausting. I no longer want to keep the things that bring me joy and happiness a secret. I no longer give thought to what others think of me. I no longer seek and wait for acceptance. I live my life as me. The geeky me.
Star Wars has helped me in some ways to grow into the person that I am today. The compassion I have for others, being open-minded, and the willingness to try to learn new things. Over the years, I have met and become friends with some wonderful people who love, accept and respect me just as I am.
How has Star Wars changed your life? I would love to hear your story. Please leave a comment on the site.
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