Identities take up space: headspace, emotional space, social space, and even physical space. Assigned female at birth, I quickly realized that I was “supposed to” take up less space than my counterparts who were assigned male at birth, but attending both an all women’s high school and college I grew with women who attached megaphones to their vocal cords and made sure the world, or at least the little part of the world they occupied, knew exactly how much space they took up. This has been a privilege and a growing experience, especially as someone who now identifies as male.
I’ve been struggling recently with finding my own space, trying to get the way the world sees me and the way I see myself to line up. Everyone experiences this to some extent because the world gives all of us very narrow lines to hide ourselves behind and too many of us are bursting against these seams. This got me thinking, why am I trying so hard to turn myself into a single, concise entity? Why are we forced into spaces we don’t fit into over and over again? Why is who we are born as who we have to be for our whole lives?
I’ve found space in a lot of surprising places since I got to college, more recently the place I constantly turn to is the valley that encompasses Northampton. Running outside has been the most difficult, freeing, rewarding experience I’ve come across, and an experience I never expected to have. It’s hard to feel like I don’t belong with a view of the mountains in sight while breathing in the taste of the whole world. I like to leave behind these small slivers of space society gives me and experience the world under my feet, even if that world consists of pavement and ice right now. When I’m outside I get to realize that the earth is constantly changing, growing new body parts and replacing what’s been worn out. Looking around, seeing this, I wonder why we, as one of the most influential species on the earth, can’t take a lesson from a place that only gets more beautiful when it changes.
It’s easy to find beauty in my fellow students who clearly, whether they experience the Valley in the same way I do or not, have adapted to change so well and use it to push themselves forward. Maybe it’s being a senior, with graduation looming ahead, that I’ve become too sentimental, but every person I started college with has become a different person, a person they all fully recognize as their true self. Just as identities come in all forms, so do privileges. I recognize the privilege I’ll now have as a graduated college student, and as a person that identifies as male, but what I find the most privileging, in a completely different way is that I got exist, even if only for a short time in a place that has shown me change can be the most beautiful thing about a person.