As my previous blog post discusses noticing, a concept that I observed in “African-American Women’s Quilting” by Elsa Barkley Brown was the statement: pivot the center. Pivoting the center entails understanding one’s self first and in that sense, the ability to identify and classify self-awareness. By first being able to identify one’s own strength, weaknesses, and prior background experiences, would then only one be comfortable and confident enough in their identity. When there is an element of uncertainty in terms of one’s identity, a lack of confidence and direction can be felt. A great deal of self-awareness may occur in this process as at times, an identity may have to deal with the balancing of two different systems: one at home and one at school, for example.
Bernice Johnson Reagon discusses this concept in “Nobody Sees the Trouble I See”: or By and By I’m Gonna Lay Down My Heavy Load.” Reagon states, “Many do not survive the trauma of trying to master two systems at variance with each other.” It can become exhausting for certain individuals to balance different identities in different locations at different times. By not being able to smoothly adapt between two systems can be a source of conflict, or tension even. This can be problematic as one’s home language cannot be used frequently at one’s school location and one’s knowledge from school may not be able to translate into the home setting. The bridging of the two systems is a challenging task many individuals may have to face, in terms of addressing and classifying their identity. Reagon continues to go on and state, “We must learn each system and are expected to pass the test in both.” There is a sort of pressure to be perfect at and in both systems to please both groups accordingly.
In my own experiences as a first-generation American, I have had these opposing systems cause tension and confusion between my home life and academic life. With different customs, traditions, and cultural values not matching and/or adding up to the education I receive in school, it was challenging to maneuver through both systems in order to establish my identity. As I grew older, I became more appreciative and grateful for my bilingualism and the cultural education I received at home. I was able to learn new vocabulary and cultural history that has shaped me to be the student and person I am today. My pivot is so strong due to the fact I am comfortable and confident with my home system that I can now educate others and learn about systems different than mine. I’ve also been lucky enough to be in school systems accepting of my identity and home system if I choose to share any details about my upbringing. Having a strong pivot has helped me to realize why I choose to spend my time with people who are different than me. I choose to educate myself on many various systems instead of relying on similar ones in order to expand my perspectives from different viewpoints based upon each person’s unique identity.