My name is Tinesha. I am from Washington State. I love the rain, foreign films, smoothies, and public speaking. I am studying Sociology and Women’s Studies and I speak French.
Ever since I was very young, I wanted to do big things with my life. Of course, when I was young, my plans changed constantly – I wanted to own a business, be the president, and then be a chef. I believed I could do anything I put my mind to.
By the time I went to middle school, my perspective changed. Desperate to fit and be like others, I tried to forget who I was. I was bi-racial – my mother is Caucasian and my father is African – and was slightly ashamed because I just didn’t fit in. I had a weird name. My feminist ideals were silenced for fear of backlash. I started buying clothes I didn’t even like and flaunting brands that I didn’t even want to be in because it was ‘cool’. They told me to be myself and I just wanted to be popular.
A few years later, I found myself suddenly feeling tired. Pretending to be someone else is tiring. That whole “be yourself” thing, well, it made sense. So I did. I joined community organizations that advocated for youth voices because I loved it. I embraced my culture. I listened to music I liked and found myself. I talked about things that were important to me and people listened. I was a community member; I was an activist.
I am now a sophomore at Brigham Young University. At first, I was a little intimidated. I knew I was different – I felt like the only Democrat, the only feminist, the only person who was, well, different. Of course, I’m not the only one, but I am different. It’s not always easy, but I found that being different makes me stronger and it makes others stronger. I don’t apologize for who I am. In a few months, I will serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then I plan to go to law school and study international human rights law. I will continue being me, and I will continue speaking out for what I believe in – even when it’s not easy. I didn’t get this far by being someone else or staying quiet.
Not everyone agrees with what I believe. Not everyone likes me. But I’ve learned that doesn’t matter. If I work hard and am kind and I like me, that’s what matters.
As Charlotte Bronte writes in Jane Eyre, “I am no bird and no net ensnares me. I am a free human being with an independent will.”
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