I’ve crash landed back home after spending all of Sunday packing my things. There was a stark difference between my side of the room and my roommate’s side. On the left side of the room, there seemed to be someone in the process of moving out who had not quite completed the task at hand. She’d brought with her huge suitcases and boxes, small enough to get past the “no additional furniture!” policy we’d been warned about, but large enough to house all of the trinkets needed to make Room F327 her home. There were huge wall decorations, including one that said, “Life is a Beautiful Ride.” It was supposed to serve as inspiration for someone whose life aspirations include becoming President of the United States. A corner of the room was a makeshift kitchen. Cutting boards, bowls, plates, and mugs. Knives, forks, spoons, and every other utensil sat semi-neatly in a red plastic box. She was definitely someone who used words like “humble” and “abode” in conjunction to describe the spaces she’d lived in.

All it was to me was a space. I wasn’t the visionary my roommate was. I’d waited far too late to buy a bedspread, resulting in a navy blue and grey set. I opted for a stainless steel architect’s lamp. In hopes of making do with what I had, I decided to go with a “German Industrial” look for my room—less a concept and more an excuse when people asked me, condescendingly, why my side of the room looked that way. In all honesty, I never got comfortable. It was never my home. I always intended to put up posters and moodboards, even seeing if my friend who worked at the local theater could finesse me a Michael B. Jordan cardboard cutout. Point is, I never got around to decorating the place. Although, in a way, the stark differences between the right and left sides of the room were reflective of the people living there.

My roommate was able to get comfortable in ways I wasn’t. She quickly made friends, had alliances on the faculty, and was able to convert that little space into the fresh start she’d told me she needed. I had class with her my first semester and saw the way she was coddled by the professor. I soon became known solely as “her roommate.” During my mandatory one-on-one with our teacher, he talked about her the whole time. I was beginning to understand the, “you have to be twice as good as them to achieve half of what they have” sentiment.

I was unable to articulate the gap in the way we were treated for the longest time! We’d have the same assignments and I’d watch professors bend over backwards in praise. My paper on leadership was about how I felt I was an inherent leader, that those values had long been instilled in me by my parents. Her paper on leadership was similar, about how her brush with leadership had happened long before the class we were taking. Comment on my paper? That I was abrasive in tone. I was crushed. I didn’t feel as if I was abrasive at all, I was actually excited to write about my upbringing and where I came from so that my professor would get a better understanding of who I was. Comments on her paper? “The best paper I’ve read thus far.” The reviews were in and she had 5/5 stars.

While I felt deflated then, I’ve since had time to reflect. That’s one example from a long list of incidents I went through there. Attending a predominantly white school with people who’ve only dealt with black people in theory was weird. It’s like constantly saying out loud, “I don’t see color!” or whatever other colorblind ideologies would cancel out their (very clear) biases. As I emptied the contents of my drawers, I had a revelation. I was thankful for the experience. I had more weapons in my arsenal. I have a better understanding of how the world sees me. I’ve always valued my sense of self, knowing who I am has been an essential part of me getting along in the world. This whole experience has added an extra layer. Not every experience left me deflated! I learned to laugh and roll with the punches, a skill needed to survive. And survive I did. My only concern now is being the best. Whatever that means; it shifts weekly. ♦