I was different. That was certainly always apparent. But I hated it. And I hated myself, because deep down I resented my own disgust for being supposedly “different.” I knew in my mind from the inspirational PBS shows and constant rhetoric from an array of elementary teachers that “different” was supposed to be celebrated and desired and encouraged.

But I couldn’t make my heart listen to my brain.

I walked into any room and always knew the content of the thoughts that danced in my peers’ minds the moment they laid eyes on me. It was like a mathematical formula.

Indian= smart + weird + socially awkward

And even now, I know that’s still there. The preconceived notions that we like to push down and pretend are nonexistent are ever rampant. We all suffer from subconsciouses that refuse to be silenced, plagued by the disease our society has forced upon them.

There’s Ravi from Jessie and Rajesh from The Big Bang Theory and Chirag from Diary of a Wimpy Kid– even if you’re unfamiliar to all those titles, surely you can imagine the exaggerated, over-the-top personas these aptly named characters have been forced to take on, as per Hollywood’s tunnel vision when it comes to anyone of color.

I knew how my people were portrayed in media and in society as a whole; I knew how that warped the general public’s image of my race.

I desperately wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like the other kids. I despised the way my freedom to depict my own identity had been snatched from me. I wanted to throw all the cliches I had been trained to believe out the window and trade them in for a little less melanin for the sake of a blank slate. Anything but different.

So I promptly shunned every stereotype I believed people presumed I fit. I tirelessly separated myself from the “weird” label with my inexorable desire to prove myself worthy of normalcy. I gravitated to all opposites of my predisposed identity. Sure, I’m fairly extroverted naturally, but the need to fit the opposite of my stereotype certainly influenced the person I morphed into. I chased after the coveted “normal” status, forcing an overly exuberant, energetic personality. I loved math and reading, and I sure was good at it. But I shielded that side of myself from the harsh judgment of the world, trading in my passions for the artificial stupidity I thought would allow me to fit in.

How I longed for the privilege of being in charge of my own first impression. No predispositions. No judgments. No stereotypes. But now looking back, a simple denouncement of “different” is a construed perspective of young me. In fact, I wanted to be different. But not because of some skewed, distorted image people had of me because of the ridiculous ideas about my culture put forth in media or society. I wanted to be different because the contents of my mind or my heart or my soul were just so distinct or dazzling compared to others.

Perhaps, these desires were fit for a child, at the time. I can only hope these thoughts won’t even have to cross the minds of my children.