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By Cienna-Paige Slattery

When I’m asked to describe my identity, the first thing I think of is adjectives to describe myself. I am smart, independent, creative, compassionate, curious, determined, insightful, inquisitive, intense, and spiritual, among other things.

However, it's a bit more difficult to describe myself through my interests and background. I don’t identify much with my family and I don't have many family members that are close to their heritage, though I know that I have African, Cherokee, Irish, and Dutch ancestors. I also know that my ancestors come from many faiths and could do miraculous things. My great grandmother could heal a burn simply by placing her hand over it. Similarly, my mother and her mother have visions and dreams. In light of this heritage,I would describe myself as spiritually inclined. I know that there is a higher power, though I don’t align with any particular beliefs or traditions. I also don’t have any specific, or prominent psychic abilities, which makes me feel disconnected from the divine and I wonder which part of my family's gifts got passed down to me and when I will discover my gifts— or rather what I will have to do to discover them.

Though these gifts are mystical in nature— most of my family is Christian and is skeptical of other types of spirituality. It is also hard to describe my identity through the activities I like. I like to write, and occasionally read poetry. I also enjoy photo manipulation and journaling. I have a deep interest in the occult, witchcraft, psychology, and neuroscience. I am also passionate about human rights issues. Though I am drawn to many things, my interests and hobbies are only a part of me.

My race connects deeply with who I am. Being a biracial person— raised by a white single mom in a predominantly white area— , this dynamic deeply affected my childhood. Growing up I hated my curves, wanted to be white, and hated my curly hair. When I was born, my mothers side of the family disowned me and my mother because she had become impregnated by a black man. They have since renowned us but I don't have much of a relationship with them. I now wonder how much of my grade school experience was shaped by race and how stereotypes affect my life now. My race also influences the things that I notice, the way I respond to situations, and what I am passionate about. My race is something that will follow me throughout my life and shape my experiences.

Like my race, I identify heavily with my gender. Though I am also not always aware of the way my gender affects my experiences, being a woman has pushed me to behave in more feminine ways and take on a more feminine persona. In the past, my gender has pushed me to make my personality smaller. It was not until recently that I started embracing the more masculine aspects of my personality. Just like race, gender is something that will continue to shape my experiences and the person that I am.

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