Cristine Jeda D. Orillosa-Thurber is a 2008 graduate of Loma Linda University, earning her Masters degree in Social Work. Passionate about culture, diversity, and cultural awareness, she plans to further her education in International Development. An avid traveler, and married to a wonderful classical guitarist, she works as a child abuse investigator and continues, through her challenges and successes, to seek her own identity.
The Beginnings of Changing a Paradoxical Conundrum: My Search for Identity
In a culture where the journey of finding “your own identity” is encouraged, isn’t it ironic that we quickly trade this in for a quick fix of labels already present? I am Filipina. I am female. Which then leads to the assumptions: I am the minority. I am oppressed.
Growing up, I had a hard time with the question, “Where are you from?” This question, which I was led to believe was pertinent to my own identity, was a source of frustration for my young mind. I was born in the Philippine islands, which would then, obviously, make me a Filipina. Most of my childhood, however, was spent on the continent of Africa. Would that then make me a South African, Kenyan, and Zimbabwean as well? And of course, now that I have pledged allegiance to the United States of America, shouldn’t I now be prone to say, “I am American?”
Thinking back, I realize that the source of this frustration did not stem from the fact that I was privileged enough to live in all these places, but rather, that I felt that I could only choose one as my identity. To appease my conflicted young mind, I decided to identify the country I was presently residing in as the answer to that wearisome question. With that decision came confused looks and awkward silences, as I did not “look” Zimbabwean or Kenyan or South African (another assumption?).
The older I got, the more unsatisfied I became with my answers. And as I thought more about where I was from, who I was, and what I claimed as my identity, I started to ask myself, “Why can’t I construct my own concept of who I am and where I come from? What would be the cost of not buying into the labels already present?”
The answer? Look at the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Remember Rosa Parks sitting on the bus and picture Nelson Mandela cooped up in his cell. They all paid a hefty price for not conforming to the labels of their day. But don’t we also hold them up as heroes, as the definition of people who were true to their own identity?
I know I may never be pivotal to a movement that will change the course of history and my name may never be in history books. But I can start changing my answers and molding my own identity.
You ask where I am from? My answer is that it is not necessary to know, not in the way you think it is. What is necessary is that you know that I am human to the core, molded and shaped by my own personal experiences, and trying my best to not fit in with the labels of today. I am Cristine Jeda Dollosa Orillosa-Thurber. I refuse to apathetically choose a label that I can comfortably fit in. I am still on a life-long journey of finding my own identity.