Identity crisis… existential questions during cuarentena

Well, well, well…

Guess who’s back after over a year of hiatus (currently barfing at all hiatuses as a socio-phonetician…)!

My friends and family know that these past 12 months have probably been the busiest months of my life. I was working through co-founding an organization, dissertating, taking classes, and more recently searching for a new job…. while also trying to exercise, cook, be a decent wife, daughter, sister, friend, cat/dog mom. The whole nine yards. So, it’s safe to say if it wasn’t a necessity, I pretty much wasn’t doing it. So clearly, blogging se fue a la mierda.

With all that said, I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! I’ll be defending my dissertation mid-June, and moving to Erie, PA for a new job shortly after! I couldn’t be more excited, as I feel the faculty I’ve met so far is pretty kick-ass, and I’m stoked to be able to grow as an educator and researcher. A bish can spread her wings and FLY!

I haven’t announced the good news through a classic social media post because it feels shady af since people are literally dying, losing their jobs, and suffering on a daily basis as we try to navigate this new way of life, while Rona’s out here runnin’ rampant.

Speaking of Rona, before I get any more sidetracked, since being quarantined beginning March 20th (or 44 days, or 1056 hours…. but who’s counting?), I’ve been thinking about my family a lot, particularly my dad. Living in NY and working in an Arab grocery store is a recipe for disaster, which has got my stress levels #allthewayup.

I call him daily to do a little check in, and recently, he’s started to use more Arabic with me… even sending me Arabic memes #mamaImadeit! It’s crazy how after spending 29 years on this planet, I’m FINALLY able to take part in that aspect of my dad’s culture. (Shout out to Dr. Zafer for really pushing me in Arabic this semester!)

Sin embargo, even though I can hold my own in Arabic, I’m far from native and even though it’s the native language of one of my parents, it’s my THIRD language! When I think about it, which I’ve been doing a lot lately since thinking about existential questions is the new dissertation procrastination technique, it actually makes me more confused when I try to “define” myself.

Most likely, if I have a kid, I won’t teach him/her Arabic. My husband and I will pass on Spanish, which will be hard since it’s not my native language, meaning that Arabic will pretty much die with me…

On my wedding day, my dad asked me “so, are you planning on changing your last name?” and I could see he was literally holding his breath as he waited for my response. When I told him no….. chacho, that sigh of relief he let out could literally be felt by all of my Sudanese ancestors LOL. But all jokes aside, it’s truly heartbreaking to think that with me, that cultural tie will die.

How do you pass on a culture that’s not truly yours? Identity is so complex, and even if I wanted to identify as Sudanese, I couldn’t. The moment another Arab hears my Arabic, it’s like …… “ohhhhhh so you’re American! I was confused because your last name is Mohamed” and then the “wait you’re not muslim…? But your dad is muslim sooo??” Literally, I’ve heard that at least 67 times.


Let’s also not forget the fact that I didn’t visit Sudan until I was 18, and I’ve only been there twice. Let’s ALSOOOO not forget that I’m black lmao. Can’t really hide that one lol, and I could literally write a book on the complexities of being black, but for the sake of this post, I’m just gonna leave it at that.

Saudo 4
Actually in Saudi Arabia
Saudi 2
Literally, no caption needed.

To further complicate the identity mierda, I was also 18 the first time I went to Puerto Rico; but, I’ve been so many times that I’ve literally lost track. My husband’s Puerto Rican, I’ve been given an honorary Puerto Rican/Caribbean card by several Puerto Ricans, including my suegra. I speak Spanish fluently and have a slight Caribbean accent when doing so, I worship Marc Anthony and Hector Lavoe, my favorite dessert is flan, favorite music genere is probably reggaeton (#rachetontheinside)… así que….. What the heck am I?

Better question. Where is my honorary Arab card, because nobodyyyy has offered that up to me yet and I’m pretty sure a bish will be waiting on it until she dead dead.

How does one construct their identity, and what factors play a role in that construction? Is there some formula I can throw together that will give me my identity. Like, Flan de queso + Bad Bunny = Boricua, kinda? Is there a certain amount of times I need to go to Sudan before I’m accepted as a “true Sudanese?,” a certain amount of lexicon I need to acquire before I can claim that dialect of Arabic?

Sudan 6

Sudan 7

Sudan 3

Sudan 1

Sudan 4

Most days I’m black. Punto. But some days, I’m confused and unsure. My hispanic friends tell me I’m Puerto Rican. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m not, but I find it so interesting that I can be completely accepted in that culture, but struggle to be accepted by those with whom I share heritage. I also think, since I basically just became a real adult, what type of identity/culture will I pass on to my potential kid… or maybe my 10 cats… It’s a toss up at this point.

PR 1
First trip to PR with my favorite meerkats!

At the end of the day, as I reflect and basically find no real answers lol, one thing I can say is that at least I know how to navigate so many spaces and cultures. I’m literally a freaking chameleon. There’s “yasss sis” black Sherez, “Hacho mano ehto e’ un palo” Caribbean Sherez, “ship ship wen?” sorta Arab Sherez, and even “Excellent! I can certainly have that to you by 5pm,” navigating-white-spaces Sherez. LOL Maybe that’s what I’ll be passing along. Chameleon training 101.

So anyways. Congrats! You’ve made it to the end of this stream of consciousness blog post. I guarantee this is not how my academic writing is LOL.

If YOU have any struggles, comments, insights, lo que sea, about identity, feel free to share! And share this post too lol. I’m tired of hearing about Rona. Let’s change it up and talk about some existential ish!

-Sherez ❤


2 Replies to “Identity crisis… existential questions during cuarentena”

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