Kids in middle school told me we had the perfect "American Dream" kind of family. I didn't really know what they meant but expect it had something to do with the fact that my parents are married. We have always had a very close family, my mom, dad, brother and I. We live near my uncle and aunt and we've lived with my grandma. There is lots of love in my little family. I think people see that, and they should, I am that girl. I am also more than that girl. I have a biological father (my papa), a step-mom, and two siblings who live in El Salvador. I have cousins, aunts and uncles I’ve barely met or don't even know. I’ve always seen my family as beautiful and amazing. Even as a young girl I have been connected to my mom, dad, and papa. So while my family felt spread out and distant, they also felt close.
Still, there has always been a small sense of disconnect, of uncertainty about who I am. When I visit El Salvador my heart aches for a stronger connection to their culture. I’ve always wanted to know more about where I come from because it’s part of who I am. I want validation for 4th grade Cordelia, the one who went to her first day of private school thinking she was like everyone else and was plainly told she wasn’t. The one who’s dark untamed hair and bright red lips stood out enough that people questioned them. The one who heard countless “what are you?” because she didn’t look “the same”. The one who never wore red because it stood out too much. The one who always straighten her hair to fit in. And the one who looked for any lip color to pale her natural ones. I wanted to know for her. I wanted to know because I wanted to be proud for her.
When I got my results from 23 and Me I digested them for hours. Studying each chromosome, each percent of DNA, imaging what, how, and who. What stood out was a image I have of immediate family, a handful of humans I’m related to, the ones I've known. Yet, there are thousands of others out there who share my DNA. I’m just one tiny blip in the sea of a million drops. There are countless women before me, who were related to me, who forged the way for me and men who forged the way for me.
Looking at my DNA was memorizing. There is ancestry I expected, like British, French, and Native American. There is ancestry I would have never expected, like Ashkenazi Jewish, and West African. It was like looking into the past and seeing the finger prints of people that have given way for me. I think that can feel lonely and hopeless, to know there are so many stories of my past I will never know but suddenly I felt connected. It no longer mattered that 4th grade Cordelia felt different. Her looks were gifts given by ancestors and she WAS connected. My perspective shifted from me, to everyone, and I knew deep in my soul that I am not just alive to live my life and follow my dreams. I’m here, like my ancestors, to forge the way for others to live their lives and their dreams. That is what makes humanity.
I've always felt this but now I feel even more concrete that there is no room for hatred in my life. Maybe we share tiny percents of DNA with majorly oppressed people and maybe we don't. But either way to hate groups of people, to separate, and dehumanize based on looks, beliefs, ideas, feelings, or geographic location seem positively absurd to me. I am just one thread, one fiber of this masterpiece. I am here to play my roll so generations after me, people with my DNA and yours can do their job, weave their thread, and connect their fiber of society into the cloak of humanity and that is how we are all connected and that is why life matters.