Bread, Rice, or Tostada: Cultural Inclusion at The Transition Table, Part 2: A Cup of Coffee
Editor’s Note: In the second installment of our four-part blog series, Daisy, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, shares her experience of wrestling with forging a path forward when her parents expected her to stay near the family but her teachers expected her to pursue a more independent lifestyle. Read the full article here
By Daisy Soto
All of my significant, life-changing conversations have happened over a cup of coffee.
As the blind daughter of Mexican immigrants, the first girl of the family, and the first to attend college, it’s safe to say there were a lot of significant moments my family and I shared at the kitchen table over steaming mugs.
Some of those family chats included transition; the idea of independence; and navigating my family’s, teachers’, and societal expectations. You see, Latin America is often known for being a collectivistic culture but growing up in the United States had also given me a strong individualistic mindset. Additionally, subconsciously families have an instinct to shelter and overprotect because I am both blind and a woman.
Of course, things weren’t always so heavy—sometimes we talked about American Idol results or what dress to wear to prom, but I’d like to share a couple of short examples when the answers weren’t so clear-cut or light-hearted.
Like I mentioned, something that came up consistently as I got older and started figuring out how to navigate and plan for my post-high school future was everyone’s expectations.
Parental Expectations vs. Professional Guidance
The expectation of my parents, stemming, I believe, from love and worry and what we knew as normal, was my remaining with or near my family despite being over eighteen. Conversely, the expectation of so many of my teachers, blindness instructors, and mentors was to take the plunge to attend the schools and follow through with the plans I was clearly interested in.
Challenges in Seeking Understanding
I found, as I went to friends with this dilemma, how difficult it was for so many of them to relate. Similarly, I found the lack of professionals that were available to help my parents understand everything that was happening made things that much more challenging. This was one of the first moments I really noticed a difference in culture and ideas from my peers. You see, I thought I had to choose one or the other, stay with my family for the collective happiness or venture out on my own for personal benefit.
Embracing Both Identities
In some ways it had always felt like I either had to be fully one thing or another: fully blind when around other disabled students or acting sighted and not acknowledging blindness around peers at school, completely immersed in English and American pop culture when with friends, but able to talk in perfect Spanish around relatives. It took me some time and a lot of talking to realize there was a way to do both, be both.
Finding a Balance
After graduating high school, I attended a living skills center in the Bay Area, the first of many compromises. I was able to live in a place I had always wanted to explore and improve my independence without feeling like I was pushing my family away. The finite timeline of spending one year at the living skills center was a period of adjusting for my parents, and I had a chance to see how our family dynamic could mold to this new way.
Making Tough Decisions
The day I decided I was officially staying in the Bay Area on a permanent basis I called my mom over breakfast. I was making coffee in a French press I’d just bought while she was heating milk on the stove for hers, and I broke the news to her with an ask that they come visit that summer and promises to call all the time. I was so nervous over how it would go and was still wrestling with wanting to be with them but wanting to be on my own. Ultimately it all went over well, and over the years I’ve started finding a balance between my individualistic and collectivistic values.
By no means have the big conversations over coffee stopped, but I find I approach them with much less trepidation. I noticed it the day I came out to my mom over matching caramel lattes, knowing I wanted to help her understand this part of my identity while realizing I needed to meet her where she was. I noticed it again last summer after our family went through a series of medical emergencies, and I grappled with feeling I should move back home to help but also knowing I wanted to return to my own home, continuing to build on the independence and life I had started to create for myself.
Embracing the Gray Area
If I have any advice on transition and all that it entails, it would be that nothing is just black or white, decaf or double-espresso. There isn’t one right way to do things or one path, and having people who can help bridge those gaps can help immensely.