A Japanese proverb says, "The nail that sticks out will be hammered down." Society tries to place many rules on us as an individual as to what is acceptable and what is not. I feel that we must decide for ourselves whether to conform to the society we live in. The idea that it is unfavorable to be unique had been impressed upon me since I was very young. Nowhere else was this more apparent than in the small Roman-Catholic community I was raised in. My mother wanted me to be like every other little girl at Sunday school, sweet, quiet and invisible. My father was the opposite, wanting me to have my own opinions and not be tied down by marriage or children at a young age. He encouraged me to see the world and try to change it with my own ideas. My parents were complete opposites of each other; my mother had been raised in a very religious home in the community where we lived. My father had grown up on the Mattole-Wiyot reservation, enduring prejudice his entire life for his heritage. He had worked hard to prove his value to the world and to my mother’s parents. Being brought up in a household of such different ideals was confusing at times; but looking back, I think they tried to do the best they could with what they knew.
I had many experiences where I had a conflict with the way of thinking in my community. One instance I can remember is when a homeless man came into town and was digging through the local restaurants’ trash can; everyone was outraged to have this “filth” in our small town. At church it had become the center of conversation. All the people I had looked up to, talking with such disdain and contempt. The anger I felt from that was unnerving; how could they be so selfish? Wasn’t it our duty as God loving people to help the less fortunate? Who are we to judge this man? I didn’t say anything to anyone though. I was silent throughout the discussion. It was still seared into my being that I shouldn’t have different opinions, I should be quiet. The police arrested that man for trespassing and I never saw or heard of him again. I knew it was wrong and I realized the benefits of being true to ourselves should greatly outweigh any negative aspects of choosing that path. I knew I had to change the way I was and break the mold I had been poured into. I had to decide for myself whether to spend every day trying to be like everyone else because the society I lived in says I should or living each day being true to the thoughts I had about life, love, and religion. I had my own strength as a person and I was going to prove it through my own decisions. I saw things differently than everyone else, and I wanted to make changes in the way the world was. I didn’t think that everything was black and white, there had to be shades of gray in there somewhere. Life isn’t simple, and part of life is discovering the many different answers to each question.
It took time though, and it was very