There’s so much more to me.
We fall into stereotypes every single day. Regardless of whether or not one finds that to be true, another person has in the meantime already formed their opinion of you. For me, it’s always been about my last name. Scheibe is a German surname, so when I introduce myself to new people, they tend to take one look at the blonde hair and assume I’m of German descent. In actuality, I only took my stepfather’s last name when my mother remarried. I’m not German at all. So, why not simply explain the real story?
Well, people don’t often like long, messy explanations. Take college for example, when every new acquaintance starts to ask the same questions; when I’m asked what I’m studying, the short answer is “journalism.” The long answer is, “Broadcast journalism with a double minor in musical theater and creative writing.” When people ask where I come from, the short answer is, Phoenix, Arizona. The long answer is, “I was born in Mesa, Arizona but I grew up in Waterloo, Illinois and I only get to visit my hometown once a year if I’m lucky.”
It’s so much simpler to just say German, Journalism and Phoenix. Why? It’s easier to let people assume rather than explain the mess. And believe me, my family takes messy to an entirely new level. My mother’s been married, divorced, re-married and divorced again. I’ve been nearly excommunicated from one family for doing nothing wrong, I have one family that tears itself apart in pride and I have one family that I barely ever see. I’ll only ever know what it’s like to have a half sibling. I watched my mother suffer for too long at the hand of hell-bent hearts but come out of the ashes gleaming brighter than ever. When I refer to my father I have to explain which one. I’ve watched one dad virtually give up on the idea of marriage while the other tears himself to pieces for letting his fall apart. My legacy isn’t one that can be easily explained in common conversation, nor do people desire to hear it.
People like to believe they’ve come up with the answers themselves. At least a good majority of them do, and for a long time I found myself being ok with that. And not just because It was easier that way. When I was a child, I craved the simplicity because I wanted so badly for my family to be all in one place. It would have been so much simpler to have only one father, to have only one hometown.
My mother used to always tell me, “You can’t make people behave. You can only change how you respond to their behavior.” There was always a certain comfort in knowing that my fate rested with me. And no matter the choices others make, the only change I could make was how I behaved towards them. There’s a lot of weight in that knowledge. Knowing you cannot change people’s choices teaches you how to accept them and how to move on from them: by choosing too.
As we get older we start to crave our individuality, and belonging somewhere becomes less important than finding new places to explore and call home. It’s then that we learn to appreciate our mess. It never feels right to sum up the people you love, because like you, there’s so much more to them. Then suddenly, the short version isn't ok anymore. And when we enter into those same conversations we yearn to tell more about ourselves, to explain how we are so much more. The leering fears that we’ve left out something important never leave and we end up talking about ourselves until the other person is itching for any change of subject.There’s so much more to me, I think to myself. There has to be.
I remember, In the fifth grade, I told everyone that Britney Spears was my cousin. It didn’t pan out too well when I couldn’t get everyone backstage passes. Yes, I know all about the time you told everyone your father owned a yacht, or that your grandmother once had afternoon tea with Princess Diana. These things were so outlandish but we said them anyway because they made us sound cooler. These things gave more depth to who we are. Secretly we’re all still hoping Julie Andrews will show up one day and tell us that we are really the Princess of Genovia or that we’ll start developing superhuman strength because our real father actually sent us to Earth on a spaceship just before the planet Krypton exploded. Who knows? Somewhere along the line, any of this could have happened.
There is always more to people. People aren’t just German or divorced or unemployed, they’re misinterpreted because their last name only sounds German, they’re suffering because they’ve been terribly hurt by someone they loved dearly and they’re struggling to provide food hungry mouths and have reached a bottom no one will seek to find. The task to each and every person is to search for his or her story. There is always context to every great tale, and there are always pages of history before the blank ones you write yourself. The people that matter will take the time to read it with you and perhaps help you find it. And perhaps it will be messy. I wouldn’t trade the mess my family has made for anything. I love it just the way it is. We are all our own heritage. The choices we make now will become the history behind our great grandchildren, and one day when they start looking at where they came from they’re going to see the choices you’ve made. So take pride in knowing you are someone’s history. You aren’t a stereotype.
Somewhere in my family tree is a hard-working Irish farmer who traveled out west to buy a ranch in Arizona, and a sturdy, Cherokee-Indian woman who married a businessman. The twists and turns of life and time fashioned a girl with dishwater blonde hair that only turned golden in the Arizona sun, whose young blue eyes turned green like the rolling hills of the Emerald Isle and whose heart stretches across the land of the free, from the deserts of Arizona to the cold wind of America’s second city. That's my story. There is no stereotype there, only an optimistic oddball constructed in complication, both difficult and hard to explain.
–story by TAYLOR SCHEIBE