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Tension

I graduated from university three years ago in December. Right now, I’m in the last, most strenuous portion of obtaining a post-bacc teaching certificaton: student teaching. It’s hard. I’ve been out of school for three years, and had two “real” jobs with benefits (one with some management responsibilities), and one as a long term substitute. Even though I’m 24, I apparently still look like an undergrad. People assume I’m an unexperienced 21, when I’m really a more-experienced-than-many 24.

It’s similar to, but less intense than, the feeling I have had countless times at farmers’ markets in towns I don’t belong to, when I buy applesauce (because I’ve run out of my mom’s delicious homemade apple sauce made from local apples back home), or cheese, or produce, or baked goods (though I contend that I bake as well as any Amish lady at the farmers’ market; it’s in my Amish-Mennonite blood, too) from the Amish or conservative Mennonite vendors. It’s similar to how I felt riding the shuttle at Penn State with the College of Ag dairy kids who had just finished milking and were trying to get cleaned up and to class on time. Sometimes, it’s the feeling of having the waitstaff at an authentic Mexican restaurant try really hard to speak English to me.

Sometimes, I feel like I want to wear a sign on my forehead, saying “Post-Grad, With Experience,” or “I Speak Spanish” or “My Name is Yoder: I Identify as Heritage Mennonite, Even With This Short Hair and Nose┬áPiercing,” or “Grew Up and Learned How to Work on a Dairy Farm.” There are no outward markings I could use to demonstrate my identification with these social groups. Spanish is not a heritage language for me. I just wanted to learn it. My family has long since shed the covering and the plain dress, and more recently the language has been lost generationally. I personally have long since shed my Muck boots and old barn clothes, and traded them in for skinny jeans, dresses, more aesthetically pleasing boots, and a nose ring, and my metaphorical farm truck for a more fuel efficient Camry that is easier to park in small city parking spaces.

Have others experienced this tension? The feeling that you want others to know that you’re more like them than you might seem at first glance?

  • This got me thinking about how often I assume people aren’t like me or haven’t had the same experiences I’ve had. Especially since moving to Philly, I tend to assume I have little in common with the new people that I meet and am shocked to learn otherwise. Does that ever happen to you too?

    I totally know what you mean about the Ag students at Penn State. Working at the Creamery I was so tempted to compliment the few ag majors who chose to wear International Harvester gear instead of John Deere, but I never did.

  • I thought about including that in this post, too, but decided to see if people took it there, as it’s really the natural continuation of this idea. So good job!

    In the suburbs, I haven’t found that many people who’ve had similar experiences, but I’m excited when I do. I am working with someone now who grew up in W. Philly, and we have astonishingly similar views and values. I think I’d find more similar people in Philadelphia than in the suburbs, honestly. There are a few here, but it’s rare. The mindset is different and people value different things. I’m finding less substance here than in either rural or urban areas. That’s not to say there’s no substance here, I just have to work a little harder to dig beneath the strip malls to find it.