Cookie cutter

a self-introduction

One of the things I like having my students do on the first day of class is to write or say something about themselves. From a teacher’s perspective, it feels like a no-brainer: it’s about the student, so surely they would not run out of anything to say. Right? Right. But from a student’s perspective? Most likely wrong.

The prompt my students hate the most? “Say something interesting about yourself.”

As a student, I do not know what other people would find interesting. I am also afraid to put myself out there, knowing that the world can be cruel and deem the things I love as boring or basic. I think that it also stems from the fear that I won’t likely fit into the cookie cutter, correct answers that people expect.

As a teacher, though, I like hearing even the most mundane things about my students. Every bit of information they reveal about themselves feels like a privilege they extend so that I can understand them better, and I hope that I make them feel that every day in my class. I hate it when they sell themselves short, believing that they are not worth all the love and attention that should have been theirs by right.

So as a step of courage, I want to list down some things about myself and leave it to you, dear reader, to decide if they are worth your time and interest:

  • I love soft things: flowers, pastel colors, and coffee in pajamas. I always sleep with stuffed animals, and lately, my plushie babies are mostly sea creatures: Turtel the turtle, Kiwi the shark (BLÅHAJ from IKEA), Buttercup the cat ebi nigiri, and Mr. Fox from the Little Prince movie (an honorary sea creature because of his friendliness).
  • I don’t have a favorite movie genre, but I do know that I love a movie if it’s quiet: slow-moving, mundane, and reflective of day-to-day living. About Time, Ulan, and My Neighbor Totoro are the best examples that I can think of. For TV series, Hospital+ Playlist is a show that speaks to my soul.
  • I love reading. I have learned to accept that liking YA or historical romance novels are not marks against my taste, and I want to champion the perspectives they bring to the literary table.
  • I like watching anime because a lot of stories are made possible in this genre. I have not watched enough to consider myself a weeb especially since I am very picky about shows.
  • I like looking for characters who embody the principle “Gentleness is strength”. Softness does not have to be treated as weakness, and seeing these representations makes me feel valid and empowered not to grow cold in the name of strength and independence. I love Uraraka Ochako!
  • I do not know how to answer tag questions with a simple “yes/no”. I answer in complete sentences to make sure that I get my meaning across.
  • I like taking myself on self-dates. I like walking around and treating myself to expensive meals or even a cup of milk tea. I sometimes buy myself books (okay, maybe more than “sometimes”) and makeup (but I checked myself into r/makeuprehab to monitor my buying motivations and habits).
  • I am a born-again Christian. I grew up a deacon’s then later a pastor’s kid, so it took me years to struggle with my faith and learn to claim it as my own. A big part of my worldview is influenced by my identity in Christ and my understanding of the Bible. I also try to reckon with the damage that the Church has wrought on so many people over the years, and I hope that my understanding and actions can help bring the kind of true healing lost in translation.
  • I am a Filipino who grew up in the Middle East. I spent my childhood years in Bahrain and my angsty teenage years in Qatar. Even though I have lived in the Philippines for around eight years now, I still consider myself largely a diaspora Filipino. I particularly hate seeing Filipino-Americans hog and claim the diaspora title, because of… a lot of reasons.
  • I am a high school English teacher. A lot of the way I process information is shaped by the theories I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had as an early career teacher.
  • I am in the process of negotiating my relationship with my body. I am still learning a lot from unpacking and processing mindsets, input, and boundaries. I know that I love myself; I just need to learn how to translate this into actions.
  • I am still on a journey of checking my privilege: realizing the advantages that do not afford others an even playing field; centering and uplifting voices that need to be heard without inserting myself in the narrative; and learning to do what I can to proactively use my privilege to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities. It is long and painful, but it needs to be done.

I do not think that I am brave enough to do away with mental images of cookie cutters and to fear not doing enough to fill them. I do know now that cookie cutters come in all shapes and sizes, and I hope that by being brave enough to try answering this prompt, I can start building my own cookie cutter–keeping everything that is good and beautiful and sweet about myself.

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