I carefully unsealed the envelope and pulled out the crisp white paper inside with a flourish. I scanned the official-looking text curiously, wondering what secrets this document, apparently from the U.S. government, could hold. My gaze jumped to where my name was written. I saw that I had been listed as an “alien.”
All my life, I’ve never felt like I’ve been fully accepted. My life has been a constant whirlwind of new schools, friends and countries to adjust to. When people asked me where my home was, I would cock my head to the side in imitation of a confused parrot and ask, “Which one?” I had acquired a strange set of skills from all this moving: the ability to pack a suitcase in under 30 minutes, as well as the ability to not get too attached to wherever I was living as I was inevitably going to have to leave soon.
That’s why I was so excited to come to America. Finally, finally, there would be a place I could definitely call home. My parents had promised we were going to stay here, and in the eyes of a naive 10-year old, their word was law.
Turns out, it wasn’t. The U.S. government’s word was law. And they believed I was nothing more than an alien.
The first time I saw that word, I was confused. I had barely been living in the U.S. for a year and, though I was perpetually confused at the different way of spelling words and the standard system, I was loving it already. The first thing I pictured when I read that was the stereotypical image of an alien: a flat head, skin an abnormal and pale color, and wide eyes. So I was obviously puzzled. And a little offended. Were they saying I looked like that? I decided to ask my parents about it as parents obviously know all the mysteries the universe contains, including if I was somehow distantly related to aliens or not.
And that was when I first learned that I was considered different.
And I was heartbroken.
I felt ostracized from my peers. I had been playfully teased in the past for not being similar to my classmates, sure, but this was worse. Apparently the U.S. government, the most powerful organization in the world, thought the only important thing about me was that I was from somewhere else, and that made me different. That made me dangerous.
Why do we have these labels? Why do we always want to define everything we see into a nice, neat package and be done with it? Humans are the most evolved species, yet we still think we can define someone with one simple word. But we’re more complex and distinct than that. We all have our own unique stories, experiences and narratives. So let’s be more welcoming to the “aliens” in our lives. After all, they don’t judge you for being an “earthling,” right?