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  • Marie H.

The Beauty of Living in the Gray

No, this is not about a gloomy day. It is a metaphor for living in between spaces. Living in between identities and outside of boxes. Those of us that live in between the lines are on the fence and have a very unique experience that molds our minds and lives in different ways. My thought is, can living in the gray be taught to others as a life skill or is it a unique circumstance and perspective that can only be exclusive to some of us based on our both adored and/or rejected mixed race or bi-racial identities?

While I was contemplating what to write, my mind swirled with ideas about personal growth and development, turning points in life, and individual character strengths. Recently, I accepted a position in California that will take me 2,000 miles away from my home state of Wisconsin. I have been exploring how I might have manifested this, because the idea of being “lucky” just bothers me. It negates all of the hard work and wellness mindset that was very very intentional in my everyday life. As I dive deep into my 40’s, I’ve taken extra care to embrace my unique, “out of the box” narrative with gratitude for the past extreme failures and wins, and full receptiveness of future opportunities. Our lives are fragile and short, and we should nurture and sculpt them with bravery and love. It is up to us how we express and define our lives and identity.

One time, during a team building exercise at work, a question was posed about how many of us have been outside of our comfort zone (racially) when we were different from everyone else around us - the minority experience. I was shocked to see that there were only a couple of us that raised their hands. It made me realize what a huge difference in reality it is between those that have never ventured out and had the minority experience and those that were always in their safe box of sameness. What a vastly different approach to life and also kind of crippling.

This “gray living” I reference is about the very personal experience of being racially mixed, not being able to check one box, and how that can affect one’s idea of the world and also what is possible. When you are not fully one or the other, you are both conflicted and free to define your life in ways that you may only read about. Ways that are beyond your current reality, because no one can really say what type of human you are supposed to be. You float, you walk on the fence, dabble in the fringe, you pick and choose what matters. I’m not saying that others that do check one box can't do this, but it is this interesting perspective and set of circumstances that can cause amazing happenings if one can transcend beyond the constraints of a set identity. How amazing it would be to teach this and change people’s lives. People that may be struggling with how to move forward in their situations.

Those aligned with the “gray” experience:

  • Thrive off of adversity

  • Are guarded by resilience

  • Identity is fueled by accomplishment

  • Protected by intellectual curiosity, empathy and a growth-mindset

There are unique character strengths that are developed as you walk through life as a bi-racial or mixed race individual. This is not to say that a bi-racial person doesn’t align more with one race or another, but the unique life story causes flexibility, adaptability, and a very open mind. An open mind means you are receptive to what the world is teaching you every day. Your intuition is sharp, and your self identity fluctuates with what you learn. This means you may throw your hat into the ring, armed with your “gray experience” and the ability to reinvent as the wind blows and your future calls you.

P.S. Just ask Barack Obama or Kamala Harris.

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