I didn't become an American citizen until about four years ago, more than a decade after my family first began applying for naturalization.
In high school, I traveled abroad to Austria, Italy and Spain with either my choir group or AP Spanish classmates. And on every single trip, I was the one kid who held the entire group up.
My peers would easily walk through airport security after showing the attendant their perfect navy U.S. passports. But my attendant would flip through every page of my Indian one, then he'd look up at me and squint before calling another attendant over for a second look. It always made me feel like some kind of criminal.
On the way back from Italy, I remember having to sit through customs for two hours. All I brought back was a t-shirt and keychains. The security officers were awful, even derogatory. I couldn't use my phone and I was having a panic attack. By the time I got out, all the other kids had left the airport. My worried mom was waiting with my worried choir teacher.
I never talked about these instances with my school friends. I knew they wouldn't understand. Living in predominantly white neighborhoods and attending predominantly white schools left me with an identity crisis I'm still trying to figure out.
The anxiety that came with going through airport security at that age made me hate being different even more than I already did.
My heart still races anytime I walk into the airport security line, and I try to make myself seem even more casual than I typically am. Make it seem like I'm not hiding anything, even though I know I have nothing to hide. I slouch. Lean on my carry-on. Play it cool. It's ridiculous.
Ever since I became an American citizen and got my hands on that perfect navy U.S. passport, I no longer have to deal with some of the public embarrassment. But I still feel the eyes on me. And every now and then, I'll hear a comment I wish I hadn't heard.
Someone just get me a private jet.
The #100daychallenge writing series is my way of holding my right brain accountable for all the brain fog in hopes that I'll learn to creatively organize my thoughts and learn something(s) new about myself in the process. The challenge includes prompts from the San Francisco Writers' Grotto's 642 Things to Write About. You can also follow my #100daychallenge here.