Animal Kingdoms, Refracted Light


Chloe Mendoza, Co-Editor in Chief

I am a hummingbird, just a hummingbird. Each minute I flap my wings almost 80 times, and if I stop I might just die. I flit and flutter from flower to flower, absorbing just what I need to stay alive. Sometimes I linger near the blossoms because they’re so sweet, but I always keep moving because I must. To a passersby I may be nothing more than a blur of colors, my speed obscuring the parts of me that really matter. They see only what the sun hits, the magenta of my tail and the emerald of my neck. But beneath it all I contain a hidden prism, twisted and shining, that which refracts my light and illuminates who I really am. 


Communication is my song, so perhaps I am a nightingale, chirping melodies that carry my story and purpose. Some embrace my voice eagerly, while others are puzzled by its adamant thrum. Not all like my ballads, and not all like me. Through the seasons I’ve learned to sing not for the validation of others, but in the pursuit of honesty, empathy, and justice. I’ve found some that sing the same song and I rejoice in our harmonies, taking from their wisdom and experiences. But maybe I’m not really a bird, because I wasn’t born a singer and I’ve never much liked taking risks. Instead, I learned to jump and hover, face my fears and adjust. 


When I change I do so drastically because I think I might be a caterpillar. Every so often a primal urge within wills me to shed my skin. So I shift, leaving behind the weight of my expectations. My hair, my clothes, my body, my friends. Some days I have wings, on others I have six legs. Some months my hair reaches my back, during others it barely brushes my ears. 

With my constant metamorphosis comes a unique ache for belonging—a belonging to myself. The fleetingness of my existence has always loomed over my being. In turn, everything about myself has simply felt disconnected. As I listened to my voice, looked in the mirror, read my writing, thought about my relationships, I wondered if this version of myself was really me. I wondered if I was indeed the person I wanted to be. 


I learned something important very recently. The stages of my life are not placeholders for my future, for the future occurs in every moment I breathe. Each moment of my life was meaningful, real, and formative in my journey of self-understanding. Perhaps I’m not a caterpillar afterall, I don’t think caterpillars ponder as often as I do. 


I am eighteen years old, soon to enter college. For years I’ve worked tirelessly for the chance to attend a university of my choice, and now that’s my reality. I feel grateful and proud of myself. Everything leading up to now feels surreal, and I wonder if it really happened. Soon I will move away, make new friends, and learn new things. 


The question that remains is who am I? While cliche, I believe the question is worth answering, because now I understand that I’m worth knowing. I am neither magenta nor emerald. A hummingbird, a nightingale, nor a caterpillar. Instead I am everything! I am the amalgamation of my upbringing—the family that fought for me, the friends that loved me, the experiences that broke me, the lessons that tested me, and the faith that bound me to this world. I am swift and energetic, passionate and empathetic, adaptable and introspective. I will be who I want to be, and I will do it now because today is my future. 


I am full of colors. I am a rainbow. I am refracted light.