Monday, April 8, 2013

The Lenses Through Which I See

     This past weekend I was part of a CEC (Constructive Engagement of Conflict) retreat in Santa Fe. We worked with an organization called Youth Media Project which aims to allow youth to express themselves through radio broadcasts. Although I was wary about the whole concept, I came out of the experience quite surprised to have learned a fair amount about not only my peers, but myself as well.
     The initial draft of our "stories" was prompted by the phrase "the lenses I see through". After this draft we edited, polished, and sometimes combined our stories to make recordings for a radio show. I'll post the finished product, which is a compilation of mine and two other students' work, in a later post, but I thought I might share a piece of myself with y'all. Please understand that it is a glance into the deeper workings of my mind, and that it is honest and "raw". I hope you also take a moment to think about lenses through which you see.

The Lenses Through Which I See

The lenses I see through are backwards. Instead of composing many different colors and textures into a single image, they take a snapshot of the world and refract it into the many different aspects of my life that make me who I am and affect how I perceive the world. I see the world based on my experience. I am composed of all of the moments I have lived, my memories, what I know. Particular influences stand out: my family, my culture, my church, my education, and my interests.
My family is… a little indescribable. Our structure is complex, but our functionality is successful. My family has always supported me, and my parents especially have done all they can for my ultimate success. From my family I have learned the importance of solidarity, of education, and of communication, and I have learned to stand up for what I believe in. I have learned rationality and practicality. I have learned that I can be wrong, and I have learned to apologize, even if only because I value a relationship more than my pride. These lessons are lenses through which I see.
My culture has me made me an individual. I have always stood out from my peers. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine and because they have shared their culture, language, and history with me, that has become part of who I am. It can be difficult to explain our story, to withstand comments and jokes about communism and being a “Russian spy”, but, ultimately, this experience has made me curious and interested in other cultures, languages, and religions. I count myself lucky to have had the chance to grow up multicultural. It is who I am and no one can take that away. This experience is a lens through which I see.
My religion is like a part of my culture. I am Eastern Orthodox. I believe in God, in miracles, in saints, in icons, and in Heaven. Sometimes I feel like I can’t share this with others because they think I am trying to push my beliefs on them, and I hate it; I think it’s unfair. I want to share my experience, not make it yours. You have your own experience and I want to hear about that too. My church has always been a part of my life. The colors of the icons, the sound of the chanters and choir, and the smell of the incense are home. My church community is my family. I have spent countless hours at church- not only for religious services, but also for fellowship and service, and just for fun with my best friends. I want to be able to share this part of myself with others- to explain that, for me, my church is not only my belief in God, but my belief in making the world a better place- whether through serving those in need, or just creating opportunities for everyone to live in a free and tolerant world. My beliefs are a lens through which I see.
My parents have basically drilled into me the importance of education. Coming from a country with few opportunities, they have worked tirelessly to give me as many as possible. Through private, public, and now boarding school environments, my worldviews have grown. The Montessori curriculum taught me real world skills and to approach problems and challenges fearlessly. Public school taught me patience and perseverance, because not everyone will be as motivated as I in a given situation. The IB curriculum has taught me about making connections- between subjects, ideas, cultures, and individuals. UWC has taught me responsibility- to myself and to the world. I am a global citizen and I must use my knowledge to make this world a better place, in any way possible. Knowledge is a lens through which I see.
Each person has particular interests, and they are crucial to how we each perceive the world. I am interested in just that- the world. I wish I could know everything about every culture and history and language and country on this planet. It fascinates me how magnificently different we are. It horrifies me that we cannot all live in peace with our differences. I see the world through a lens that is, in a sense, itself. I compare my experiences of countries and cultures, and question everything. How does this place look? How do these people think? What do they eat? What do they believe? I want to learn it all, and this curiosity is a lens through which I see.

Jessika Nebrat (USA-KS 2014)

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