A Hint of Everything: Culture in San Diego

One word could sum up my life these days: hectic.  Like a recipe, my days are filled with various amounts of work, grocery store trips, and bill payments, with an occasional dash of I have time to myself, so maybe I’ll get out and do something…or I could continue to sit and eat dark chocolate-covered acai berries.  Lately, I’ve been doing everything to avoid the latter.  After all, I find it would be a complete loss to sit at home and watch a plethora of Food Network shows when I could experience the eclecticism this city has to offer.  Of course there is a great deal of cultural diversity in San Diego, but the city itself seems to have something different to offer to everyone.

El Prado

It’s evident to me every day on my walk to work.  Balboa Park is filled with various tall towering trees, some are palm trees, others are what appears to be fig trees.  Each lunch break a small glint of bright orange from a monarch butterfly catches my eye, and on the sidewalk a lizard will dart past my feet.  During my journey to various parts of San Diego I find hills with cacti, pine trees, and lush bright desert flowers that cover cliffs where you can hear the waves crashing on the rocks or rolling small stones around.  I find squirrels, walking stick insects, and hummingbirds all in the same place.  While some may not be impressed and claim they’ve seen such things in other cities, to me, it’s a great marvel to see such a wonderful mixture in the environment.

Even my days in the costume shop are filled with various accents and languages that dance and lilt in my ear.  The sounds of laughter amuse me, and I love hearing the smiles in their voices when they talk.  One of the drapers has discovered the translation app on her smartphone and continues to translate just about anything she can think of from, “What time is it?” in German to “Sugar Daddy” in French.  Upon enjoying this new discovery, someone remarks, “What’s some of the obscenities?  Doesn’t everyone wanna know, ‘Hello’, ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ and ‘Fuck you’?”

Balboa Park Flowers

In addition to the various languages, there’s a huge variety of experience among my co-workers.  Some attend school for fashion design and clothing construction, others come from overseas and were trained at a local undergraduate program, and others picked up training along the way.  At times I become frustrated with myself or feel lost, and I glance at someone close to me with a complicated costume or further along on their project and the self-doubt begins to pile on.  At times like these, I have been surprised to find that later on that the same person I compare myself to admits to looking at my progress and having the same insecurities.  People often assume sewing is easy or fast and that it’s possible for someone to know everything about sewing.  At times I feel as though younger co-workers who have finished graduate school are a sign that I should piece the puzzle of my life together, but then I think of the first hand who used to work for Malaysia Air or the first hand who went back to school for fashion or the stitcher across from me whose boyfriend is an accountant studying psychology and realize there’s no way to know everything or have it all figured out, because life (and sewing projects) is always there to remind you otherwise.

One of the things I’ve come to realize about diversity is it stems from more than ethnicity.  Labels and categories of “Black,” “Hispanic,” “Catholic,” “Republican,” “Gay,” “Straight,” are all just the beginning of knowing a person.  When asked to complete a survey on my ethnicity, I find it odd to have the box: “Two or more races,” for we are all from many different heritages and countries and therefore we are all “Two or more races.”  At the Museum of Man, a census over 100 years old had three categories: White, Black, and Mulatto.  Since then, the census has several categories, yet I find categories to still be limiting for although things like ancestry, religion, and political affiliation can be the basic foundation of a person, discovering who they really are is more like a maze with twists and turns you didn’t expect.  A friend once told me, “We are all equal because we are different.”  Perhaps if we all realized our differences is what makes life so great, we might value each other a little bit more.

In the meantime, I plan on valuing what little time I have left.  Although my days are filled with responsibility, I do my best to add a hint of adventure in every day.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the “what ifs” and try to explain my life choices to everyone, but getting past the doubts brings me closer to an understanding.  I had been told a few years ago to go to graduate school because I would never figure out what I wanted.  I’m beginning to think that maybe the only thing I need to figure out in life is how to enjoy it.