Race versus ethnicity.

I am Hispanic.

I make a sassy Selena check mark.

But I am not White, Black, Asian, Native Hawaiian, or American Indian. So I always skip this check box.

A new job means I’ve been filling out paperwork. And questionnaires about my gender, ethnicity, and race. It’s been years since I lived in the United States. I don’t recognize her.

How do Americans tolerate such awful healthcare? What the hell is a deductible? Why can’t I just see how much that blood test is going to cost me?

Forget it. I’ll wait for my third world country field work to have that blood work done. They’ll find those tropical parasites faster anyways.

Moving back to the U.S. has caused other abrupt realizations.

I do not own adequate winter clothing.

Because our income evaporated instantaneously after Hurricane Maria, and I maxed out my credit card being displaced for six months, plus moving expenses, first and last month rent (thanks for the $500 of empty promises, FEMA), I’m too cash strapped to buy new clothes.

It painfully reminds me of moving from South Texas to UPenn for college with my Payless shoes and JCPenny jacket. The jacket was on clearance. I was so excited. And then I was swallowed by a sea of blonde hair and NorthFace.

My colleagues are now mostly white. Economically stable. I’m right back at 18. A sore thumb with dirty shoes.

I am a tropical ecologist. I write about life in the field and in academia. https://biodiversityresearchlab.com