There is a small group among us. When these people speak up, they are judged. When these people say something wrong, they are punished. When these people step out of line, they are questioned. Not from without, but from within. This group doesn’t know what they are feeling inside. They are different in that way.
These people are misunderstood. These people are underdogs.
Its overwhelming to feel like you shouldn’t be doing something all the time, to go out in the street and feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, to feel the gaze of a stranger pierce through your chest, to sit in public and feel the spotlight on you, to show up to work and wonder if your colleagues respect you, to order a coffee and sense the annoyance of the cashier, to tensely scurry by those who are older and more powerful and wonder what they think of you.
Every moment, every detail, every step is filled with doubt. That is what being an underdog is.
Imagine your default state: you wake up every day and you find yourself in a hole. But the day doesn’t have to be about that. You can fight your way through the day, slug your way through self-doubt, and inch towards a sense of belonging. It requires everything. It initiates a raging battle inside. You muster everything you have, your pride, your confidence, and your integrity, by any means necessary. You write in your journal, you read about other underdogs, you create rituals; you remind yourself what is meaningful in your life. And even after all of these efforts, it’s still not enough. At some point in the day you lose focus. On good days it happens just once or twice for an hour or two. By the end of it, you are exhausted. You come home thinking about that position you took, that suggestion you made, that moment of vulnerability, and you wonder whether you did right.
Walking alone in the world with this burden can break the strongest among us. It will happen not with a thud, but with silent compliance. It happens when we stop speaking up, when we realize that our questions fall on deaf ears, when we succumb to the pressure to conform, when the expectations of your peers is too much to bear, when the voices of our better angels are shouted down by our demons. During these moments we lose sight of our purpose and capitulate. And everyday we wonder if its time to drift into quiet anguish.
But underdogs don’t have to walk alone. We can find each other and support each other, not through superficial positivity, but through vulnerability. We can find a common cause, one that connects us and brings out the best in us. We can pick each other up when we think we have had enough, we can make each other understand that we are not alone, we can challenge each other, and above all, we can be honest with each other.
This is what La Ceiba means to me. It is the cause that inspires meaning. It is the place where we form our ranks and get to work. It is the group of people I trust most.