Feature photo by anthhombre
I work using my mind, instead of my hands. I am paid to think about problems and find solutions. The ability to think and use my intelligence classified me as a nerd during elementary school, allowing me to expand my world through academic success. It also allowed me to achieve professional success.
My parents’ dream of having their hijo work in an air-conditioned office was achieved, justifying their decision to move to another country to provide a better future for their children. Achievement of this goal of American success has a drawback, though: the problem in working with my mind is that turning off the mind is problematic. Neurosis of the Latino Nerd is a new and growing condition.
The work day doesn’t end at 5 p.m., but remains with me subconsciously working out the issues and obstacles. While watching a sitcom, a brilliant idea might reveal itself; or my mind will work itself into a panic at 3.30 a.m., when it awakes me with fear of doom and that somehow I missed the final exam or an important deadline. The stress is imposed and self-imposed. As you attempt to advance in your chosen profession, you are competing against equally intelligent people for the promotion, the sale, the jury verdict, and the inclusion in an academic journal. This pushes you to work harder at the sake of your sanity.
Since we think, we over-analyze the situation to exhaustion — whether it was studying for one more hour for finals in college despite not sleeping and changing your ropa for days, or worrying whether one more edit on the presentation will make it better, despite already having done one more edit for the past four hours. También, stress and anxiety intertwine, because one is usually the only Latino representative of in the field. You feel, and in many cases, must work extra hard to carry the burden of your ethnic group.
The stress is complicated because it is hard to discuss it. I feel very uneasy about complaining about the stresses of my job, revealing it only to a trusted few. Mostly it is because of the issue of comparison. I am not doing the back-breaking work of my parents and most of La Raza. I wear a suit and tie and make a good living. Do I have the right to complain about the stress and anxiety in closing the million-dollar deal, or whether my story submission will make a literary journal when Dream Act students are worried about deportation?
Además, I feel uneasy discussing the stress of my job because I am a symbol — the symbol of “making it.” I am the role model to friends and family aspiring to go to college, aspiring to be a professional, aspiring to the American Dream. When I’m invited to speak at schools, I don’t have the luxury to tell a class of Raza kids that many times my job keeps me up at night. I do tell them that books will always be better than the movies.
In thinking about the situation, I believe that Latino Nerds have no blueprint to follow. As sons and daughters of the working class, we understand the stress of that life. We can anticipate it and attempt to reach remedies. As the first to graduate from college or the first to enter a specific field, we had limited or no models within our social circle who we could learn from. A hard day’s work on your feet meant some ointment and possibly a cold beer. What’s the appropriate remedy or relaxation technique for the over-active and neurotic mind?
Sometimes, quiet music is the best treatment for estrés. When things go wrong, I tend to be hard on myself. As an intelligent Latino nerd, I should have anticipated the outcome and done things to change the outcome. Failure is hard to deal with, when academic success made one feel invincible; getting an “A” in life is much harder. The stress of the professional job is a fact that may be hidden from our family and non-professional friends. We are the ones that made it. We work in air-conditioned offices and wear suit and ties. We aren’t doing the back-breaking jobs of our parents.
In analyzing and over-analyzing this predicament, I realized as Latinos advance in American society, we will be blessed and cursed with its problems. We will achieve monetary and professional success, but we will be more susceptible to stress, neurosis, depression, and anxiety. A solution is talking to friends and friends about it engaging in Seinfield-type dialogues. If you feel weird discussing your stress and neurosis with them, I would suggest seeking a therapist or counselor. You must realize that stress is stress, and it has the same impact on your physical and mental well-being regardless if you are working in the field or working in an air-conditioned office.
Eres Nerd lives a nerdy life in the borderlands of Estados Unidos and Mexico. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @ElEresNerd.