¿Quién soy yo? / Who am I?
by Max Davis
Finding who I am and searching for what meaning do I have, allowed me to really reflect on this chaos; and, everybody goes through chaos. I don’t care who you are... there’s going to be some chaos that you go through.
Chapter 3: Rebellion and Chaos
Rebellion and chaos would highlight my high school years. A lot of terrible decisions were made, unhealthy decisions; and there was this chaos of trying to maybe fit in, trying to be accepted, not necessary by my family but by others. This is where I think so many people make really bad decision in their life that affects them the rest of their life.
I think that chapter was very important and needed to happen. If I wouldn’t have had chaos and gone through this rebellious stage, I'm not sure I could’ve done my job. I don’t know that I would’ve been a counselor. I think I was a really good student in elementary school, and I think had I gone to a better school - I don’t know, I would’ve been better, and maybe I would’ve been a better high school student. Maybe I would’ve done something different like computer science or engineering or law. But because I had this rebellion, it meant that going away for school, and when I found that that was possible, I felt like the chaos was brought to order.
As this chaos was brought to order, it allowed me to think how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, which has been in education, and in a field like this as a school counselor. I love it. I think I can understand students who struggle because I struggled. Sometimes I have colleagues who have always been very good students tell me "I just can’t understand why someone wouldn’t value education" and I was like "I could."
Obviously being a teacher, if you have a student who does the homework, you are like "oh my gosh, yes, Max, awesome job." But you look at that other student over there, and you say "oh my gosh, she didn’t do her homework, or she wasn’t prepared, what’s wrong with her? I can’t understand why she wouldn’t just do her homework." I think having been in that situation, I can say "maybe other things are happening with her." I think that’s what allows me to do an effective job as much as possible.
I could’ve been at the wrong place at the wrong time; certainly, I was at the wrong place a lot of times. I kind of start saying like "if I would’ve gone to a different school." On the south side [of Chicago], where I grew up in the mid 80’s - this was right before all of these factories, the steel industry collapsed. I remember driving in my neighborhood as a little kid and seeing all the smoke coming out of this U.S. steel. U.S. steel was the largest steel company in the world, three miles long. I just remember passing parking lots full of cars and that if you go down 83rd Street, you would face part of the steel mill. There were these two smoke stacks, and there was always constant smoke.
One day this smoke stopped, and one day there were no cars in the parking lot. Then there were weeds growing in the parking lot and everything ended. Everyone was like "Oh yeah, the people got laid off, but they are gonna come back, and there are gonna come back." They didn't. They knocked that big steel down. But I always think back and in high school it was like "Well, if you don’t like school, eventually you will get a job in the steel mill, because what else are you gonna do?" So they didn’t really focused on "Oh my gosh, Max, you are not doing well! Let’s find out what you are doing, because man you gotta think about your future!" Instead, it was like, "Oh he’s just gonna go over there [to the steel mill]."
That’s how educators approached me, so it was like, "Well, fine," you know? I look back, and I always think "Well, if I would’ve gone to a better school, maybe if I would’ve gone to a private school, or maybe if there was an adult in this building that helped me, I would’ve been better. I would’ve been different." But the people who came into my life in college kind of shaped me in a way that changed my life and caused me to think about finding who I am and searching for what meaning do I have. That allowed me to really reflect on this chaos.
You know, being away from the neighborhood, even though I went to college with my oldest sister, essentially I was on my own. You start looking and thinking about yourself as a different individual, you know, not by how your family defines you, not by how your friends, your childhood friends define you. I think that caused a lot, for me, to search for meaning: who am I? Why was I put in this earth? Questions that I never asked myself or even thought to ask myself. I remember being in college struggling with being the only Latino in my class and feeling so inferior, feeling so underprepared - because I was.
I remember when I was finishing my last program in college, and this woman says, "Max, you know you are the only Latino in class?"
I looked at her like. "well, okay this is Naperville and I am the only Latino in a 5 block radius," and she laughed. At that time I didn’t look at it like, but that comment made me think I used to be so uncomfortable. But I can’t imagine not being Latino, you know (laughs). I think I would go back into chaos and rebellion. I think because with our background we don’t choose it, it just is.
Everybody goes through chaos. I don’t care who you are, whether you have been a top student or not, there’s going to be some chaos that you go through. That’s when you really learn who you really are, and how everything before has shaped you. I think because of the particular types of chaos I experienced, finding myself and searching for meaning was very clear, and it took maybe 10 years to figure out. I made certain decisions with education, with studying, with even getting married and having kids, to really give me that meaning that I needed to figure out.
I sincerely care about each and every one of my students. I have been here working with Latinos here, but the bigger part of my caseload are white, Jewish, wealthy families. Three weeks ago - well about a month ago - I had a former student from my school call me. He’s about 33 years old. He has his own family, and he lives in Texas. I still keep in touch. He shared that he was diagnosed with cancer, and he had these tumors in his back. He was going to have this really extensive surgery two weeks ago, and it was possible that he was going to wake up without a leg. He has a two-year-old daughter and a ten-year-old son. You know, I prayed and thought about him and his family, and they continue to go through this. Every time we talk - we talked three days ago. Thankfully everything turned out all right and he has both legs and he is recovering. He is going to learn next week if he is totally cancer free.
This morning I responded to a student who is a sophomore in college. He just sent me an email saying that he changed his major to philosophy. He was a student who would struggle a lot here. He would come here crying. Sometimes he yelled at me, and the next day he’d come and apologize. But for whatever reason he felt that I impacted him in a particular way and he emails me about once every 3 4 months. Every time I get an email, it’s like "Oh my gosh," you know?
Looking back now I wouldn’t delete anything because everything happened the way it was supposed to happen and resulted in who I am today. I would not delete my family, you know, as crazy as we were growing up. I wouldn’t delete trying to figure out two worlds. Gosh, if I deleted my chaos, then the rest of the chapters would be different. So, I wouldn’t delete anything. I think, you know, everything good and bad that I’ve experienced, the decisions I’ve made makes me who I am, and I'm perfectly fine with it.
¿Quién soy yo? / Who am I?: Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Familia
In which Davis explains the role his family plays in shaping who he is today.
Chapter 2: Navigating Two Cultures
In which Davis grows up in confusion by growing up in two cultures, two languages, and two ways of seeing life.
Chapter 3: Rebellion and Chaos
In which Davis reflects about the terrible decisions he took when he was in high school.
Chapter 4: Finding Myself, Searching for Meaning
In which Davis went to college finding himself and searching for meaning in his life.
Chapter 5: Paying It Forward
In which Davis enters the education field and realizes how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
Chapter 6: Shaping the Next Generation
The chapter Davis is currently writing, in which he explains how he leads and guides the next generation.
About Max Davis:
Max is a Mexican American high school counselor, chess coach, and public official for his township. He grew up navigating two cultures - Mexican culture and American culture - on the south side of Chicago. He went through rebellion and chaos during his high school years. During his college years, he worked to find himself and search for meaning. After college, he worked as a college counselor before becoming a high school counselor. He loves his job because he works with students who go through their chaotic part of their life, but once "they graduate they’ll be adults, and there are going to be part of this next generation. I help lead and guide this next generation. It’s also part of paying it forward, but it is a little bit more than just paying it forward. It’s really allowing students to kind of recognize how much power they have and use that power to shape their decisions."