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  • Violeta M. Bagia

Lessons Learned

What have I learned over the last decade or so?

I love writing, I’m good at telling stories and I love being able to share a piece of me without judgement or prejudice.

I’ve learned that I love the colour pink and I love shopping. I love hiking but I don’t like camping.

I love high heels and spending money on shoes, I love shopping, but I hate looking for car park.

Skiing is fun, but it doesn’t agree with me, I prefer to walk in the snow and make snow angels.

And, I’ve learned that no matter how much I think someone is in my corner, when it comes to talking about the things that have affected me and hurt me, I’m quite alone.

That has been the toughest lesson.

I’ve felt alienated, I’ve felt isolated and I’ve felt like a burden.

I’ve felt like my problem is an afterthought, a reason to start a comparison contest, it’s a reason to show me how small and insignificant I am because my problem doesn’t compute for other people because it’s out of the norm, it doesn’t fit in a tiny neat box in the data set, it doesn’t have a cookie cutter response, it doesn’t come with a manual and it doesn’t come with advice. 

It’s a lonely problem to have because while it’s so public and so spoken about in the media today, it’s also incredibly lonely and private. Rarely is it understood, and rarely to the true depth of the ugliness and shame and the hate.

But another lesson I’ve learned, is that no; I am not insignificant, I am not worthless, and I am not alone. 

Out of the shadows cast by those who’ve put you in there, come beacons of hope with shiny tiki torches. Tiny pin pricks of light in the darkness with voices carrying hope and promise.

And when they reveal themselves, they’re often people you didn’t imagine, they’re people who vibe on your wavelength, they’re people who see what you see, think how you think, and that is what you need.

Because even before the event, you were broken, you were sad and life handed you more unplayable cards than most people know, than most can probably imagine. It wasn’t just bullying in school, it was leaving a war-torn country, with the echo of shell casings falling to the ground as the rubble and shattering of earth sounded long after the ringing in your ears subsided. It was leaving your family behind, leaving your life behind and fighting to survive and find a new one.

It was learning a new language, a new way of living, an isolated and lonely one where you were the outcast, the weirdo, the ethnic and your parents threw you parties and played games and took you shopping, because you didn’t have friends, they didn’t either. It was a change for everyone. 

You didn’t know if you could overcome it, you didn’t know how much more you could handle, but you did it. You survived; each card became an opportunity, each day a new challenge.

And then, in your naivety and innocence, he came along. He ruined you and broke you. 

For a decade, you kept the secret. You carried it alone and then one day, with new found courage, you told your friends. You shared what happened that day.

There was pity and apologising, there were condolences. You didn’t understand then, but you did eventually. You died that day. Rest in peace. 

You were young, and he set the expectation. That is how men are, that is what is expected. So you allowed it. You became a toy, a worthless possession to every man who came after.

You allowed your body to be used, but it was okay, because you weren’t really there, you learned how to detach yourself and fragment your heart and body so you could keep your mind safe because that’s all you had left, that’s all that was still yours.

It was the final thing you could control.

And then as you got older, you learned that it was all wrong. You learned that what happened that day was wrong; it was something that never should have happened. You learned because a good man, a caring man told you that it wasn’t your body but your heart and mind all combined that made him love you. 

That’s when you started to really process what you experienced.

But there is still doubt, even now, even as you read this.

You ask yourself whether you were to blame, whether you remember it wrong. You start to make excuses and then you realize that is how your mind protects itself.

But it’s still there, maybe you didn’t say noclearly enough, maybe because you didn’t cry or fight back, or maybe because you did whatever you knew would get you through, give in and get through it. 

But that was your choice, the only one you had in that moment. Everything else was taken from you. He took it. And even after all these years, he still makes you question yourself, your sanity, your worth.

Then, the details come. You remember things you didn’t before. You remember the smells, the sounds, the way the bed felt and what you could see and hear…and suddenly you’re back there, you feel it all again, you feel your heart race and your body react. Your palms get sweaty and your breaths come in short, sharp bursts.

Everything goes silent except the raging of blood in your ears. You remember it all now. But the doubt is still there. Maybe it really was your fault. And that’s how you feel. Over and over. Because nothing, anyone ever says, will change your mind. You will always look back, you will always say that youshould have done something differently, youshould have been smarter, and wiser, you…you.

So you tell your story over and over because each time new revelations come through. New things that make sense, new words that you allow yourself to speak, to process and understand.

But each time you do, you realize that you’re becoming more and more alone, isolated, like you were then. 

You don’t know what you need, because it’s complex, but you keep searching, begging and pleading, praying that someone understands. That someone will hand you a torch of your own so you can start to make your way out of the darkness, but it never comes. 

You follow other people, and use their torches for light, you use their light as a guide and that path is never yours because you don’t really own anything, nothing belongs to you. 

The things you did have, have been taken. 

Your café, your school, your spaces, they’re all gone. 

And you bang and scratch and hit the dome of glass surrounding you and no one hears a thing, it’s frosted and sound proof. You’re wasting your breath and energy. 

And when you calm down, a small door opens. Now you’re allowed out. Only while you put your mask on though, as soon as the mask slips, you’re shoved back in the dome and the door is shut.

That is the lesson learned. No one has the manual or the answer, or the key to this problem, no one can fix it, no one can fix you, but maybe, maybe you don’t need fixing. Maybe this is the new version, the bumped and bruised, experienced and wise. 

Because even a diamond, birthed from the darkest, roughest depths, is brilliant in the end. 

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