Violeta M. Bagia
That's when I grew up
I have these distinct memories as a child, some were of the transition to Australia, some much earlier than that. In them, I’m eating ice cream snuggled in a warm blanket on a winter’s day in Germany, in others I’m riding a carousel with a dozen other kids from my town I’d called friends.
But the memories that stand out the most are the ones from my first few years in Primary School in Australia.
I remember the shrill laughter of kids pointing and laughing at me for not being able to speak English, I remember the isolation and the feeling of despair and I remember crying every night wishing I wouldn’t wake up. Hell of a thing for an eight year old to think.
The teachers did what they could but being so primitive in the early days, (just watch Wog Boy), they couldn’t do much. It was a wonder there weren’t more delinquent kids acting out. I also remember thinking that it wasn’t the kid’s fault. It was their parents. It was the sheer uncultured and uneducated way in which these people raised their children.
This led to a lot of self-teaching; don’t be like them, don’t exclude anyone like you were excluded, don’t be mean like they were to you and most of all, don’t let them change who you are inside because they’re afraid of something different.
That’s when I grew up.
With every child I saw being teased, I wanted to be their friend, with every child who was failing English class, I offered to tutor them, with every child suffering loneliness, I sat with them at lunch. It didn’t matter that I was picked on or bullied, it didn’t matter that I didn’t receive the same in return, I was doing the right thing like I wished someone had done for me.
Years later, when I’d grasped the language well enough to stand up for myself, I started writing. I didn’t have a goal in mind, I didn’t have a reason or a why. I just had a drive, and the drive eventually became a maddening, insatiable need to speak up for the people who would otherwise never be heard, to shout it out to those sitting in silence and taking the taunts.
For the longest time, I didn’t understand how anyone could be so mean, they didn’t know where I came from, they didn’t know where these other kids they were teasing came from. They didn’t know their story and worst of all, they didn’t try to find out. And that is what separates those with high emotional intelligence from those who are lacking.
As hard as it is for this truth to sink in when you’re on the receiving end, in the darkest pits of sorrow, it is the truth and it is the reason. You aren’t alone.
You’re empathetic, you’re brilliant, you’re something they aren’t.
And for those on the giving end, I hope you search deep and find out why you are the way you are and why you feel better in that instant for belittling someone else. Because when you do, you just might redeem yourself.