It’s not uncommon to feel that we are alone in our experiences: our happy memories or the times when life seemed to be mocking us. But the world is so nuanced that we may find the person we least expect to relate to us to be the one who understands us most. Our Georgetown community is constructed by individuals from all walks of life, each with their own unique history and valuable interpretations of the universe. We must learn to celebrate our differences because there is so much beauty in these variances of our individual selves, but we must never forget that as human beings there will always be something we share. A regret, a specific passion, a favorite song or even a very similar memory.
The purpose of this column is to tell the stories of three different persons under a specific subject which changes weekly. This way, we can get to know our community on a level that strays from superficialities and instead highlights an unforgettable truth: we are not alone. My hope with this column is that someone somewhere who feels like they are the sole sufferers of a certain scenario will realize they are not when they read the stories of one of their fellow Georgetown community members. Even if the individual has chosen to remain anonymous, I believe in the strength of a connection, even between strangers.
This week’s topic: A Childhood memory that had an impact on you later in life.
Story 1, Anonymous
He was perplexed at the sight before him, but he remained silent, nonetheless. It is always incredibly peculiar to watch an embodiment of strength or success in clear distress and anguish. He had grown so accustomed to watching his grandmother seize life’s challenges by the hand and smirk in triumph as she overcame one after another. Such an undeniably strong person doing something so uncharacteristic like crying? Frankly, it would baffle anyone. That was why when the boy watched his grandmother’s tears paint trails down her cheeks, he was caught off guard. Confused, even. And when the visible sorrow on her face told him his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer his confusion failed to eradicate itself.
It was a time of minimal knowledge and information. He was young, he couldn’t have known. But this meant he regarded his grandmother’s pain as a simple overreaction. One tear too many for something so easily repaired. Breast Cancer? Well, okay. Surely surgery can fix it. And she’ll be alright again. His limited knowledge and the world’s limited knowledge meant his fate had already been chosen for him. And so, the ignorant boy was floating gently in mid-air, amidst the vacuum of youthful unknowledge, for he did not recognize the situation’s gravity.
As he grew older and became a parent himself, he realized what he couldn’t before. He made his amends with gravity and life’s hurdles became a crisper image. The world, too, grew with him and together they traveled farther beyond the reach of inexperience. Time is not always the ally of humankind; but if given the chance, it will take your trust and in turn, give you wisdom. It is time’s ultimate law: that knowledge is rarely earned with ease. But when it comes, it will prove to you the value in that period of ignorance. For how could one hope to know more if they already know it all?
Story 2, Anonymous
The notion of ‘losing yourself’ is something we should take heed of. It is no fairytale trope or fictional cliché’ that is not based in reality. On the contrary, it can happen anytime to anyone in our world, and it can take many different forms; slowly losing sight of your dreams, feeling a shift in your attitude or behavior, experiencing an eventual deformation in your values. For her, it was the third. Childhood scars forced her to realize that very few individuals was worthy of respect. This conclusion that she reached very early in life meant that she saved her respect only for those deserving of it. There had to be no doubts. After all, respect became akin to trust, and both were invaluable.
And so, she weaved her way through life with a barrier around herself. Like a chess master, she chose her allies with faultless precision and knew just the right words to put her enemies at her mercy. Whenever she would engage in argumentation with teachers she didn’t favor, she knew the consequences couldn’t harm her too terribly. This was because though she didn’t hesitate to strike back if she were provoked, she was never the one to confront first. She was also an exceptional student. If she were to be taken to the higher-ups at school, she didn’t doubt her abilities to sweet-talk her way out of the issue. She didn’t even have to lie, simply emphasize the aspects of the situation where she was in the right. With this apparent invincibility at her helm, she felt unafraid to chatter through the classes taught by teachers she deemed unworthy of her time. And whenever her disruptions became the subject of a conflict, she knew her cunning would help her win. And oh, how delicious it was to win.
Victory became the one taste she couldn’t resist. And through time, some of the values which had once reigned supreme in her soul became dormant; no longer an unrivaled priority. But a certain encounter with a certain teacher was one of the factors which helped bludgeon its way through her false persona. She had been sitting with her friends on a bench in recess, laughing and conversing loudly when a teacher opened a classroom window which was situated above that bench. The teacher calmly asked the students to quieten their voices, and she, no stranger to dispute, retorted back sternly. She had already been in a sour mood that day, and this exchange certainly wasn’t improving her condition. She stated that it was break time, so why should they have to be quiet? Her voice was loud, in amplitude and scorn, and she looked to her teacher’s face, anticipating a retaliation. But her teacher calmly stared into her eyes and then, as though speaking to the few slumbering principles, said: “This is not how you were raised.”
With these simple words, her barricade crackled, the sound of her old self vying for release, and she sat on that bench in silent repentance. She said nothing in return. Her teacher had uttered what she had known for so long but didn’t act upon. An internal wake-up call sometimes needs outside intervention, and she had finally received it. At that moment she realized that her actions and the ideals with which she was brought up were at odds. And this was a fact she couldn’t stand. She fiercely loved her family and the principles that marked her upbringing. So how could she betray both?
She made the move to change. Not entirely, of course. She still held true the idea that respect is something one must earn. But now she tried her best to control her emotions and maintain a calmer disposition, never forgetting this incredible act her past teacher had done. After all, sometimes we forget to check ourselves. To analyze our actions with enough scrutiny so that it unveils the wrongs and rights within them. We can’t let the daily grind of life make us forget who we are. Without our morals…what do we become? Losing yourself is much easier than the alternative. But in the process of finding this lost self, you gain a richer understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a person. And once you have this evolved comprehension of your character, it becomes that much harder to lose yourself again.
Story 3, Azmeh Zaman
Transformation is one of the most magnitudinous hurdles a person can overcome. It is frequently riddled with difficulties and complications, a plethora of emotional and physical changes. Sometimes these changes come so quickly one can hardly stop to seek refuge in the night when they tire, lest they find themselves completely alone when the dawn comes again. One must be ready, alert, because every moment can introduce you to an experience you have no background on. This newness can be incredibly daunting, and it was for her. But more than anything, this not only altered the cocoon which she called her sanctuary but enabled her to become a butterfly.
Azmeh, in her twelfth year, moved from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka. It was a tender age because she was emerging into her adolescence, and this fact alone meant her transformation had begun long before she entered that airplane. Though now she was not only transmuting her mind and body but her environment too. As the aircraft nudged clouds on its path to Sri Lanka, fear and exhilaration coursed through her youthful self, a very common symptom when one faces the unknown. What would she learn? What would she see? Having visited there prior for a holiday she was not completely in the dark about it all. But that was a mere flashlight into a shadowed cave.
What she was up against was no temporary escape, it was a long-term harbor, and that meant there was much she still didn’t know. But it was this which fueled her excitement. The unknown can be terrifying sometimes, that is undeniable. It is akin to a surprise speed bump on an otherwise faultlessly paved road. We don’t see it coming, so when we cross it, we become disorientated. That feeling might melt way after a while but will return if we come across another unanticipated speed bump. This carries on and on until we become accustomed to the experience and feel fear no more. And in the end, the unknown is rarely `sinister. We may not know it then, but big changes often allow us to meet people we will always love, places we will visit again and again, and shape us in ways we would be grateful for until the end of time. And this was precisely Azmeh’s story.
Sri Lanka gave her the unparalleled blessing of exposure. She met people of numerous cultures, pasts, and religions, and within this garden full of different sorts of florae, she bloomed herself. The girl some may know now, who laughs and smiles with little care to the judgment of others was born in Sri Lanka. Or rather, the Azmeh of today was reborn when she came to Sri Lanka. It is a lot easier said than done, but embracing change is important. We cannot recoil and repulse at every little new experience that comes our away and expect to reap the rewards that it brings. Caution is also vital, of course it is. But having that hope for the good things that life can give us will allow us to truly learn from change. To grow. Because truly, there can be something beautiful within even the most seemingly calamitous of alterations. And sometimes that beautiful thing is nothing more than you are alive, and life sees enough potential in your bud that it wants to help it blossom.