My growing up

Let’s all take a step back and think about elementary school. You know during recess, there’s always those kids that are alone swinging on the swings by themselves or sitting under the bleachers counting rocks by themselves? That was me. I couldn’t quite explain why it was that way, but right when I was old enough to grab onto the concept on life, I knew I was different.

The moment I knew I was different was the moment when I was shoved to the ground at 5 years old. It seemed like it was just yesterday when two girls I barely knew, one White-American girl and a Cambodian girl, waited for me every day after school. I was in kindergarten and they were at least in the 1st or 2nd grade. After class, I would walk to the office to wait for my older siblings to pick me up after they finished patrolling for the school. One day, the girls noticed me sitting all alone in a chair. I sat quietly and nervously picked at my nails. They introduced themselves to me as Kimberly and Soda. At first, they were nice to me and asked me to play with them but I was too shy to respond. Instead, I looked down at my feet and shook my head no. I didn’t grow up with many friends or people my age to play with and because of this I had trouble interacting with others. The girls made my life a living hell after that. They started calling me names such as “gook” and “chink.” They made funny faces at me and even made slanted eyes with their fingers. They even went so far to take a marker and draw a large mole on their face in mockery of my distinctive beauty mark I have over the right side of my upper lip. I never once uttered a word. Instead, I endured it all for the sake of what my mother taught me: no matter how bad people treat you, you must not do the same back. The innocent little girl in me did not know any better but to trust that goodness overcomes everything. At least that was what I believed then.

It was picture day in 4th grade. I got up extra early that day to dress myself up. I thought to myself that I wanted to be extra pretty and perhaps, the boy that I liked would notice me. I picked out a black velvet dress to wear, curled my hair, wore a silver choker with a pink butterfly on the front, slipped on my favorite white dress shoes, and went to school. Right when I stepped into the bus, a few people stared at me. I figured it’s normal for people to stare, so I sat down without caring. I even thought to myself that I didn’t care and I really didn’t. I didn’t care until I stepped in my 4th grade classroom and the class bully had to look at me only to point and laugh. “Where’s your glasses today, Four-eyes?!” “You look so fat in that dress!” I stood there for a moment, wondering whether I should take action or ignore him. I saw myself as a coward back then, for I chose to do nothing. Instead, I sat down, turned away from him, and ignored his awful greeting. At moments like this, I often wondered: what happened to all of the nice kids that would help share their sandwiches with you, knowing that you starved during lunch time because people picked on you about your weight? I realized then that they didn’t exist in reality as much as they did in books. Books became my best friend.

The little girl in me that believed that goodness will overcome everything suddenly had a different perspective on things. I felt my heart darken and my peace broken. At this point, I reminded myself daily that “I was different.” I no longer wanted to associate with the outside world or to trust in another human being. Instead, I felt safe at home in my room. That was where I spent most of my life; in my room.. in silence.