day 1 of radical rawness
I follow a hashtag called #30daysOfRadicalRawness on Instagram. Celinne Da Costa, this 20-something year old girl asked herself, What if I shared my darkest secrets, shames, and doubts with the world?
And so she did. She decided to take up the courage to open herself up and share with the world her deepest, most secretive stories. She decided to share things that keep her up at night, things that she’s ashamed of, and things that she hasn’t told anybody, not even her parents, even though it might come at the cost of being judged by hundreds and thousands of her friends and readers.
The mere thought of reading other people’s rawest story shunned me away, but to my own surprise, when I read her story, I did not judge her. Not a single second. Nor did I pity her. As I read her experience of being bullied when she was young, being abused by her ex-boyfriend, and her depression in college, I did not for a second think that she’s lame, stupid, or unworthy of my time. In fact, I felt the exact opposite. I was enthralled. I couldn’t stop scrolling the text on my screen, and the feeling was magical. What I felt was power: her brave, courageous soul. Instead of judging her, I had the utmost respect for her. I felt compelled to keep reading, to learn more about her, to listen, and to be vulnerable. If I were to put those magical feelings into words, I would say: I felt inspired.
So, what if I did the same? What if I shared my deepest secrets and shameful stories with the world? How would I feel? I really don’t know. But I want to give it a try.
I was bullied in high school. I would be terrified to enter gate 5 of Shanghai American School Puxi campus, hide in my mom’s car in front of burger king, and my heart would wrench at the thought of stepping inside that heavy, black gate. I was never bullied in a physical or verbal way, but I was ignored. Little did I know that ignorance is one of the most common ways of bullying.
I would walk over to a group of people in study hall who are talking, and they would pretend that I did not exist. I would try my best to come up with a relevant comment to the group, but nobody bothered to listen. Neither did anyone respond to what I had to say.
My English was poor. I’ve spent only one hour per day in my previous Chinese school in English classes, taught by teachers who barely know the ins-and-outs of English themselves. The mere English I knew was from practicing the dialogue in the textbooks, on how to talk to your landlord or how to purchase fruits in the market. I was the best at English in my Chinese school, but that’s definitely not the case at Shanghai American School. Everyone is native, and more importantly, everyone is familiar with American culture. I, on the other hand, didn’t understand any of their slangs; didn’t play any sports; and haven’t watched a single episode of Modern Family or Grey’s Anatomy.
It was hard to make friends. I did not belong. I was perceived as an outsider, an intruder who didn’t understand their culture, their world, and their way of life. Everyone dressed in a cool, fashionable way, while I struggled to figure out what the word “fashion” means. Everyone talk with their fluent American accent, while I did not even know what “DPRK” stood for. I was ignored and looked at differently.
Lunch times were my darkest fears. I would be scared to watch the Digital clock turn to 12:45, because that means I would, once again, have to eat alone. I would slowly walk to the Kiosk on the first floor, secretively glance at those walking around me to protect my insecurities, and buy a fajita wrap. I wished I didn’t have to eat. But of course I had to. High school is a special place - everyone is immature, cliquey, and sensitive. The force was against the “loner”, and “loner” was the word that nobody wanted in their dictionary. So, to avoid being seen eating by myself in public, I would carefully hide my wrap in my bag, and then walk to the end of the hallway, and quickly go into the girl’s bathroom. Once I made sure nobody saw me, I would go into the biggest stall among the three, and slowly, hopelessly, unwrap my burrito.
I can’t remember how long I had to do that, to eat in the bathroom because I was insecure of being viewed as a “loner”, because I was scared of being unpopular, and because I was so miserable.
It’s nobody’s fault that I had to eat in the bathroom. High school kids don’t know any better. I was also only 16, and I was no different from any of my other high peers. Of course I was immature and insecure; anyone 16 year old who was put in that kind of a highly conformed, competitive environment, where she has to speak a language she barely understands, would be.
But I had to carry that traumatic experience in high-school with me. Sometimes the thought of walking through gate 5 still trembles me: it brings back those unpleasant memories, the feeling of being ignored. A 16 year-old innocent girl feeling scared and traumatized because she was neither listened, understood, nor accepted.
Today, I’m no longer the girl I was. I’ve grown to be a much more secure and confident person, because I am more clear about my own worth. I can eat alone whenever I want to; and I can eat with whoever I want to. Now, I prefer a quality meal alone to a meal filled with small talk and conversations that bore me with a crowd. I usually only choose to eat with those who I truly care about.
You, too, have the power to choose. You, too, can stop worrying about what others think of you or perceive of you, because their judgement is not your worth.