I was sitting in the living room of my aunt’s apartment. And in her living room, people were watching a reality show. Life dramas, unresolvable marriage complications, and tears, lots and lots of them. I listened to some conversations from the show because I was stuck in that room with everyone else, but the stories did nothing but ridicule me. Retrospectively I understand where my contemptuousness back then came from and retrospectively it all made sense.
That was probably the year 2008 and that was when I could call myself a teenager.
On that night I quietly walked to the other side of the living room where there were panels of giant windows. I stood there staring into the night. The night was sparkling because of the lights from the homes, streetlights, and headlights. The city looked full of life and I wondered if I could live a life as alive and exciting as the view in front of my eyes that night.
In front of those windows I spent quite some time thinking about some almost philosophical topics. I uncovered a few facts—maybe not quite facts at that age—thoughts that may have defined who would become anyways. There were a few thoughts about ambition, a few words by which to abide, and some wishful thinking that is now deemed dreams.
The fact is that, fast-forwarding to 2019, I have indeed been filling the prescriptions that I scribbled for myself a decade ago.
Now in 2019, traveling from city to city and working on projects after projects, I am making a small yet measurable and positive impact on people’s lives as I have always wished.
During the day, I help students on campus with their digital projects using my programming and design languages; at night, I help students from around the world with their writing using my everyday language. There is probably nothing more invigorating and rewarding than seeing my friends and students move closer to their dreams—dreams that they wanted but feared to pursue without someone’s help. In the past one month or so I have provided consultations for dozens of digital projects, heard hundreds of stories, and edited tens of thousands of words, from people living in all different parts of the world. These projects, stories and essays came in all shapes and forms, conveyed in languages of different tones and styles; but there is one thing shared in common—they are all steps that people take to get out of their comfort zones and to become better individuals.
Now back to that teenage self.
I may have had an unprivileged and a sad childhood as I grew up but this has somehow sarcastically defined who I am and who I have been hoping to become. 10 years ago in 2009 I was reading the House on Mango Street, where one of the closing statements struck me:
She knows that one day she will pack her books and writing materials and leave Mango Street, but she will have left only to come back for the others who cannot get out on their own.
Back when I was 18, I was struggling to stay afloat. I wanted to make a change and make a difference, not just for myself but for people for whom I cared. However I was like that little Sandra, who was neither privileged nor empowered to make such a change or difference.
Inadequacy was the state in which I was, but I never thought about giving up.
In this wild and bewildering world, it appeared difficult or impossible to help others when I was the one who probably needed help the most. However, life once again happened in a counter-intuitive manner—I had the most palpable sense of what life would be when I was discriminated and unprivileged. Some parts of my childhood may sound like an ordeal but at least it was authentic, not in a way that I would appreciate or enjoy, but in a way that made me experience what an average person couldn’t experience or comprehend. In other words, my subpar childhood might have inscribed the mission statement of my life.
“How is that possible?” You may ask me with a scorn; but I would defend with an answer in affirmation. Age is nothing but a mindset. On paper the numerical value describes a physical attribute but in practice it characterizes the mentality that one has. I might have aged but not my mentality. A friend of mine was surprised that I somehow still preserve an unaltered mindset of maybe an 18-year-old. I still see the good in people, believe in morals, and love people unconditionally.
I don’t know what happens at the very next moment in life but while I still have this current moment at hand, I will try to stay young.