What I Learned | Teen Ink

What I Learned

April 25, 2020
By jacquelinewu2004 SILVER, Stony Brook, New York
jacquelinewu2004 SILVER, Stony Brook, New York
5 articles 4 photos 0 comments

As I write this, I look outside onto the water. Blue is slowly fading into a dusty purple, and a few meager clouds are scattered across the sky. I can't see where the water starts and the sky ends. There is no set boundary separating the two entities, much like there is no set time when night surrenders itself to day. 

Similarly, I’m not sure when, but sometime, somehow, I learned. 

Early on, I learned by listening, wide eyes being my window to the world. These are lessons impressed upon us when we are young and innocent. I learned that the world wasn’t a child's play castle. I learned that dreams don't always come true and that I needed to work hard to carve my own light, a beacon in depressing reality. I learned to be grateful because I was better off than someone else in this endless world we call ours. I learned that children my age in Africa were starving while I could wake up to eggs sizzling in a pan and fresh milk sloshing in its bowl. I learned. I learned that lying was bad and that the truth and good always prevails. I learned that there was a fine line between love and hate and that crossing that line meant everything.

Then, I matured from a carefree child to a serious teenager, and the veil over my eyes was lifted, ripped from my eyes. Now, I learn by making my own bygone conclusions that matter only to me. At school, we learned about issues. Racism! Sexism! Stereotypes! But that's all they are: words. 

I still remember the eighth grade when my mother told me something that truly lifted the veil from my eyes. 

She said, "You have to keep emotions bottled up and to never say a word to anybody." When I asked why I had to keep hurting, all she said was, "You could end up getting burned by the fire of betrayal."

I learned who to trust and who was there just because, those with smiles that were faker than a conman in the presence of his clients. Those who ran the second things got real. I learned the difference between real friends and strangers who call themselves your friend. Strangers that show their true colors when I take a leap of faith and rip off my mask because I think I can trust them. That's also when I realize that I was used for their own convenience. 

I learned that ignorance, with all its selfish forms, is one hundred times worse than hate. It starts with the same letter as innocent, but there was never a starker comparison. We learned to never judge a book by its cover, but it's the foundation of our hypocrisy. We judge people on their flaws while ignoring our own imperfections. Tears mean depression, anger a biting temper. Apparently, even smiling as your defensive measure means that behind the facade you built, it's not possible to be sad. Even close friends and family judge me, those who claim to love me the most. Judgments that play on my deepest insecurities. But I’m supposed to take them all in stride because they only want to help me, right?

So of course, I have to put on a mask to appear the person I’m not to evade those oh so helpful stares and comments. I have to cover my ears to protect myself. And this will never change. 

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