Watching my daughter start school this year I couldn’t help but to think of my first couple years of school in the United States. Also watching this Presidential Election I wonder how different my experiences would’ve been compare to the world we live in now. As an American citizen I love this country well, it’s the only home I know. I can’t stop but to reminisce on my past. I remember my first day of school in 1st grade. I was scared, lost, no one to cheer me on and tell me I was going to have a great day. No one to pray with me or for me. I had no one taking pictures, I had no one to walk me in or take me to school. I was in a new world and I felt lonely and alone. Nonetheless, I ventured of in a new role as a student not knowing what was waiting for me because I believed learning was my only freedom.
I walked in the classroom with a smile on my face, I guess from a very young age I unconsciously already had my mask on. The mask I use to wear when I was around people. The mask that showed to people that I was OK, but inside I was broken and alone. My smile was my mask. I stepped in the class and I saw the other kids sitting down so I sat down too. The classroom was bright and smelled very clean and peaceful. That’s when I discovered the sweet smell of lavender. There was a chair open right in the middle of the squared shape classroom. I sat down with my head down. Trying to be what I already felt inside, INVISIBLE.
My teacher, was so beautiful, she was a blond, blue eyed and tall figured woman. Her voice was so angelic, very soft and kind, in my heart I felt safe. not long after I sat in my seat I remember that the school bell rung and she said something then everything stopped. The room was silenced, everyone stood up and started to recite the same thing. I didn’t know what they were doing but I stood up and just watched. Soon after we sat down Ms. B started calling role and I didn’t hear my name. I raised my hands (I still don’t know why I did that) and told her in my very broken English that she didn’t call my name.
“Teacher” “Yes” said Ms. B. “Me, name, Nehlie. You not call” ” Nehlie? I don’t have a Nehlie. I have a Bethany, is that you?” She responded with a question on her face. I thought long and hard because first I was trying my best to understand what she said. In my head all I heard was ‘Is that you, Bethany?’ After a couple minute of an awkward pause and all eyes on me, I shook my head yes and presented a smile of solitude.
I forgot after I was adopted for protection from family, gangsters and people wanting to hurt me, my name had to be changed. Nonetheless, I didn’t agree with her because I believed she was right. I agreed because I felt picked out and spotlight on me with no mic.
Two things happened that day, one I had to learn my new name. Second don’t ever raise my hands again! Okay! I learned the 1st lesson the second lesson well, I don’t think I’ll ever win that battle. The year was fun I don’t remember anything from my class but till this day I can sing the Cha Cha song. We had PE twice a week and we’d go outside and play or dance by ‘we’ I mean me. While all the other kids played basketball, tennis, hopscotch and rope I’d be in the other side dancing all by myself and after a while other kids just stopped trying to communicate with me. I confused them to much. I tried so hard to speak to them but all I was saying is what I was learning from watching my new best friend Mrs. Television at home. Words like
‘Oh you done, done it now!’, ‘ I’ll be back’, ‘friends?’ ‘Me you want to be friends?’
After I realized I was the joke of everyday at recess I decided to sing myself through the day, not even the teachers could get me to stop. I guess singing soothed the feelings of loneliness, lost, confused and embarrassed.
I didn’t get to go to 3rd grade and for once I was relieved, we moved to a new town. I understood more, I answered to what was still a new name to me. I learned from my last school to keep my non-English speaking mouth shut so people wouldn’t make fun of me. I can honestly say it worked. I was in a smaller class with other students who didn’t speak English either and for once in this new world I felt that I found a place where I belonged. ” I no speak English” was my new language and I was in my comfort zone. Years went by, many lessons learned, many ups and downs, I graduated High School. I was honored with 2 full scholarships for college and studied Education and minor In Psychology.
My journeys haven’t been easy and I’ve had many, many, many trials and tribulations. I’ve had to find my life and finding out who I am and whose I am. It’s been a journey of great lost and great victories, I can honestly say today that now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Today I use my path of conquered tests to encourage others and to remind people that your name is not your identity. A name can be changed but who you truly are inside can only be changed and amended by the one who made you, God.
I am not an introvert however, I do love to listen and watch my environment, as I observe the lessons of this life journey. I’ve learned to not get to comfortable in a state of mind, body, soul or spirit. We are constantly growing and re-birthing ourselves, one can’t be new if you cling to the old. My first day of school in America was also my first day of school in this journey call Life. Join me at www.givingbirthtoaqueen.com to take this journey with me.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on October 1, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com