By Amanda Deebrah
As the season of giving is upon us and the decade commences, I’ve been very reflective of my life and this is what I realized…
The first thing I realized is that although I’ve endured “problems” throughout my life, there is someone who has it worse than me. I think about throwing my hands in the air and giving up because I have too much to do for school and work… but somewhere, out there, someone isn’t in school and/or doesn’t have a job and wishes they could. I think about when I have a cold and I’m not getting better, I’m bitter that my body is failing me and I can’t even fix my own self… but somewhere, out there, someone is battling cancer.
The second and most important thing I realized is that “not all heroes wear capes”. I grew up as a first-generation American and that is the biggest part of my identity. Thus far in my life, I have done much that I am proud of. In a nutshell, I graduated from every stage of school with honors, I am one semester away from graduating with my master’s degree, I began working at 15 and began my career at 19, and I have the 6 best friends a person could ever ask for. But no matter what I have done or will do in my life, the thing that I am most proud of is the doings of my parents. Neither of them realize how much they do or have accomplished and here I am, sharing with you how proud I am of them.
They both migrated to the states from Guyana in their late-30’s, early-40’s and dropped out of school back home in the 2nd and 4th grades to help their families. For as long as I can remember, probably since the day I came out of the womb, they’ve told me that education is the key. As an only child, I had no one to pave the path for me when it came to school.
But the one day that changed my whole life was in the 3rd grade. My mom and I were reading “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and I was so aggravated that out of anger and spite, I told her, “Leave me alone! I’ll do my homework by myself from now on”. As an 8 year old, I knew my mom is a softie and would get over it by the next day.
Tomorrow would come and we would sit at the bed side and do homework. Tomorrow came and she didn’t. I asked her for help and she said, “Do your homework yourself. Isn’t that what you wanted yesterday?” Dr. Seuss changed my life. From that day forth, I had become an independent homework doer and my life has never been the same. That day taught me that my parents are the strongest support system I will ever have but I needed to let them be their own people. They were so invested in being there for me that I never allowed them to be themselves.
Here are these two people, in a new country, who don’t know what something as simple as the winter feels like, trying to make a life, but in the midst of all of that, were investing their time and effort and sacrificing so much to help their child. My entire life has revolved around the sole fact of making my parents proud. All that I am is because of my parents. They have taught me kindness and love and humility and morals and spirituality and literally, all that I am. They have showed me that although my life can be hard and sometimes can feel unbearable, so are the lives of many others. They have instilled in me to never judge a book by its cover or content. They have taught me that if your shirt is $1 or $100, if the person next to you doesn’t have a shirt, as long as you have another shirt, you give them the one on your back without hesitation. They have explained that the world is a hard and can sometimes be an evil place but if someone helps you once, you help them back for the rest of your life (granted that they are still respectful towards you). They’ve showed me that it is more important to love people instead of materials – not the other way around.
My parents really only had each other and I grew up in the lower middle class, but they gave me the world. They always worked minimum wage jobs and I realized, at a young age, that through me, their dreams can be fulfilled – which is a tall order. I spent much of my life navigating between making them proud and doing what makes me happy. Sometimes that coincided, sometimes it conflicted.
Of the many things they have taught me, these are the lessons I carry every single day. Love thy neighbor as thou love thyself. Do not fight fire with fire/ do not indulge in eye for an eye. There is a God, somewhere out there and you are part of the plan. Trust the process. Do not compare yourself to others. You don’t always know why people do what they do, nor do you need to; let them do it. Be empathetic and kind. Believe in karma.
So… In the spirit of the season of giving, be kinder. You never know what demons someone is battling… and sometimes all it takes is an act of kindness.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.