I am grateful today for having met so many different people in my life, just on this little planet, this tiny little world in a huge universe.
When I was living in Virginia, I had the chance to know two friends who came from LGBTQA+ families. One was a boy, B, who had two moms and an older sister in his family; the other was a girl, A, a single child who also had two mothers. I remember being vaguely confused when they told me (separately) that they had two moms. I thought then that it sounded quite strange to have two mothers and no father, because, in my childish mind, I had always imagined parents to consist of a mother, and a father–not both of either one, at the same time. But I got over my initial puzzlement quite early on, because my classmates were so happy, and so normal, and it really didn’t seem like a big deal that their families were a little bit different from “normal” ones. And it still isn’t a big deal. It’s not a big deal that they live with two mothers, it’s not a big deal that some kids live with two dads. They were happy, their families were happy, and that’s the most important thing.
Now, I’m glad that I could meet kids like them–kids that didn’t come from “normal” families. Knowing them allowed me to understand that not every single person in the world is going to be exactly like me, or exactly like the stereotypes the media throws at us every day. It’s certainly helped me from being a very judgmental person, because I try, I really do try, to understand other people before I judge them–and if I can’t understand them, I try not to judge them at all. It seems nicer to just let people be what they will be, as long as they’re not hurting anyone.
And then, of course, I have met kids from biracial families. I used to have a friend, D–his father was black, while his mother was white, and he had four or five brothers and sisters. It never struck me as odd to know that his parents were of different races; it just seemed completely natural–which, of course, it was. I’m glad I got to know him, too, or else I might have simply assumed that everyone has to get married to someone of their race, or someone with the same religion, or that it’s somehow “not normal” if you don’t.
Add that to the fact that our old neighborhood was filled with people from different countries, who spoke different languages, and ate different food at different holidays, and I’m really grateful that I could be exposed to so many different people when I was young, so I wouldn’t grow up with false notions, or certain prejudices.
Then, when I was in middle school in China, I met with more people. Sometimes, they were fun, and kind, and caring–many times, they were not. Sometimes they were brash and loud and fearless, like they weren’t scared of anyone, or anything in the world; other times, they cried, and didn’t let me see them do it. On the outside, most of them were so BIG–their voices, their personalities–but sometimes I would see how much it took for them to be that way. I heard them talk about their families. Their dead fathers, their dead mothers, their mentally insane widowed mothers, divorced parents, abusive grandparents. Their unhappy childhoods and bleak family lives. I rarely heard them talk about it, and I knew why, because I knew they felt vulnerable, and their families just weren’t what they wanted to think about when they were away from them. They didn’t want to appear weak, that I know. So I never asked about their lives at home; I just listened when they felt like telling me about it.
When I was in high school in Changsha, a few years later, I met a boy that would sometimes tell me about his life. He was just as loud and just as fearless and just as outspoken as my middle school friends, and he would throw out chunks of his own history at me when I least expected it, as we sat at our desks side by side. He was an immensely irritating deskmate, and he certainly wasn’t a friend, but he did like to splay his bony body out like a starfish (invading some of my personal space while he was at it) and then proceed to tell me the most random parts of his life that he could think of. I learned that his father was a cook, his mother was jobless, he had a little brother (or sister, I can’t remember which) that was annoying and deterred him from the idea of having children later in life, and his mother spent most of her time in Mahjong clubs. I once asked him if he knew how to play Mahjong, and he scoffed at me and said (in that too-loud, harsh, grating voice that could be heard a mile away) that of course he did, he’d spent his childhood hanging around his mother while she played in those smoke-filled little clubs you can find on the streets.
To hear my old deskmate talk, you’d think he found his own life rather amusing. He never cried, never became angry, never said that he was upset over anything that happened to him at home–he seemed to tell us about himself as if his life were one big joke. And I found it so puzzling, then, when he told us that his parents were both physically and emotionally abusive (he didn’t say it like that; he just let out these cryptic bits of what they had once said to him). He said that his parents had beat him until he turned fourteen and decided that he could fight back. He said that he had told his parents to fuck off before, and that he didn’t regret it at all.
And he also showed me his scar.
One day, he just casually rolled up the sleeve of his school jacket and showed me the faint, faded scar on his skinny, skinny wrist. (He was too thin. Thinner than me, even though he was taller). Two friends, one guy and one girl, who sat behind us then, leaned over to look, and laughed, asking him how he had gotten it. He told us he’d cut it himself when he was in middle school. The guy asked him what his mother had done after she noticed, and my deskmate cackled that she’d slapped him up the head. The guy guffawed then and said that he’d though my deskmate’s mom would have, oh, hugged him and cried over him for hurting himself–but no. We all kind laughed at the absurdity of it, because he was telling the whole thing to us in this isn’t-this-hilarious, enormous voice, but later, when I thought back, I realized how unbelievably sad it all was.
And all these people I’ve known (there have been so many more)–they make me sad. They make me think. They’re kind or mean or nice or funny or smart or cunning or loud or bold or shy–they’re so many different kinds of feelings and emotions and experiences. They have histories that I don’t know about. And they’ve known people that I will never meet, more people with more feelings and more experiences and memories. They are worlds. Worlds of memories, walking about every day, going around their own orbits. Worlds.
Isn’t it funny to think that, every day, as you go about your life, you’re really brushing against all these universes, galaxies of feelings? The things they see, hear, smell, touch, think, dream of, wish for, hope for, love, hate.
It’s strange and marvelous, and a little sad, but mostly amazing.
I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to know these people. To have heard them, and some of the things they’ve gone through, so I could develop a more mature perspective on life.
So this was going all over the place. First I was saying how grateful I am that I could get to know different people, then I was waxing on about how different people are like different little planets. Bizarre. I’m like this–scatterbrained, with the attention span of a fly. It’s why I never finish anything but these diary entries that ramble on and on about completely unrelated things.
So I’m going to stop now.
Have a good Friday, everyone, and stay chill.