No pictures involved because there’s no appropriate image for this entry.
So, while I see many of my friends on Facebook posting photos of themselves way back when,1 i decided to have a different approach. Instead of posting photos of myself way back when, I thought about illustrating my “Throwback Thursday” moment through written words instead.
On April of 1987, for the first time, I was enrolled in my neighborhood middle school,2 my very first American school. Truth to be told, I remember not looking forward to going to school for two reasons: I did not finish fourth grade back in the Philippines, and the second (not to mention the most important), the obvious language barrier. Back then, at age 10, the only English I knew of was knowing how to read and write. Like learning a foreign language, there is a huge difference with reading, writing, and understanding versus speaking the language, and that was what English was to me.
My first impression then was that I was rather shocked to see so many Filipino kids in my homeroom class like myself. The only difference between those kids and myself was that I spoke nada English and they spoke nada Tagalog. Because as fifth grade kids that we didn’t know any better, I had my first taste of discrimination against my own kind. I’ve been called by several terms, but the very one term that I DID NOT LIKE at all was the derogatory term of FOB.3 I mean, first of all, my family and I entered this country legally. My father’s immigration visa was approved by the U.S. government through legal means, which obviously made us as legal immigrants. At first I didn’t know what the term “FOB” meant until the beginning of sixth grade, when I was called that same term over again by new classmates simply because I was dead quiet and simply could not reply to them by speaking in English (let alone speaking English with an accent).
With this whole “FOB” thing going on with me against the rest of my class (as in graduating class, not homeroom class alone), I never really made “long-lasting” friendships. I just try to get along well with others who actually looked at me as if I was any other kid simply so I can survive social-wise. Other than that, I never found a group (clique?) to belong to, never made any “true BFFs” or whatever you call them, I guess I was one of those kids who fell in to the “loners” category back then. Throughout my entire middle school years, that was how my adolescent life was like.
I did not learn how to speak English fluently until I was in seventh grade, but even till then, the whole “FOB” teasing still went on. I know a few of my friends now whom I met since middle school are now reading this, and for the sake of privacy and respect, I will not name any names.
It wasn’t until I got in to high school that I got an “awakening,” so to speak. Rather than pitying myself for not “fitting” in as a “new” American kid in town, I discovered the terms “independence” and “individuality.” I vowed myself to improve as a person in high school by being a lot more social, to open up more, and of course, to get myself out of the “loners” category. And just like my self-vow, I did do better. Sure, I didn’t exactly find a circle of friends (?) which I can “permanently” belong to, but I have met new friends from all around with different backgrounds and outlook in life. Just with that alone, I finally felt like I belonged. Even though I personally did not enjoy many of the things most (American) kids experienced and enjoyed, just feeling of acceptance and belonging was more than enough for me.4
After high school, college came and at that time, even though I promised some people who signed my high school yearbook to “stay the same,” I felt that I have changed a lot for the better. Somehow I felt a little more witty. Sure, I still have that old shyness that I had back as a naive immigrant kid,5 but I wasn’t as quiet or as much of a loner as I was before. Sure, I still do things alone, but that’s only because I just want to be alone. For example, I don’t eat lunch with co-workers because I wanted to have a quiet, peaceful lunch.
Today as an adult closing in to the forties, I’m just an overall average person. I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I never look back in the past when it comes to socializing and meeting with other people today and I think that this is the only time that I’ve looked back. I didn’t write this entry just to pity myself or have everyone pity me. After all, what I’ve experienced back then was during the times where kids were not as “enlightened” as many of the kids today, and instead of using my past as an excuse to get away with things or to have some things go my way, I use it as a moral value to present to the younger generation. Not sure if that’s the right term.
Well, it’s getting late now. I have to wake up super-early morning again tomorrow. Goodnight.
- nothing wrong with that… [↩]
- now known as the Itliong-Veracruz Middle School named after two promiment Filipino figures who helped Cesar Chavez form the UFW… [↩]
- “Fresh off the boat.” [↩]
- Never went to my senior prom, never had my first boyfriend, first kiss, first whatever, etc… [↩]
- My family and I became American citizens in the early ’90s… [↩]