The hardest day is always the first one. After that initial day, it is claimed, life gets easier. Whether you’re starting off with a new job, going to a new school or college, just getting to know someone for the very first time, the initial moments are the worst. I remember my Dad telling me that before I went to school for the first time: the first day is the hardest, after that it’s a piece of cake.
I’ve never told him this, but he was wrong. The first day at school was the beginning of something far worse, something which followed me for several years and, to a certain extent, hasn’t come to an end yet.
A little while ago I wrote a post on misunderstandings; how people can misunderstand what is meant through a less than complete understanding of a foreign language. My problem, from that first day in school, was not so much a misunderstanding of language, but the use of the wrong language, the wrong words to describe a situation. What should have made things easier for me, for everyone in the class, came across in exactly the wrong way.
I’m not going to say that I was bullied or anything like that, I’ve been able to defend myself physically since I was small; the neighborhood boys were not exactly careful in their rough and tumble games and I could hold my own without problems. I’m also not going to say that I was mobbed, although I suppose that is the closest thing you can get to what happened to me during my time at school.
I was put into a pigeonhole, right from the first moment I entered the class. This resulted in me being treated by many, even those who know better or who learned the truth over time, as an aberration; something strange; someone who doesn’t fit in with society. I don’t know how many different names I was called during those earlier years in school, and I’m not sure that I particularly wish to remember any of them, it was enough having just this one word mentioned, misinterpreted and seized upon from that first day onwards.
I guess the teacher simply didn’t realize what she was saying, it can happen. Later she didn’t remember saying it and, indeed, denied ever having used the word at all. Selective memory, perhaps, but something which sticks in my memory as if it were just yesterday.
Sometimes you need to be careful what you say, what you write, how you describe something or someone. What may seem right at the time can be open to interpretation, to misunderstanding or, as in my case, to abuse. There are enough cases of abuse without anyone needing to fuel further through a ill-thought lapse, a wrong word, an inappropriate joke.
I remember the whole incident as clear as clear can be. The teacher held my hand and we stood together at the front of the class, which is bad enough. Everyone was looking at me, the little Asian girl, the new girl. And then the teacher uttered those words which sealed my fate: ‘This is Viktoria who is joining our class today. Now I want you all to welcome her and treat her just like one of us and never mind the fact that she is dumb.’
Love & Kisses, Viki.