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August 23, 2013
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Please don't take what you've got for granted

Journal Entry: Fri Aug 23, 2013, 12:40 PM
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I'm from a Third World country called Guyana. It's located in South America, and while it's a beautiful country, it is a poor one.

My parents and I emigrated to America in 1995, right before my third birthday, and we moved into a small, cold attic. For my first year in America, we had no furniture. We had no couches or chairs. We used to eat our dinner on a cold kitchen floor. At some point, I had came across a cardboard box which I had folded into two pieces and drawn cushions on. That became my "chair" for my first year in America.

As well as I know my father, I don't know the complete story about his childhood or how he grew up. My father was orphaned by the time he was sixteen years old and I vaguely know that he grew up in poverty.

A couple of years ago, my father was bringing home a pizza for me. I was hungry, so when he finally got home with the pizza, I said something along the lines of, "Oh, thank god! I'm starving." My father, whose eyes I'm the apple of, who's never yelled at me before, immediately snapped at me. "Don't ever say that!" he yelled. "Don't ever say that you've been starving because you're not. You don't know what that feels like and you don't want to know what it feels like."

And it was through moments like that that I've managed to piece together my father's life growing up. I know that there were too many nights that he went to bed hungry, scared because he didn't know where his next meal was going to come from. I know there were months where he would wear the same tattered clothes because he didn't have any other choice.

When my father came to America, he worked hard. He would wake up at two in the morning just to do some extra work to get paid overtime. He would wait for a bus every single morning, even if there was a blizzard, just to get to work. He had an old pair of shoes which he would trek through the snow with. They weren't waterproof, his toes were often freezing.

All of my father's hard work has paid off. I wear Prada, Chanel, Givenchy, etc. We're not rich, but we can afford to have the luxury of not having to worry about money.

One of the things that I am grateful for is never having lost touch with my roots. I grew up living a splendid life, all due to my parents, but I have never forgotten where I come from. My grandparents still live in Guyana and we've still got family there. I've got cousins who I am extremely close with and we write to each other regularly. We visit Guyana as often as possible and I have never failed to remember that if my life had only been a little different, I would have been growing up on these dirt roads.

The thing about American children, and yes, specifically American children, is that they don't realize how spoilt they are. They don't realize how naive and sheltered they are. They grew up isolated in the walls of suburbia and what do they know outside of that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I know poverty exists in America and there are genuinely poor kids here too. These are not the people I'm referring to.

I've got this one friend who constantly likes to tell me about "the real world" and enjoys rubbing it in my face, thinking it will scare spoilt little me. He's the typical example of a sheltered suburban kid, too naive to realize how spoilt he is. Has he ever been hungry? No. Has he ever been thirsty? No. Has he always had a home to go to? A bed to sleep in? Clothes to wear? Access to an education? Yes.
Yet he thinks he's got all the worldly knowledge and wisdom over me. Why? Because he had a job in high school?
While it is thoroughly true that there is more to life than money, everyone's experienced pain. Pain, rage, happiness, and any sort of emotions are universal and experienced by everyone. So to compare those sort of problems is tedious.

People only see the product.
People look at me and they see the Prada hanging off my shoulder and make their assumptions. They think I'm spoiled, shallow, sheltered. Am I spoiled? Absolutely. Am I shallow and sheltered? No. Just because I don't know something first hand doesn't mean I don't know it. I haven't experienced poverty, but I know it's out there.

I'm from a Third World country and I don't want to hear some spoilt American child telling me how hard life is. So what if riches weren't handed to you your entire life, you have SO MUCH to be thankful for. So many of these kids I grew up around forget to look at the big picture. In this world, there are hungry people. And every time I go back to Guyana, I see some of these people. I see them on the street, begging for money, begging for something to eat. The luckier ones have a rickety shack to call home. And the even luckier ones have a job that pays a couple of dollars a month. I know that I could have been living their life, easily. These kids that I grew up with know that starvation exists, but they can't really comprehend it. They grew up in their safe homes with central air, and out of sight, out of mind.

I'm not writing this to ask you to not judge me. People are going to do that regardless. I don't mind if you think I'm a shallow little piece of meat, I know I'm more than that. I'm twenty-one years old and I'm about to start my senior year in a prestigious university as a biology major. I am working so hard to take advantage of the life I've been given by my parents and to take advantage of the opportunities my parents, my family, were never given.

I am not capable of expressing how extremely thankful I am to have the parents that I do, nor am I capable of telling you how proud of them I am. My father, who once starved, is now a successful man who can more than afford to take care of his family. I am so thankful for him. I am so proud of him. And as I write this, I can feel my eyes stinging from the tears rising up.

My point of writing this is not to ask you to not judge me. Rather, my point is to ask you to be thankful for what you have. Be thankful that you've had the luxury of never being hungry. Be thankful that you've had the luxury of always having a bed to sleep in, having clothes on your back. And, yes, these things are LUXURIES. As much as these things are the bare necessities, too many people in this world don't have them, so they are luxuries.
And if you grew up in a home with people who love you, consider yourself on top of the world.


I know a lot of what I've said here is controversial and can perhaps be interpreted in the wrong way. Take everything you've read with a grain of salt.

I just hope I've said something meaningful.






Journal Skin by TwiggyTeeluck
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:iconlongcoolwomaninblack:
LongCoolWomanInBlack Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013   Artist
I know someone like you. At least in your physical description of poverty. I do not mean to say I know you because I do not. A Russian woman who got her clothes and matress by going through dumpsters. If you are going to Amherst I will have my reality challenged. I prefer to live in large cities because suburbanites usually make me sick, But then I was in the suburbs for a while and the cities changed on me. Your witing has meaning you have affected me.
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:iconwitchiings:
witchIings Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I just want to point out that I'm an American, and though this journal has a really touching message, I was pretty offended by the paragraph or two about American children.
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:icontwiggyteeluck:
TwiggyTeeluck Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
You'll live. ;)
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:iconbeautifulnightmare66:
BeautifulNightmare66 Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thank you for this journal entry. It hit me hard. It brought out emotions in me, memories. I am glad to learn you are making the most of what your parents gave you. I understand your irritation with the common suburban kid, yes most are just ignorant to the world. I live in the suburbs outside of Philly PA, I have seen people on the streets, sleeping on the sidewalks, children crying for food, for someone to just love them... But I feel that the majority of homelessness is just from poor choices in that persons life, laziness, drug addictions, lack of confidence. While in third world countries, people are born into poverty, not their fault or their parents fault, but their governments, etc. etc. People in third world countries are given no choices and no chance to make things better for themselves. Unless they get the heck out of there and work their tail off. I love living in America. but this Country is lazy. Lazy, lazy. The government, the politicians, just a greedy, disgusting mess. Not getting into it, pisses me off. 
I was born in Philly to a young mother and a father who was a drug addict. My mom worked so hard to put herself through college and worked nights, then came home and studied studied studied, while also raising me. Alone for the most part. She would never take handouts, she would rather not eat, to make sure I ate. I remember having very little. The bare minimum in our home. the little bit of money my mom did have, my dad would take and use for his drug addiction. I never went hungry, because my mom stayed hungry for me. My moms hard work paid off and she divorced my dad, got a great job, met another guy, remarried and raised me during my teens in the suburbs. I'm grateful for my mom and her struggle to make sure I was healthy. Anyways, I've rambled enough. You have a beautiful gallery and you are an amazing person. Keep up the good work!
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:iconshisho2k:
Shisho2k Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
What a wonderful post.  I wish all people had this response of appreciation.  Too many take what they've been given by the hard work and will of their parents and grand parents, and turn on everything they stood for.  I think of all the silly politicians, and the so called "elite".  We are still led by the least among us.  I dare only imagine what a world would be like if men like your father held office and actually represented people.

I've had some rough experiences in my life, but when I grew enough to gain perspective, I really felt embarrassed for myself about what I felt was a hard.  I think about the unimaginably cruel existences, and how completely unnecessary it all is.  We could do so much better, but we won't, and not without a constant struggle against ignorance and arrogance that often comes from being bathed in privilege.

Your father I think did well to convey his values, and you were empathic enough to receive and understand it.  But I see those two ends broken for so many people.  So many people lecturing and griping about the "problems" in the world, as they've been told, in their relatively problem free life.

It fucking makes me sick how twisted people can be in how they think, and how little they actually walk through these ideas of theirs to see all the painful holes in it.

How defensive they get, and how their opinion is supposed to count for something, when it really is just shit.  If we built the world according to them, it would be a ghastly nightmare they would be the first wanting out from.

A good post, and stay real.  =)

The world needs more of that.
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:iconmalice-winterharte:
Malice-Winterharte Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2013
This is very true,r and I thank you for posting it. It is sometimes hard to get my son to understand that. He is still young, and there is much to teach him, but that he has everything he needs he should be thankful for. I've been homeless, gone days without food and it's not nice, and all to often someone is more likely to walk by then to help. It took alot of work to get a job, to get out of that position but I did it. I have a house of my own, food in my stomach, clothes on my back. That and the love of my family is all I need. I really do appreciate you posting this.
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:iconnamenotrequired:
namenotrequired Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2013  Student Interface Designer
Thank you :hug:

I'm probably prone to this, being raised in one of the richest and happiest countries on earth (so much that many of us look down on the USA as a country that has yet to get as far as we are in many areas), in a family with two average incomes (where of course, nationally average is globally really good).

Of course, my generation has heard a lot at school and on TV about countries that aren't as well off. My parents also always made sure we were aware of our luck, and we travelled quite a bit (though mainly within West-Europe). But while such awareness helps, not having seen - let alone lived - it yourself does make it less tangible, and in the meantime less credible because a lot of it is from the media.

Having `Gwendolyn12 as a girlfriend has helped me. She's from a BRICS country, and I've visited her area twice. In fact the most surprising thing was how relatively invisible everything seems; while it's obvious the culture is different and people have other priorities than keeping their streets and buildings clean, nothing I've seen screams poverty, at least not more than the occasional beggar or child labourer that you also find in the south of Europe. She does live in a relatively "rich" area (I think this mostly means higher employment, but not necessarily at decent wages), but she tells me about many things that are wrong with the country that apply there just as much as the rest of the country. Yet they don't show on the street (which is often understandable if you think about it but we're so used to the shocking images on TV, or perhaps I'm not a very observant person :P).

In a few months I'll be visiting her again, and this time I'll visit her family in the countryside in another part of the country! I'm very curious to see with my own eyes what their - according to her descriptions rather primitive - life is like. :)

One of the values my parents always made sure to pass on to me is to be happy with what you have. They always insist they are happy where they are and don't want anything bigger, not even a raise or anything. Perhaps it's also because of the age, but personally, I'm a more ambitious person (hence why I said "insist" - as a kid I often inquired as I didn't fully understand :giggle:). Or perhaps it's because they (especially my mom) came from less, and currently have already achieved what they dreamt of as a child, a good life with decent money and healty and happy children. Perhaps for me, this is the default and so I strive to add on top of this again. As a child, this ambitious nature expressed in all the common dreams young people have, to be a police officer, then later to be a rockstar or so. Now I realise that this wouldn't really matter for me - what's important is that I do something meaningful. So that's my ambition now, and talking to Ellen gives me lots of inspiration for potential change for the better :)

I ramble - I hope I'm making sense. Thank you for listening :hug:
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:iconvldmr:
Vldmr Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2013
"I just hope I've said something meaningful." - I live in the Dominican Republic, and to be honest this has me thinking am I grateful enough for what my parents have given me (including good enough education to express my mind in more than one language).

Thanks you for sharing this, it tells that you are more than a good artist, you are a true human being.

Again, thank you. 
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:iconnortenyo:
Nortenyo Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013
Very touching. :)
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:icondevilviolinistflesh:
DevilViolinistFlesh Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013
 I know exactly what you mean. i'm one of those native "americans", you may have seen in a history book,
and there's a lot of our people on the crappiest land on this continent, with some of the highest suicide rates
in the world. it's not as bad as it Used to be, mind you, not by a long shot, but it could still be better,
if we were allowed access to what is rightfully ours :D
but i guess the same could be said of all peoples, that if we were given just a bit more knowledge
to know how to cultivate the things we need on our own, and the freedom to do so whenever where ever.
you know what the first thing you have to do before starting a farm, regardless of what you know about farming?  Buy Land.
seems crazy to me, but hey, i'm one of those savages that was born here.
anyway this is turning into a whole long thing, so let me just cut it a bit shorter,
in life, sooner or later, you're going to have to work for the things you need and want, like, bust your ass,
shoulder to grind stone Work. it doesn't help complaining when there's stuff you need,
but no matter what your background, rich poor, white, black, red, yellow, brown, etc,
we All need the same things. food, water, shelter. and then there are things we want, entertainment, name brand whatevers,
faster internet, flashier cars, etc. despite my own background i know people who'll gladly fulfill a want before a need,
we have to be smarter. when there's so many that have so little, and we who have so much,
so much so that food on our store shelves goes Bad, because there literally arent enough people with money to buy them,
yet still people who starve to Death, we need to do better. 
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