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