At a tender age of seven years old, my parents decided it was time for our family to move from our cozy two bedroom house in East Vancouver to a bigger one in the more affluent neighborhood of North Burnaby. In my short while living in East Van, I made some amazing best friends and still remember the playdates with Anna, Amy, Galton and Suzanna. I was extremely heartbroken and shattered after learning we were going to move away and I would have to say goodbye to my only friends.
When we moved to our new home in April of that year, I was excited for the sheer size of the house, but that was it. Any sense of excitement was overshadowed by fear and confusion. I was still confused by the entire move and never really understood why my family wanted to move away from where we were so comfortable, and I was fearful of what was going to show up in the next few months. All I remembered was telling my mom how I desperatly didn’t want to go to the new school, but I obviously didn’t have a choice.
With only three months left to the school year, I was the awkward new kid, the foreigner and the one who was different. That’s exactly how the remainder of the year played out for me, however, things got worse.
I didn’t know a single student there and I had a really tough time making new friends, being a naturally shy kid to begin with. When I was introduced in front of the class, my hands were pushed into my front pockets and my eyes gazed down to the floor. Those three remaining months to the year felt like an eternity. I had no friends to begin with. No one wanted to play with me during recess and lunch time, and no one even wanted to talk to me. Each day after school, I would go home crying to my mom. Each morning, I fought and argued with every ounce of energy I had to my mom, pleading her not to make me go back. Until one day out of frustration she brought me to school and had a talk with my Grade 1 teacher Ms Brown. She was an extremely strict teacher and I even heard rumors she used to punish students by hitting their hands with a wooden ruler for not doing their homework.
That morning after my mom explained to her how I didn’t want to go to school, Ms Brown started the day by hauling me to the front of the classroom. Sternly, she hollared out loud to the entire class, Who here likes Jason?
Perplexed by her question, some of the grade one students raised their hands, while others didn’t. Meanwhile my mom stood to the side of the room watching. Standing alone in front of the class, I whimpered, ready to cry and kept my hands pushed tightly into my front pockets, eyes pasted to the floor. Ms Brown angrily shouted, Get your hands out of your pockets! You’re a big boy now! See! There ARE kids who like you!
I kept my hurt buried deep inside and sat at my desk, pushing through the rest of the school year alone. I was the lonely little boy sitting by himself on the teeter totter.
Everytime the other kids didn’t invite me to play, I felt: hurt, sadness, shame, judgement, loneliness, isolated, excluded, stupid (for not knowing their rules), lost, confused, humiliated, embarrassed, rejected, envious of them having a good time, awkward, unlikeable, angry at them and at myself, and resentful at them and myself.
In my adult years now, I’m starting to trace back some of my fears and anxieties to this young childhood experience when I was seven. I find myself struggling when I can’t do things well that others can. For example, when D plays a killer game of golf with others, while I’m hitting nothing but grass, I feel the same feelings come up again: shame, exclusion, envy, humiliation, isolation, judgement, stupidity, resentment and anger. Though, I often unjustly externalize these feelings, the truth is, it’s an internal thing I’m challenged with. The root of these feelings are in fact directed at myself.
I sat on my couch this evening, meditating and reflecting back on my experience in grade one, and an amazing memory surfaced. During those several months of suffering, I remembered this little girl in my class who sat behind me. Her name was Julia and she was the only student in my class that welcomed me with acceptance. I remembered her brown long hair, tied into pony tails and her tanned complexion. I even remembered her missing tooth when she smiled. She was the only one who wanted to play with me. She spoke to me. She laughed with me. She included me and reminded me, I was not alone. She accepted me and made me feel an ounce of safety during those lonely days at school. In a funny way, I sort of remember her being like my Jenny in the movie Forrest Gump.
As I work through a lot of these experiences with my counsellor about the feelings that’s surfacing during my current relationship, I need to hang onto the albeit small, positive experiences that helped get me through those difficult times, such as my friend Julia. And today, that friend is D and she’s my best friend who helps to remind me, I am safe and I am present. I am not my past and I am determined to heal from my wounds, and become stronger than ever.