I Have A Label
My mom used tell me how much better than everyone I am. About my ‘superior’ capacity. She would, in her words, give me positive encouragement. It would have been nice if her positive encouragement had anything to do with the real world. If her encouragement had helped keep me part of the world, instead of alienating me. It would have been nice if I had been allowed to be a part of the world, but you see, I carried a label. I was ‘superior’.
Everything I did, everything I said, everything I was, carried the flavor of that label. I was superior. Not a good person. Not a person who was allowed to make mistakes. Not a person at all. I was ‘superior’.
I had problems as a kid. In Green Acres Day Camp in Montreal, I was alone. I was perhaps twelve years old, maybe eleven, and I didn’t fit in. One of my counsellors pulled me aside. I had more in common with him than the kids my age. He tried to be helpful. He told me to develop a sense of humor, or as he said it “Make people laugh. When you make people laugh then people will like you. Just make them all laugh. Then they will like you.” I was eleven or twelve years old and I already had issues fitting in with other kids. My own parents were oblivious. I was the ‘weird kid’. At home I was still ‘superior’.
When I was older, I started to feel depressed about my situation. I was a depressed teenager. We can make fun of the stereotype, the teen kid with sadness and feelings, but I think, if anyone had cared to find out how I felt, they would have immediately tried to find me some help. I was isolated as a teen.
We had moved cities and, instead of doing the procedure in a normal way, our move had been rushed and secretive and traumatic. We didn’t have to move that way. It’s what my parents chose to do. They chose to uproot me and my sister. They chose to do it while we were out of town. They chose to throw out my things. I didn’t get to choose. They did.
We lived in a luxury apartment, isolated from the world. Travelling to the nearest neighbor was, at minimum, a twenty minute expedition. From the outside, it was probably enviable. From the inside, I was isolated. From the inside, I was alone and in pain and no one cared. One night, I cried. I was fifteen years old and I cried and nothing changed.
I did passably in school. I never felt it was okay. I am certain my marks were okay. Instead of a public high school that part of my local community, I was further isolated by distance. My parents did me a favour. They sent me, and my sister, to a private school. I knew no one. They way people lived was unfamiliar to me. Most ‘friends’ from school were not of my culture. I was told, repeatedly, that sending me to this school was a sacrifice. That I should be grateful. That I should achieve well to show gratitude. At school I was the ‘new kid’. To some, who beat me up, yes actually beat me up at private high school, I was a ‘Jew’.
I was beaten three times at this prestigious private school for being ‘a Jew’ even though I have been told, even in retrospect, and by other Jews, that this never happened. That it wasn’t like that. That it was not that bad. I disagree. It happened.
I was told to expect things about my classmates. I was to watch them because, as non Jews, they would be trying to convert me. I was to be strict with myself. I could be their friends but to watch myself.
Over time, and due to pain and loneliness, I developed alcoholism and drug addiction. I wasn’t happy at all. I was alone.
I didn’t mesh well with the people from school. This was not their fault. This was not my fault. Their expectations of me, versus my extremely unrealistic expectations of myself and them, did not make for a happy time.
I was just alone.
I learned that it was better to not be with other people. I just was alone. And miserable. And depressed. And wanted to die.
In my twenties, I went to the hospital sometimes. I was never admitted. I was never going to take action. I was just angry and sad and desperate. I had dropped out of school several times. I hadn’t finished high school. I was not medicated. I was in pain.
The thing is this: that all through my life, I believed that I was the problem. I was a problem. I was the issue. Somehow my feelings were wrong. I had even been told, by my parents, that I shouldn’t feel like I did. I was horribly ashamed.
I have lived most of my life, it feels right now, by holding on and hoping.
I am safe today. I am sad, but I am safe. Today is about holding on.
I hold on.