Do you know what it's like to be judged? I do. Before you judge someone by their appearance, you should get to know that person. Just because others have labeled them unpopular, dorky or nerdy doesn't mean that really says anything about that person. Most don't take the time to understand others and usually rely on what they hear from rumors, or what their eyes let them see.
I am 16 years old, and was adopted from Seoul, Korea when I was three months old. I have lived in the United States my whole life, and have experienced so much hate and pain that it makes me wonder why our world is how it is.
My whole life people have judged me for what they see without taking time to get to know who I really am. I have had a hard time fitting in almost everywhere I went. I often hear people murmur racist comments under their breath, and laugh.
All through elementary school, kids would ask the teachers why I was in their class, and tell the teachers that I was lost, because they didn't think I knew English. No one even asked if I could speak English. Every day at lunch I would sit alone and endure the teasing and laughter. At recess, I would play alone. Kids would take my toys and tell me that if I told, they wouldn't be my friends. At that age I would do anything for someone to even pretend to be my friend.
In junior high, the hate got worse. People would no longer keep their stupid comments to themselves, and instead said them right to my face, or loud enough so I could hear them. The evil words still echo in my ears today. They would say words with such resentment and rage, without even considering their impact.
"Her eyes are funny." "She's a gook." "What's wrong with her face?" "Why is she here?" "Don't let her eat your dog." "Ching chong ching."
How could people be so insufferable? What had I done that they had reason to be this way to me?
The agony that I hid would come out when I went to bed. Burning tears would stream from my eyes until sleep claimed me. I would awaken the next morning and beg my mother to let me stay home. When she denied my request, I would put on a smile and go off to school. I hated to be there, I hated not having anyone to talk to. At the time, things at my house weren't the best as my mother was ill and my dad was working long hours. So my sorrow would have to wait. It's not like they wouldn't listen to me, but I didn't want to burden them with my problems.
As I grew, my problems grew, and instead of turning to my parents for help, I turned to alcohol and drugs at the age of 13. I had gotten kicked out of school, and was at an alternative school. I made some friends, or what I thought were friends. They drank and smoked pot, so I began to do that too. I figured that they would accept me if I did what they did. I continued to drink and smoke, but the drinking got worse. I convinced myself that drinking my problems away would solve everything. I no longer cared what people thought, but really it was only because I was too drunk to comprehend what they were saying.
Things got worse at home, too. I began to disobey my parents and not come home until I decided to, and we often quarreled. One night, things got really bad and I let everything go. I was so upset that I started screaming and yelling. My little brother was bawling, my mother was hiding, and my father was yelling at me. I grabbed the phone and began taking my rage out on my mother, striking her with the phone. I was bellowing at the top of my lungs, shouting, "I hate you, I hope you die." My father tried pulling me off, but I just kept beating her. With one great pull, I went crashing to the ground. My father called the cops. I went to my room and shut my door. The cops told me I would have to stay somewhere else that night, which was fine with me. I thought I was getting off easy. I stayed at a friend's house, and once again drank my problems away. I didn't sleep, and avoided school for days. All I was worried about was drinking.
My whole life was going down the toilet and I was the one flushing it, though I didn't realize it. I kept getting into more trouble. I was losing hope, and when I looked into the mirror, I didn't even know who I was looking at. I didn't know what to do or who to talk to. I was so upset with myself for believing that drinking was going to change how people saw me. In time, I realized that those I thought were my friends were not.
One hot summer night, when the air was sticky and heavy and nothing in the world felt right, something happened that changed my mind about drinking. I was at a friend's house and everything felt out of place; I could almost taste the evil lurking in the air. I could hear screams, and moans of agony upstairs, so I went up and saw my friend lying on the bathroom floor spouting vomit everywhere. She tried to pull herself to her feet, but fell back onto the floor. She told me she was spinning and her life was about to end. I didn't know what to do; I told her she needed to lie down. Her body was cold and she reminded me of a rag doll, flopping all over the place. Finally I got her to lie down, and went downstairs.
While I was waiting for my friend to feel better, a man in his early 30's approached me. I could smell the liquor on his breath. He began to pull at me in a forceful way and I could tell something terrible was going to happen. When I pulled away, he put more force into his shoving and pulling. My friends did nothing, even when I asked for help. They were probably too drunk or high to pay attention.
That night, as my friend was passed out upstairs from drinking, I was almost raped by a drunk. I cried myself to sleep. I didn't understand how people could be so cruel.
As the hours after the incident passed, so did my desire for drinking. After this rude awakening, I realized what alcohol was doing to my life. I tried to see myself five years from now, and saw nothing. I didn't understand why I couldn't picture myself in the future, and then realized that was right because if I kept on drinking, in five years I would be nothing.
After that day, I seemed to grow up. My eyes opened to the dangers of drinking. I know now that I wouldn't be who I am, and where I am today. I might have learned it the hard way, but I'm delighted that I could realize what was happening in my life before I was dead.
I hope that you can take time to understand how significant your life is. And before you make a rude comment about others, think about how it might affect their lives.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.