If you’re reading this, it’s ok to not be ok and to let yourself feel.
It is important to note that when writing this letter, I wanted to be as transparent as I could be about my experiences in the past. I go into detail of parts of my life that are rather dark, and before making the decision to read this letter I advise you to consider the sensitive material that is included within.
A word known as home to the native Oshiwambo tribe of Namibia. A place that, for most of my life, I didn't consider to be mine.
I was born to two Chinese immigrant parents who had moved to a post-apartheid Namibia in hopes of living a slower life and starting a family. We were one of the only Asian families in the country, and growing up I was barely exposed to similar faces. Many forget that apartheid had ended around 25 years ago and that the aftermath of the racial tensions still held strong in the present. Being neither black nor white, I was made a target of discrimination from both sides. And because of this, I knew that from the moment I was brought into this world, I was an outcast.
I never really knew what it felt like to be accepted by any group of people and always felt as if I was floating between groups that despised me equally, regardless of who I pretended to be. My whole life, I’ve been trying my best to find people who would love and accept me, or at the very least… tolerate me.
As life went on, it started to seem hopeless. The environment I had grown up in was toxic. Not only was I vagrant among my peers, but they found the need to torment me. Needless to say, I was bullied. Foul comments would be said about my race almost every day by students of all ages, and even in high school the younger students would join in on the mockery and ridicule. To paint a picture of how I was treated, there were ongoing nicknames that the students had given me: “crybaby” and “moffie” (the Afrikaans word meaning f*ggot). Eventually, teachers, friend’s parents, and even the principal had started to call me by this name, and if I rebutted, I would further validate their points and be the kid who couldn’t take a “joke”. This made me uncomfortable going to school, and even the idea of carpooling with my friends scared me to my core in fear of being degraded even more.
Eventually, this got to me, and I would often feel as if I was truly a manifestation of what everyone had accused me of, and was eventually. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I started hating myself and everything I was, and in fourth grade at the mere age of 10, I had my first suicide attempt. I stopped myself short, but it was the first of many. To this day, I’ve had so many that I don’t even remember the exact number of times I tried… It was always a cycle. I would feel great, and genuinely think I was better, then I’d slowly start to descend into depression through a series of self-loathing and detest for life and sometimes if things were intense enough, it would lead to taking an extra step.
I felt so alone, and that feeling was warranted because, besides my immediate family, I truly was alone for most of my life. I remember expressing my suicidal concerns to a “friend” in ninth grade, and she exclaimed to my entire class that I wanted to kill myself for attention. I had nowhere to turn to…
I eventually sought out professional help in 2016, when I had moved to America for boarding school. I had this mentality that all my problems would be solved. This, naturally, wasn’t the case, and problems regarding my mental health manifested in different forms. At this point, I felt like the world was against me. I felt as if strife and challenges just followed me, and at moments when I would be feeling better it would be quickly trampled on with a new situation.
Honestly, I don’t know if things will ever get better for me, it is never certain, or if I’ll ever find, but what I have come to terms with is that it’s ok to feel like this. I tried to push away the idea that I struggled with the trauma of my past and depression for so long, but recently I’ve been beginning to accept it. The first step is always acceptance and allowing yourself to feel these emotions, as it is where you can identify the areas where you need to heal. If you need to cry, then cry, if you need to scream then scream. It’s all warranted.
I wouldn’t have come to this realization if I hadn’t reached out to my friends and found professional help. Let yourself feel, and take the necessary steps to let yourself heal. It made me a lot more comfortable to open up to people, especially those at UVA, and even though I’m still struggling with many things, at least I’m trying, and maybe one day I could finally find my egumbo.
Léo Z., University of Virginia ‘22