If there is one thing that I know in life, it’s this: everyone has been hurt. In the age of social media, where everyone smiles for cameras and most flaunt like they are living a life of sultans, behind the facade and manufactured perfect lives are people who go through the slings and arrows of woes. Not even the richest among us can escape the clutches of sadness; the greatest equalizer in this world is the ennui of living life.
In fact, the more we attain in life, the harder the blows come. That is because those who make it their intention to find happiness through possessions often end up finding turbulence. Yet upon second thought, hurt is hurt—hardship is relative to what we know and experienced first hand. We’ve been searching for equality since history has been kept not realizing that we are all made equal before pain.
Let me not present this from a third person perspective as if I’ve figured it all out. Here is what I’ve learned over the years, all the hurts I’ve experienced throughout my life can be traced back to an original hurt. The times I have struggled with acceptance and sought validation a bit too much is rooted in a pain that transpired when I was a child in Ethiopia. The injury of being yanked out of my native land and arriving in America as an immigrant left an indelible mark on my heart and a scar in my eyes.
This scar became the cracked lens I saw through for most of my life. Growing up teased as a foreigner, missing my grandmother in Addis Ababa, feeling like an outsider in America was the genesis of my distress. A once rambunctious child was mollified by the experiences of being otherized; the child within me who was carefree roaming my neighborhood in Bole vanished and was replaced by a nine year old who found comfort in front of a TV while wrapped in the netela (blanket) that reminded me of a home I lost.
All hardships arrive with blessings. The reason I am able to connect with so many people and feel convicted to stand up for the little guy is because I felt injustices one too many instances in my life. A lifetime spent talking to endless people that spanned the spectrum of our differences led me to this one understanding. Even though we cope differently, all of us are trying to mend from pains we experienced growing up.
As the world turns, the more it burns with anger and hurt. Even though most of us want justice in this world and yearn equality of opportunity for all, we keep getting sidetracked by our egos. The more technology evolves, the more we devolve into the abyss of incivility and strife. We insist on healing each other with doses of anger and pills of animosity. The rancor we release into the ether and the odium we unleash upon others is nothing more than a projection of the child that is hurting within each and every one of us. Click To Tweet
Here is one more thing I have learned over my sojourns in life. Broken people can’t help other people unless they address their brokenness first. I’m penning this for the writer as much as I’m writing these words for the reader. It took me many lessons and reflections induced by lonely walks to realized what triggers my emotions. I racked up two degrees and endless certifications, success I’ve tasted plenty—only to be livid when someone with lesser values attacks my worth. Serendipity! I was never battling people in the present, I was always fighting ghosts from the past.
It’s no accident that I’m writing this article at Makeda Restaurant, an Ethiopian eatery in Alexandria, Virginia. Surrounded by fellow Ethiopians, I still feel like the immigrant who misses home and yearns the hugs of my grandma. Yet I’m no longer saddened by these void, these are the challenges we all go through regardless of our station and class in life. If my burden was not leaving my birth land, another injury would have found home in my heart. For some the pain is abandonment, for others the hurt is violation of innocence, for others yet the wounds are physical that handicaps their lives. Yet all pains are interconnected irrespective of our differences—we all mourn a loss of what we once had.
If you take away nothing else from this article, just know this one thing. No matter what you are going through at the moment, you are not alone in your walk. The obstacles that seem too much and the adversities that feel permanent will one day lead to abundance. Sometimes it takes a trial by fire to burn away the chains from the past. We never mend fully from past hurt, healing is a process more than it is a destination. But in this uncertainty, there is beauty to be found. Test is a testimony that has yet to be fully spelled out. #Test2Testimony
“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.