Emily Lam

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Sunday, July 08, 2012

I'm Starting to Forget

I've reached a point in my life, where I've become more knowledgeable than some of my high school teachers, that I'm starting to forget what it's like to be unlearned. This is kind of a problem since I still have so so much to learn. I live such a privileged life: I surf the web, maintain a blog, go to museums, attend special lectures at MIT, participate in bike rides, roll my eyes at how superficial and commercial society is, sit in central air all day, hibernate from my friends, and other privileged activities. My college peers are all educated. They value education whether for the right reason or not. Not all educated people are the same though, you see. Some have a thirst for knowledge, while others are educated because it's part of a process to becoming "successful." I'm of the former. I google and wikipedia anything I don't know. And then there are some who behave as they are educated but are not, but I'm not going to get into that, gasp, that actually could be me! However, a lot of educated and successful people are unbeknownst to the life of the uneducated, the unprivileged. I come from a prideful, historic, and poor city. From that I was lucky enough to befriend people who couldn't attend their college of choice for one reason or another, people who joined the military, people who were immigrants, people who's parents neglected them, people who've had kids during their teenage years, people not like me. It's so easy to blame peoples' lack of education on themselves without taking their environment into account. It takes a very strong person to rise from a family where every member is in a gang. And I must remember that. Remember that being educated is a privilege.

Friday, I was reminded what it was like to not know why the sky was blue and to live a simple life. I met a man on the train. Normally, I don't converse on the train – I rather stare out the window and observe the scenery and day dream. But this man insisted on talking to me. And I politely participated. Of course, I didn't say much. But he told me of his life. He told me how he was a construction worker. How people in the United States judged him based on the fact that he only had one arm. He showed me his photo album of before and after photos he'd taken from the jobs he had worked. He told me nobody believed him that he could pave sidewalks and build basements on his own with one arm. He was a hard-working man, I could tell. He lamented how people in America were lazy. How in Massachusetts, we charge an extra 3 dollars for a train ride, if you bought the ticket on the train, while at the same time not providing an option to buy your ticket before boarding the train, since nobody was working the desk. He said if he was working that desk job, he'd wake up early in the morning to make sure people had the opportunity to purchase a ticket before boarding. He rightfully complained how this particular desk didn't take credit or debit cards. He told me how he was pursuing his GED at night. And how he was hopeful to drive one day. How he didn't work on Saturdays because he attended church instead. I've come to realize that being religious isn't a bad thing. It helps ground and explain a lot of the unexplainable. He told me how he had been in this country for 6 years and that his baby daughter was five months. How he worked hard to send money to his home country, Honduras, to support his mother and other two daughters. How he was part of the army in Honduras. He told me how he liked to walk, walking from city to city. He even told me about his pants size, how they were getting smaller since he started walking a lot. He told me how he was a vegetarian. How his girlfriend didn't know how to cook, and that he had to cook meat for her. How he liked it better when it actually snowed in the Winter, that way he could make money by shoveling.

All and all, he was an interesting guy. He was a hard worker, like my mom, like my dad. I don't want to be one of those privileged folks who doesn't understand what it's like to work. Sometimes, I give off that impression. I've never worked a labor intensive job, ever. And while, I don't ever want to, the least I could do is understand and remember that it is not always a choice and that it exist: there are people who are uneducated, and working labor intensive jobs who may or may not be happy. But as a privileged and educated person, I should respect them for being better than I am and never look down on them.

(I was going to use the word "cultured" in this post, but realized it was a very vague term. Maybe, I will discuss being "cultured" in my next post.)

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