I find myself lazing in my mid-morning read, pondering on how much my spoken thoughts contrast those of what I voiced just a few years ago. It’s without a doubt that with the opportunities I’ve had, I’ve learnt many valuable lessons. But my tolerance for an increasing amount of issues is what I owe thanks to diminishing the ugly words that previously spilled from my mouth.
I grew up in a high school where it wasn’t out of the ordinary to hear – she’s a whore, he’s a trouble maker, she’s an attention seeker… you get the gist. Knowing how global gossip of this kind is, I’m sure your school was the same.
Though not once did I, or even the adults around me, consider the reason why many people act a certain way. And even if we did know, and I’m telling you we don’t, we’ve all become accustomed to our own interpretations, way of dealing, and surrounding influences that are all undeniably unique to ourselves. Making it impossible to understand another being’s actions in life.
I read a lot, hence my morning ponder. Most of the books I read are set in the early 20th century or earlier, and most of which feature in some way or another, the inescapability of prostitution. This may be a harsh or confronting example to present but the fact is, it’s still very much a reality in every corner of the world. Now I understand that such a line of work can be a career, though I’m not speaking of the women that choose to do so, I’m speaking for those that simply don’t have that choice.
Having read these types of books for some time, one would think that I would have learnt this lesson long ago. Though these books are what they are – fiction. Nothing teaches you a lesson faster than a dose of reality – seeing it with your own eyes.
Throughout my travels, I’ve seen what citizens of struggling countries are forced to do for money, though one moment particularly stood out for me. Picture this – landing in Athens at 3:30am, we took a night bus from the airport to the city centre. While my two travel buddies napped on their travel packs, I pulled out one of my books for the 40-minute ride. Arriving at some random square, we had no wifi and no idea how to get to our hostel. Though luckily an elderly man that had just knocked off work (and consequently was actually living in the same hostel we were staying in), walked us half way, and told us in detail the rest of the way while he went off for his morning kafés. I had my own preconceived image of what Athens would be like considering its significant, and beautiful history. While also considering the country’s ongoing financial hardship. Though seeing the number of young women working the streets that we passed on our walk, did no more than ripple a pang of sadness and realisation through me, at the fact that what I had been reading just 30 minutes before, was much more than fiction to much of the world.
You will never know what it feels like to be in someone else’s position. Even if you could stand in their shoes, you would gain a mere understanding, not an exact match of feeling.
I can’t deny that ignorant way of thinking definitely began its diminish long ago. I vowed to myself a couple of years ago that I would keep an open mind to anyone I met, or at least keep my lips locked tight, knowing that it’s human nature to judge – it’s what we do next that counts. Though now I don’t need to vow to myself to not judge another person, because my journey has made it a given, teaching me that judging blinds us of underlying truths, while an open mind educates a heart of gold.
– Haylee x
P.S. I’ve just finished reading ‘Fallen Angels’ by Val Wood if you would like an insight to my understanding. Though not for the light hearted, and it’s set in the 19th century, it still addresses hardship and consequence.
P.P.S. I feel like I can’t leave without saying that nevertheless, Athens was absolutely beautiful, I fell in love with the city, and I can’t wait to visit again one day soon!