2005. South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Freshman year at a Historically Black University with 3800 black and 50 white students.
“I was lying on my bed.
I shared my room with another girl. The room was tiny, barely fitting two beds, two desks and two cupboards. It felt cold. Bare floors and walls out of stone. A small window with steel bars like in a prison so no one could escape or come in.
Loud noise outside. I was tired from waking up every morning at 3:45am and not being able to sleep before midnight. I was exhausted from the training followed by classes and homework until late into the night trying to compensate for what I missed during class from the language barrier.
But that was not the worst. The worst was what I had never felt before.
I never felt so lonely in my life. When I came to this place, I was hoping to fulfill my dream to play volleyball and be part of this Hollywood image from the TV shows. Instead, I fell into a nightmare of discrimination, racism and gun violence. My dad was right; it was a different world. Yes, I might not be racist but here it was the other way around.
Only a few people spoke to me or wanted to have anything to do with me. The girls did not speak to me because I was a threat to them in regards to the boys and the guys did not speak to me because they knew the girls would get jealous. On top of that came the language and culture barrier and due to a tight schedule and a strong tiredness I had no time and no energy to interact with anyone.
Of course, not everyone was like this and I found a good friend who ignored the norms of this university. But it was very tough to make friends.
A strong feeling of loneliness built up throughout the weeks – a feeling that was destructive to my confidence, my extroverted nature and my enthusiasm for life. One of the basic needs of every human being is feeling respected and appreciated. If that is taken away from someone, the purpose of life is questioned.
This situation brought up important questions about life, especially the interactions to others in the past. Was I giving and receiving the respect and love that is so important in life which until now have taken for granted? Or was I just chasing a career, status and money that is perceived as the fulfillment of life?
Whatever the answer to my past was, I had one for the future. I had to change my view on life.” (Excerpt from my book)
That year in South Carolina had been the most defining time in my life. It turned my concept of “what makes a good life” completely upside down. While growing up, the focus was on career and status to “be someone” in this society.
But during that year in South Carolina. I realized that these are just shallow, superficial pieces in life that can be smashed and eradicated any moment (Corona being the case in point). I learned from this very lonely experience that relationships, respect and love are absolutely crucial for a fulfilling life. What does status matter if no one cares about you as a person? And feeling lonely is an excruciating experience.
Thus, especially in this time of the pandemic where we are forced to stay away from each other, it is even more so important to show love and respect to the one`s you care about.
And it is so easy.
Write a message. Pick up the phone. Send a postcard. Schedule a video call. The options are there to be present and caring for others.
“To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. you just have to care.” ~ Mandy Hale
With love and until next week,