Fear of the Unknown

In what follows I’m gonna share with you a very personal story of mine. And it’s not necessarily a story, but rather a growing up, personal development experience. A story about acceptance, if you wish.

I was born in Bucharest (Romania) and until the age of 18, that is where I lived. I always had a passion for interacting with people and places. Thanks to my family, I had quite some opportunities to go explore a little bit around Europe. After finishing high school, again thanks to my family, I went to study abroad in Manchester, UK (and I guess you already have a feeling of where I am planning to go with this – keep close). My parents joined me on the way there and they (mostly my mom, who was abroad for the first time after ’89 and for the first time in `Western Europe`) were quite scared for me and my pursuit. They were about to leave me alone, in a new city, 3000 miles away from home, where ‘who knows what kind of people are going to cross my path’. After three years of UK, with goods and bads – but mostly goods – I moved to Maastricht (Netherlands) for one year. This pretty, little city was full of pretty amazing people coming from all around the world. For half of the year I lived in a house with 6 people of 5 nationalities and spent most of my time with people of more than 10 nationalities. One year later, chance brought me to Brussels and this is where I experienced the peak of my diversity encounters. Even if the Belgian capital seemed quite grey (mainly in terms of weather), on a deeper level, it was pretty colourful. The city is home to no less than 183 nationalities, therefore even more ethnic, cultural and religious spectres. Now, I am back to Bucharest and even if I miss exploring the many cultures of the world, I still do analyse them from afar.

So, after this quick intro, let’s get to the real point of the story. My first year of Uni was the first time I got to meet many people from outside my social, cultural, political or religious circle; and let me tell you something: many might be frightened to meet or be around someone who might seem totally different than them. But why?! For me, being around these people only meant raw cultural education: I listened to them, they listened to me, we exchanged opinions and traditions, we always had a great time discovering each other’s cultures.

There was only one time when I felt truly scared – the Brussels attacks. And this fear came not from the fact that I lived in a city with a large Muslim minority, but because one of the attacks happened 300 yards away from me. This, too, was a first for me. But it has opened my eyes and it allowed me to better understand that instances like these are happening daily “on the other side of the world” and that many, many people live in fear – the fear of not being alive in the next second. And this is truly a fear; not the one of passing by a Muslim person or one of colour. Not the fear of having your purse stolen by a ‘gipsy’ (the correct terminology is Roma, by the way), nor that a Jew will try to make tricky business with you.

After the Brussels attacks, I was writing about the Jew we met at a bar – it was a truly inspiring story for me, and hopefully others. But happenings like this made me realise that nevermind our background and life journey, we all have the same dreams, hopes and aspirations. Why do we have to generalise the whole majority because of the few exceptions? I never understood that. Think about the fact that all these non-White, non-European/Western humans have to live with a tag on their forehead, they have to live with a degree of fear more than ‘we’ do. Sometimes, the one you call ‘the other’ might be more afraid than you are.

Moving on, after the recent attacks in Manchester this time (and in case you didn’t find out, at least three more devastating attacks happened since then: Cairo, Baghdad & Kabul) I fell into a mood of melancholy, sadness, anger and uselessness. In the past couple of years, once every few weeks/months I have to call my friends and check if they/their families are alright, wherever they are, wherever it strikes. And I am not talking about Europe, nor America here. There is life outside of these borders – and a pretty hard one, let me tell you. Complaining that I am fed up with this ‘monthly check-up’ of those who might be affected, a friend joked that these are the perks of being multicultural – it sounded as if it was a bad thing, but I probably didn’t taste it because of my mood. I think that this is the whole point of 2017: embrace all cultures; that’s what we keep fighting for. Equal rights and opportunities for EVERY.SINGLE.ONE nevermind their background or preferences.

To conclude, I am EXTREMELY lucky and grateful to have met, studied, lived and worked with all sorts of people. Over time and experiences, everything turned out more than fine and only beautiful people from around the world have crossed my path. They thaught me that being open and embraceful (there you go – a new word) is the best way to get past our differences. The world as I imagine it is utopic, is hard to achieve and it is something that goes beyond me or my powers. But I have a voice and I choose to use it for all those who are willing to listen and act.

A change always starts from an idea, from a thought, from an experience. Be open, get involved, discover the world as much as you can (whether online or offline), meet people, talk to them, learn their stories and learn from their stories. Never give up into the fake, bad-intended news or reactions. Try to create your own opinions from own experiences or through the experiences of people you really trust. Be kind, be loving, be an example to others. And remember this: nevermind the amount of bad in this world, there are around 7 billion people who can change that. If you are one of the 7 billion people who can make a change for the better (in life, in your community, in your country or for the environment – anyone or anything really), just do it.

Before I go, I will leave here a song that sums up most of what I’ve written.

Until next time, with a little update:
open your mind and your heart to what the world has to tell you!

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