Branded “Romanian”

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” It’s the Romanians the Swiss are afraid of. The Swiss don’t mind foreigners in general, but they are afraid of Romanians and Bulgarians, they’re everywhere.” My best friend was holding back a mad fit of laughter. He sneaked looks at my face, and I was stifling a giggle of my own. I can’t help it. I don’t sound Romanian. Apparently, I don’t look Romanian either.

The only thing that was holding me from bursting into laughter was the fact that this poor man had been such an easy target, slightly encouraged by my best friend, whom favors controversial moments. I felt a little bad knowing he was being led into what would later be an unpleasant moment.

The gentleman, egged on by my best friend, would not give up, asking for the third time where I am from. I was desperately attempting to salvage him from blushing his way into the ground, but finally I accepted there was no way out and replied: ” Romania”.

And so it went. He apologised awkwardly, then tried to explain himself. Thing is, I understand him. I don’t blame him. This is something that we need to work on, as a nation. We dismiss ourselves as less, then worse, we split our nation into Roma people and Romanians, pointing a finger at the uneducated and less fortunate part of our population.

I was blessed to live in another country as a child and to first hand suffer because of the racist attitude of those around me. Many were the days where I would cry wherever I thought I was alone. I felt alone. Children can be cruel. However, a lot more painful were my own preconceived notions of what it meant to be Romanian. Notions I would hear from others, not grasping their essence, just an understanding that I am less because I come from there. I wish they would teach self-confidence in schools.

At 11, I felt less than a person. At 27, I am so grateful to have felt that way, so that I could fully appreciate who I am today. As a woman, as a human being, as a Romanian. I’ve understood that it is my choice how I feel. How I respond to any circumstances.

At 27, I refuse to let anything condition me. I refuse to limit myself because I am Romanian. I refuse to limit myself because I am a woman. I refuse to limit myself because of my age, height, weight, financial power. I believe I can achieve anything, and there is a peace that allows me to hear the words of this gentleman, to understand him, and not think less of myself or of him. There is nothing to defend. There is nothing I want to prove to him, because I know who I am, and I am at peace with that.

There are good people. There are bad people. It doesn’t matter where we are from.  All that matters is what you tell yourself at the end of the day. The things you choose to believe about yourself. The way you choose to see the world. We are not victims of anything other than our own beliefs, the notions we choose to reinforce and the limits we impose on ourselves.

I wish I’d stop hearing fellow nationals say they are ashamed to admit where they come from. It’s not the country, it’s their own misguided understanding that limits them. I wish they would stop using their nationality as an excuse to label themselves victims. I wish we would appreciate the many wonderful co-nationals in our country and around the world. I wish we’d embrace other countries and nationalities altogether.

I am lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing people today, and they are from all around the world. They’ve taught me so much. Stereotypes, labels… they will always exist. But we are so very fortunate to have the opportunity to choose whether we give these labels power over us. Because, at the end of the day, labels only have a hold over us if we choose to believe in them.

And honestly, nobody can tell me any different: we are limitless.

Filed under: Journal of my soul Tagged: appreciation, Art Expo, beautiful, branded, British, choices, Communist mentality, everywhere, flooding, funny, genuine, giggle, humor, I love people, judgement, less than others, limitations, mind, more, nationalities, Nationality, pre-conceived notions, racism, Roma people, Romanians, self confidence, smart, special does not exist, stereotype, swiss, unimportant


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