These students look fine. They study hard, they work hard, they smile and laugh and do all the things university students usually do. But never have I had any idea that their lives are full of pains. One of my mentees told me that some of her friends really have miserable lives. “You’d be shocked to know how heart-wrecking their problems are,” she told me one day. I shrugged. “Not until I hear directly from them,” I thought.
Then it happened. One day one of them just showed up, and suddenly I found myself listening intently to the story of her life. No, this one was not one of my mentees. But who cares; anyway, I am a good listener and whoever feels like confiding in me, fine, I’d be patiently and emphatically listening.
“What does your father do?” I asked.
“Hmm . . . do you want to hear an honest answer or not-so-honest answer?” she said intriguingly.
“Up to you, whichever makes you feel comfortable,” I said.
Then she told me. My heart sank . . .
“But . . . this financial matters . . . he still provides the fund, right?”
“Uhm. . . not really, Sir. He doesn’t really care about our education.”
“Oh, really? How come?”.
She said that her father expected a son, but it turned out that he had three daughters.
“Some people say that women should not go to pursue higher education,” she said. “And I strongly object to that. That’s why it really makes me angry to know that such belief still exists. I will prove to them that I am a woman, and I can excel as well as men.”
I drew a deep breath. “Really, I have no idea that life can be very hard on you and your Mother.”
“Oh, it’s okay, Sir,” she said. “I will be a tough woman, because my Mother is also tough. Tough mothers shape tough daughters,” she said, partly trying to reassure herself of the strong stance, partly trying to convince me that all this hardship won’t break her down.
“Bye, Sir,” she said, while I was still deep in a mixed feeling of pity and respect for this brave, strong and determined young woman.
Another young woman with raging life storms is someone from one of my classes. She never tells me directly what exactly her hardship is, but I can read from all of her written shoutings on the popular online social network. They were mostly reflections of frustration, desperation, and surrender to a horrible fate. A colleague told me that this girl has been in horrible relationships with her family members. Sometimes I could not resist asking her directly what she is actually experiencing, and she answers matter of factly.
“If I were you,” I thought silently as I was watching her do my assignment at her desk, “I would be crazy.”
But she is not crazy. She is lucid, clear-minded, logical, hard-charging, and many times even outperform her classmates in some of the classes that I teach. It’s as if she were saying, “Look! I am batterred so badly but I will survive!”
Then there is another, but this one is a very close colleague. Still relatively young, she has endured all the bitter relationships with people whom she expected to provide her with all the love and attention. They were all gone, wiped away from her life, leaving her on her own . . .
She once told me that the order of priorities in her life is: love, family, business, and money. “To me, money is only number 4,” she wrote.
“Well, “ I tried to argue, “but I have always believed that love cannot survive without money.”
“I don’t like the way you see it,” she replied bluntly. “Money is worthy, but I have been living without making it my top priority because I know it never deserves to be the top priority.”
These young souls in anguish, braving all the storms, with straight faces and unwavering determination. I am amazed. Really.