Turning 18 and Tackling the “Supposed” End of Childhood

Lately I’ve been reminiscing.

First year of university is over, and I’m sitting back in my childhood bedroom. Gone are my days of my tiny dorm bed with the white bed spread layered with pink flowers, windows that open just a crack, and flocking to a communal pizza on my floor at 3am. And gone with that is the independence I once had when I was living on my own.

My childhood bedroom I sit in has been mine since I was about 11 or 12 years old. It’s painted the lightest purple shade called ‘touch of violet’. I have butterfly wall stickers along the wall where my bed leans, fairy lights twisted around the winding metal headboard. My baby pictures are up on the wall, so are my school photos, my certificates, my plaques, my piano competition medals. I have over 20 stuffed animals sitting on my desk. This room has been a home to me for years, it’s grown up with me, seen me in my best moments, my worst moments. There are so many memories in this room.

When I first moved out, I remember timidly opening this big wooden door that had a metal plate bolted to it: “2W8” it said. Inside was a tiny little room, cream coloured walls, twin beds with no sheets, a desk, a shelf, and a closet with a curtain. None of my memories were in that room. But by the end of first year, it had felt like I’d lived there for ages.

Coming home was a weird feeling. It felt like I had reloaded an old save file and I was back trying to live the life I had lived before I moved out, except I was a totally different person now.

And I wondered, was this what adulthood is like?

What exactly is adulthood anyway?

Canadians legally define an “adult” as an 18-year-old individual. I remember how excited I was to become this glamourized ~adult~. I think I was disoriented by how different, but also how similar the world felt.

My 18th birthday passed without much fuss. It was very different. It was my first birthday away from home and I had 2 finals. I clamoured out of bed at 8am, got ready, spent 6 hours on exams, went home to my little dorm room, and went out for dinner with my friends. I remember lying in bed that night wondering to myself, “Am I different now? Am I a changed person?”

After all, I was legally an adult now. I could vote in the next election if I so chose to, did that somehow remove me from “childhood”?

From what I’ve experienced, becoming an adult doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t magically wake up on our 18th birthdays and something has shifted. I feel like the process of becoming an adult has been so gradual, you hardly notice until one day it’s just happened.

I notice this a lot when I look back on memories. We like to joke around and see something nostalgic and think “OMG THIS WAS MY CHILDHOOD!” but what exactly do we define as our “childhood”? Do we mean those silly naive years when we played make believe and dress up while Blue’s Clues played in the background? Do we mean playing outside until our skin was burned and the knees of our pants were stained grass green? It is hard to define adulthood if we cannot identify childhood. And I think the problem is we’re too focused on something arbitrary like age telling us that we’ve become an adult. Sure, there’s a lot more responsibility put on you when you become a legally recognized adult (think: filing taxes, getting police checks, etc.), but it’s not like you’re suddenly swamped with responsibilities, you’ve been building up more responsibilities your entire life, as you grow older.

I remember the very first time I walked myself home from the bus stop. I was about 6 years old, in the first grade. It just so happened that neither of my parents would be around when the bus dropped me off, and it would be safer for me to walk down the street (for literally like 1 minute) into our town house complex than to wait on the main road for someone to come get me. My dad gave me a key and I walked myself home, turned the lock, opened the door, and kicked off my shoes in the little front foyer. I hadn’t even gotten into the house yet when my dad arrived. That was one of the first moments (I hope. This could be a dream I once had, but it still serves my point) I had any shred of responsibility. I feel like from that moment forward I had somehow “graduated” from a part of my childhood. I had the ability and had proven that I could walk myself home. That was a moment where it felt like I had grown up, even just a little bit.

And I think life is a lot of moments like that. It’s hard to remember looking back, but there were moments where I cooked for the first time, biked for the first time, mailed something for the first time, etc. etc. and those were all moments where I gained new abilities and responsibilities that furthered me in life.

So I don’t know, there’s definitely this transitional phase in between “childhood” and “adulthood” (which I guess would be called your teen years lol), but it’s hard to say that there’s a clear point in life where you suddenly feel like an “adult” over being a “child”. I mean, I’ve technically been an adult for half a year now, and I only really noticed it a couple days ago. I suppose my childhood is over now, but it doesn’t mean I’m suddenly this all knowing adult being that can just venture into the world just like that. There’s still a lot of growing to do. Heck, even people who are 50+ years my senior have growing to do.

But turning 18 isn’t all the glamour it’s cut out to be. Rather, it honestly just feels like a marker in this grand story of life. It’s a point in my life where I can look back and think of all the amazing things I’ve done in my life so far. And as I keep growing, learning, and experiencing all the world has to offer, I can keep looking back to the nostalgic, cozy “childhood” of my memories, while also looking toward the new, exhilarating “adulthood” of my future.

– Carole

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Of 2016, Part I.

Happy New Year everyone! After ages and ages of 2016, we’re finally moving into a new year, that is full and teeming with potential. We stand at the forefront of this precipice. And it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do.

2016 was by far one of the most eventful years of my life. Looking back on 2016, I see a mountain behind me. When I look ahead, there is yet another mountain to begin climbing up. Here I am now, in this eerily quiet valley between.

I decided to start the new year off on this blog, to reminisce about the things I’ve done in 2016. As a forgetful person, I’ve gone through the effort to go through my twitter archive to find the most important moments of my 2016 life.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that it’s increasingly difficult to get a whole year to fit into one blog post, so this is part I, January to June, aka the first half of the year.

(Also, I’m aware that it’s February, it took me a whole month to finally scrap up enough time here and there to finish this monstrosity of a blog post [it’s about 2100 words long, so brace yourselves].)

Let’s get started!

My 2016: January-June

January

January was an interesting month for me. I find that every January that rolls around, I find myself in a rut. 2016 was no different. I was finishing my first semester of grade 12, exams were looming over my head, there were no holidays, it was always cold, I walked into school before the sun rose and left after it had already set.

The start of the new year challenged me to figure out who I was, led to some serious doubt, and watched me struggle to come to terms with who I wanted to be.

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My biggest goal of life is to make people feel something. I want to share joy, and happiness, and prosperity. Music is my medium for doing that, and back in January, all I wanted to do was pursue that dream.
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To achieve that goal though, there was a huge hurdle standing in my way. It was getting accepted into a music program! The New Year heavily burdened my thoughts with the prospect of this being ~audition year~. Despite the comforts from my teachers, my friends, my family, I couldn’t help but be nervous that I wouldn’t get into a music program. Holding on to this much doubt did terrible damage on my self confidence.
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Yet, through all this self doubt and lack of confidence, I began to find peace. It definitely took a long time, it still does, but when you begin to value yourself for yourself, you can begin to treat yourself to the things you deserve. I found joy in preparing for my auditions. I remembered that singing is what makes me come alive. I believed if I could just channel this joy, the audition panel would share in my enthusiasm and potential.
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By the end of January, half of my senior year was almost over. This tweet is very interesting to me because it documents just how much I’ve changed in high school. I remember being a quiet, shy, scared young girl. I didn’t like talking to people, didn’t like any social interaction, but here I was now, on the cusp of adulthood, flourishing in time spent with others, valuing lasting relationships, and spreading joy and positivity.

February

What a month February was! While January holds a lot of new change with a new year, February really kicked it off for me by starting a new semester. I always find at the turn of the semester I feel very unsettled.

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I’m not one that actively seeks out change. I prefer things to stay the way they are. Establishing a new routine, new classrooms, new coursework, new classmates, all at the beginning of February always threw me for a loop in high school.
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Though something that has never changed was my goal to be a teacher.
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February was also a very busy month because of the first ever CKSS Variety Show! I was super happy that this whole project came into fruition. Myself, along with our music council, had been planning the event since the beginning of the school year. After long countless meetings and an unbelievable amount of stress and setbacks, we were able to finally launch a new CKSS tradition, in order to share our love for all kinds of art. Not only that, but the whole even was completely student run, and an absolute success!
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February was also the month I realized how fast time was passing. The end of the school year was approaching at a crazy speed, it was almost scary to try and process it.

March

March was a very eventful month for me. I was accepted to 2 of 3 universities I applied to! The first acceptance letter I got was from MacMaster University for their Humanities program. If I wasn’t going to get into music, I was going to fall back on English, my second passion in life.

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MacMaster was my third choice university. But it was still a big step for me. When the email came in, this sort of numbness washed over me. For the first time since I had applied to university, it felt real. An actual university had received my application, reviewed my grades and decided to accept me! It was a strange feeling. I was both so excited, but very unsettled and nervous at the same time.
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Another huge milestone of March was, of course, my very first university music audition. It was at Wilfred Laurier University, in Waterloo. I won’t go into much detail right now, as that’s a story for next time, but I was a wreck the whole week leading up to this audition. I was studying so hard for their theory placement exam, reviewing my pieces over and over again… I barely talked to anyone that week because I was obsessing over this audition. But all my hard work came to fruition. A couple days after my audition, I got an email from the dean of music. My audition was a success.
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But it wasn’t over yet! I kept working through the month. The big day was coming. My Western University audition in April. This would be arguably, the most important day of the entire year.

April

April was honestly a blur for me. After my audition passed, the whole month disappeared like chocolate cake at a kids’ party.

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I remember the whole week leading up to my Western audition was absolute hell. My throat has this weird tickle and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to sound right for my audition. I gargled salt water every night, I would randomly start to cry because I was so nervous… But at the same time I was feeling a lot better because I had already done one successful audition. I remember going to bed the night before, trying to get in a good night’s sleep, feeling my heart beat so hard and fast I thought it would leap out of my chest.
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My Western audition came and went without much fuss. To be honest, it went as well as it possibly could have. I thought I had a really good chance of getting in when I left, the panel was super ecstatic, they told me they couldn’t wait for me to come to school at Western. I remember finding out I had gotten accepted. I was working on my final project in my social science class when I heard my email notification go off on my laptop. But I was so engrossed in my work I decided I would check it after class. Flash forward to the end of the period, I opened my email and my heart just about stopped. I read the first few words and screamed. My friend Thomas immediately asked me what was up. I just pointed at the screen, feeling tears stinging in the back of my eyes. I’d done it. All that time, stress, tears, all was worth it in that moment.
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And suddenly…. Everything changed. After I got accepted into the school of my dreams, my whole future began to change. Up until that point it had been “what ifs” and “maybes” but now, it was set in stone. I was moving away from home. I was going to study music for the next 4 years. I was ecstatic. I had been in one place with the same people for so long, it was exciting to think about venturing off for new adventures. But at the same time, I was so happy being with my friends, and being at my high school, and feeling like I actually belonged somewhere. I felt caught between two different worlds. And it felt like I would have to sacrifice my old life to get my new one.

May

May probably holds some of the most important memories of my entire high school life. In May, my school music program experienced different firsts and lasts.

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I’ll start with the lasts. May 5th marked my last spring concert, and last concert ever for that matter, at my high school. It was such an emotional day for me. I remember our first concert, we crammed everything into our tiny theatre, and people’s parents came and watched us perform. And here we were at our last concert, filling our school gym. We’d come such a long way, built such a big music program literally from the dirt. I cried so hard after our last concert. I wanted to live in and nurture this program forever. But I was leaving it to the students under me. And it was a crazy emotional time. May also marked our very first out of country music trip. We went to Chicago, Illinois, for 5 days and I will never ever forget that trip. I made so many memories there, just getting to spend a trip of a lifetime with my best friends doing what we loved most: music.
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The year was coming to an end super fast. I accepted my offer to Western, and was suddenly swamped with final assignments and exam prep. I worked myself to the bone, convincing myself that I had to make the most of high school while it was still there.

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June

And then… There it was. The last month of high school. June was full of so many lasts, so many things I would never get to do again. But it was all so worth it. There’s so much I could say about June, and I’m full of nostalgia, but hopefully these tweets will kind of capture the mood I was in that month.

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Everything felt like it was coming to a close in June. It felt like I was tying all the ribbons on the presents, ending the giant chapter of my life novel. Suddenly, I could count how many days of school and how many days I had left at the tutoring centre on my fingers.
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But of course, the school year can’t end without a bang. On the last full day of high school, my best friend Michael totally threw me for a loop and promposed to me with one of my favourite songs from High School Musical 3, with flowers and everything. It was basically flawless (save for Thomas screwing up playing the music in time) and totally surprised me.

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And finally, prom came and went, my friends and I danced our hearts out, and kept going till our feet were sore. We stayed up all night playing cards, and woke up to make waffles together. Our days together were all drawing to a close. Graduation came, and I surprised myself by not crying. It all felt surreal. High school was one of the most beautiful times in my life, senior year especially. It was my whole world for 4 years. I thought I would wake up and just repeat the process again. But this was it. I was moving on to bigger and brighter things. And I wouldn’t change my high school experience for anything.

And while it feels like a just shut the book on the entirety of 2016…. It wasn’t over yet! I still had another entire half of the year left. While the first half of 2016 was full of lasts and endings, the second half was teeming full of new beginnings that have helped me grow into the person I am now, writing about my 2016. Hopefully…. That part will be coming soon!

– Carole

My World of Boy Friends

Have I grabbed your attention with this flashy title?

Good. I do hope you took note of the strategic space between “boy” and “friends” because surprise surprise, I’m super single, and I always have been.

No, this blog post is not me bragging or bashing my past relationships (come on guys, I’m not T-swift here), but rather all the boys in my life that I realize now have made my life very different from the typical Disney channel plastic storyline.

I find a lot of plot lines use “boy friends” simply as comic relief or their ulterior motive is to have the boy fall in love with the girl. For me, that’s never been the case.

It’s interesting to me now because I’m very different from how I was as a small child, yet things have hardly changed at all. As a kid, I was always a weird mix between a tomboy and a girly-girl. I hated wearing dresses, skirts, frilly socks, headbands, etc. but I loved wearing glitter, every shade of pink imaginable, flowers and all that. To some extent, these things carried with me into puberty and my teen years.

I remember when I was in grade 2, I had just moved to a new town, and had left my friends behind in my old city. Up until that point, I hadn’t really talked to anyone except the girl who I met on my first day of kindergarten at the bus stop, and one other girl in our class.

I felt really alienated from most of the girls in my new class. This was no one’s fault really, it was just one of things that happened in life. A lot of them had known each other since pre-k in this small town, and most of them were white. I really just didn’t have anything in common with them.

Instead, I found myself gravitated toward a group of 3 Asian boys. Maybe it was because they were Asian, or maybe it was because they were boys, but I just felt like I belonged there so much more.

I found that boys cared less about what you wore, were more willing to take risks, or rough themselves up. We would chase each other all recess long, pretending we were superheroes or Pokémon, which resulted in lots of scraped knees and bloody noses, but those was probably some of the greatest times of my childhood.

At that point, it didn’t really concern anybody that I didn’t have any girl friends. It was really cute that I was friends with a bunch of Asian boys, and look! How cute! This little girl’s not afraid to scruff up her knees! (There are so many strange sexist undertones in these ideas, but that’s a whole different topic).

It wasn’t until I was older than I started to run into problems.

By grade 4, I had a nice group of friends. There were 6 of us, and we lived in this perfect harmony of playing pretend and running after each other. And of course, it was me, and 5 boys. But of course, 10 year olds can only run into one problem in their pre-pubescent lives…

Crushes and cooties.

The trouble first started when one of the boys in our group of friends developed the most innocent, tiny crush on me. It was nothing crazy. He just enjoyed talking to me, and was really friendly. At one point I remember playing Pokémon, and one of my other friends supposedly “wounded” me. This boy with a little crush on me, swooped down, gathered me in his arms and gave me the biggest hug.

“It’s okay Carole, I’ll heal you!”

The game fell into a standstill, and the rest of the boys froze. How inconceivable! A boy?? Hugging a girl?? Crazy!

The rest of them stared for a painful moment or so before one asked, “What are you doing?”

Of course, I was quickly let go of. “Nothing!” was the embarrassed response. I’d never seen somebody turn so red before.

I vaguely remember the first time a pair in our class got “together”. They would bat their eyelashes at each other, pass notes written in blindingly pink highlighter, and hold hands at recess. This lasted for about 1 full school day, but the damage was done. Everyone was thinking about “boy/girl” pairs, and all of a sudden, being “just friends” was no longer an option.

My friends, every single one of them, were afraid people would think we were “dating” if they were seen with me. No one wanted to deal with the “embarrassment” and teasing that came with being a couple. Instead of running around together, they were running away from me. I found myself frustrated and lonely. I had no friends anymore. My boy friends had banded together and refused to talk to me. I still didn’t understand the girls in my class (and besides, I didn’t know any of them well enough for us to be friends, they still all moved about in those cliques they formed in kindergarten).

By this point, I wished I had made some girl friends, or stayed in my hometown, because I was so lonely. This lasted up until grade 5, until one new girl moved into town and befriended me. I decided from that moment on, I was swearing off boy friends for good. They were unreliable, mean, and I couldn’t trust them. After all, who becomes friends with someone, stays for years, and then decides to just move on because they suddenly became aware their friend was a girl?

I was so over it.

It didn’t help either that boys I had thought were my friends started to bully me. I see now that it was all because everyone in middle school is extremely immature and insecure, but at the time, I remember feeling extremely betrayed. They would call me names, steal my things, and all around made my life miserable.

I eventually made a lot of girl friends, and it was fun for a while… But things turned sour really fast. All they really wanted to do was gossip, cause drama with each other, cry to me about their feelings, and feel the need to not include me or invite me to social gatherings. (This is also another story for another time).

By this point I was really losing my mind. Girls weren’t good friends, boys weren’t good friends… Who was I supposed to be friends with?!

I’m really thankful that myself, and the others around me, were able to grow the heck up. I ditched my toxic friends. They weren’t really doing anything for me, and it was quite easy since they all kind of left me, no strings attached.

Though there was a lot of struggle, I eventually found a place where I truly felt like I fit somewhere. And it just so happened to be yet again, surprise surprise, in a group of boys. But of course, we’re all way more mature than kids in middle school (we’re still immature as hell, but at least we’re better.)

I wouldn’t trade these friends for anything. They’ve always been with me when I needed them. They’ve always genuinely cared for me; have always supported me in everything I do.

Are there hard times? Of course.

I constantly struggle to feel like I really fit into the puzzle. After all, there are some things they’ll never be fully understand about girls because they aren’t girls, just like I will never understand some things about them because I’m not a boy. I can’t stay over at their sleepovers, I can’t be over at their houses alone.

But would I wish for a core group of girl friends over boy friends?

No.

In all my life experience, I’ve found that it doesn’t really matter whether your friends are boys or girls. All that really matters is who makes you feel like someone important and who is willing to stand by you, even when you feel like you’ll always be alone.

Friendships don’t rely on anything except respect, integrity, trust, and faith. If you don’t have those things, it doesn’t matter if your friends are boys or girls.

I guess, in some long winded way, I’m trying to say, I love where I am right now. I love the support system of friends I have in place. If someone tries to tell you you can’t be friends with boys when you’re a girl, or vice versa, I’m here to tell you they are wrong.

The deepest friendships can be found in the most unsuspecting people. Don’t judge the quality of a friendship based on gender, or even race, religion, or any other factor like that. Judge a person for them. Don’t be the one that denies a friendship the potential to come to fruition. There’s so much you could be missing.

– Carole

 

Life’s Strange Happenings

Life is quite a funny thing sometimes.

For those of you that don’t know, I work part-time at a tutoring centre in my town (city, whatever, idk at this point). It’s a fun job and I truly enjoy it, however, it is not close to my side of town, and I have to take the bus to get there.

This week I’ve been working at the tutoring centre’s summer camps, and have had the privilege to ride the bus to/from work. Public transit scares the crap out of an anxious soul like me, but life is life and sometimes you gotta just do stuff! After all, I get some $$.

Today, one of my worst nightmares took place. I remember clearly the first day I took the bus to my piano lessons at our local mall. My lesson slot was too early in the afternoon for either of my parents to take me, so I had to take public transit for my own for the very first time. I remember the stress and anxieties I had, sitting on the bus by myself in a secluded seat tucked away at the back of the bus.

What if I miss my transfer?! I wondered to myself.

And I didn’t. Nothing particularly bad happened at all. I made it to piano in time, my dad picked me up from the mall, same old, same old life.

But of course, today I had to miss my transfer for the first time.

There was a huge rush of people when I got off the bus. The GO train had just chugged into the station and the loading dock for the buses was absolutely flooded with commuters on their way home. My poor heart nearly fainted.

I clutched my transfer ticket, scoping out the buses. I was looking for that prominent number 4, that I knew would take me home. I really don’t understand how they decide to line up the buses; considering the 2 is behind the 6, which is behind the 5, but whatever.

Anyhow, I stood at the spot where my bus normally parked. People were flying past me, obviously in a rush to get to their car, their bus, or whatever. I really just wanted to get on my transfer to ease my tachycardia-prone heart.

After a few moments of flurries, my bus never pulled up. In a panic, I began to run along the loading station, but could not find that number 4 I desperately searched for. Then to my horror, the long train of buses started to pull out of the station.

Silence.

There’s something eerie about standing at a bus station all by yourself, when moments ago, it felt like the loudest, most crowded place on Earth.

I was standing at the deserted bus station in utter horror. I’d missed my transfer bus.

And it wasn’t coming back for another half an hour.

At this point, I really wanted to cry and questioned whether or not I would die. I texted my best friend, trying to play it off as cool, but maybe I didn’t do it well enough, because he texted me simply: “just chill”.

So I guess I did what any anxious person does to chill, I sat down inside the bus shelter, and opened Pokemon Go.

(I can’t really use the app to its fullest potential because of my lack of data, but that’s another story.)

In my futile attempt to catch Pokemon using the crappy GO station WiFi, a small elderly Spanish lady came inside the bus shelter and sat beside me on the bench.

She was one of those grandmother type people, a friendly, open face, with deep laugh lines. Her clothes were just the slightest bit too large, that swallowed her body and made her look so tiny. She grinned and said, “Hello…. you speak… Spanish?”

Her accent wasn’t too thick. Spanish is very reminiscent of Tagalog, and it was easier for me to pick up her broken English. “Hm? No… Sorry,” I replied lamely.

She smiled, much like my own grandmother did when I asked her to teach me how to make her famous birthday cakes. “Ah… no Spanish…” She looked at my again with this thoughtful expression, “Are… Filipino?”

I was surprised she figured it out so easily, since most people tend to think I’m Chinese, due to the tiniest bit of Chinese blood in my family, and my body’s ability to take in every single one of those genes. “Yeah, I am.”

“I have…. what word…. daughter….. daughter-in-law. She Filipino.”

I hummed thoughtfully, not really sure why she had decided to tell me this, or strike a conversation with me really, but I didn’t have the heart to tell this sweet old lady to go away. Besides, I had 30 minutes to kill before the bus came back, so I might as well listen to what she had to say.

There was a pause.

After a few moments, she posed a question for me. “Do you know the truth?”

Here, her Spanish accent really came out, because I wasn’t entirely sure what she was saying at first. She had to repeat it for me at least 2 times, and at that point I didn’t really know what she meant at all.

What did she mean by “truth” exactly?

I shook my head. “No,” I replied sheepishly, not wanting to say yes, since I didn’t really know what she was talking about.

This grandmother sat up straighter at my response, “Ah… no… I see.” She looked into her bag before pulling out a pamphlet, written half in Spanish, half in English. And this random woman who I had never met before, who barely spoke English, tried her best to evangelize to me.

She began telling me about how Jesus died for my sins, adamantly with a tap of her hands showed how he was nailed to a cross. She talked about how we have life because Jesus paid for everything.

About 30 seconds into her speech, I realized what she meant by truth. She meant the Gospel. As a Christian myself, I wondered why I hadn’t caught on in the first place.

At any point I could have told her that I actually did know what the truth was, I just didn’t have the heart to tell her because she looked so happy that someone was willing to listen to her. She told me about her granddaughter who didn’t seem to have an interest in the Gospel, and how she wished they would read their bibles every day.

I was stunned by how much she was willing to share, even if I was a random stranger to her, that was sitting at the bus stop.

It was quite the humbling experience really. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I was born into the church, raised on its teachings, yet I didn’t and still don’t have the courage to speak about the wonders of the Gospel with anyone, especially strangers. To think that this little grandmother who barely spoke English, who didn’t even know who I was, sat down beside me and decided to share the “truth” with me is incredible.

It was a great reminder to me that some Christians in this world are bold. They go out to be the salt of the Earth, as the Gospel commands us to be. However, in comparison to this Spanish grandmother, I fall desperately behind.

What’s stopping me? Fear of rejection? Anxiety? Pride?

It was quite convicting to me, and prompted me to take a look inside my heart. I hope I can one day have the servant’s heart this old woman had to be able to share the Gospel and my faith with all those around me.

And to think, all this happened because I missed my bus transfer.

Life is strange like that.

– Carole