In all honesty, I have had a fairly easy life. I’m not adopted or orphaned, my parents never abused me physically or verbally and I have no learning disabilities of any kind. I grew up in a suburb, danced ballet, played sports in high school and graduated at the top of my class. I never broke a bone (knock on wood), sprained my ankle, contracted a disease that put my life at risk, had a major car accident or been diagnosed with any kind of illness. In fact, I’ve never even been hospitalized and the only time I have been to a hospital is when someone in my family gave birth (to bouncing, healthy babies) or when I volunteered to put on a Christmas program for the children’s hospital as a part of my high school senior project. I have never felt racially discriminated against and I can’t say that I come from a socioeconomically disadvantaged family. In fact, when I applied for universities, I was astonished at how little scholarships and grants I qualified for because of my idyllic childhood and background. I can say that I have had a virtually care-free life. But my most challenging life experience was during my freshman year in college when for the first time, I was faced with having to stand up for myself, my beliefs, and my morals.
After PSATs, SATs, ACTs, and electronically filling out various applications to several universities, I chose to attend the University of California in Los Angeles. I started the fall quarter and was officially declared as a Chemistry major, knowing I would most likely change majors eventually. My parents had helped me move into my dorm room the week before and my roommate was friendly enough–she seemed clean and studious but at the same time not too conflicting with my naturally chaotic personality. We had a few meals together, but it was pretty clear we would only be roommates and not close friends because we had different interests that put us in very distinct social circles. She played the cello in the orchestra and I was on the track and field team, running short-distance. So while I was up early for practice and training, constantly watching what I ate and conditioning during most of my free time, she had rehearsals late into the night, spent lots of time sitting and ate tons of junk. All the same, we were amiable toward one another and could have a laugh or two when it was just the two of us.
Our different schedules made it so I was constantly out of the room and spent very little time in the dorms while she was almost always in the room or very close to the dorms. I didn’t think anything of this–after all, we were consumed in very different activities and part of college and the dorm experience was learning how to share a room and compromise. However by the end of the first month together I started to notice little things that made me suspicious. It started when I would come home and she would be laying in my bed. Then she began to use my desk and my laptop. I felt uneasy but didn’t mind too much although I thought it odd because I know she would have had a small fit had I done the same to her. But then she began to wear my clothes and use my lotions and perfumes. I confronted her, explaining that I didn’t mind that she used my stuff but I would have preferred if she asked me beforehand. She seemed to be okay with that but things only got worse. It wasn’t long before I came back to my dorms and found her wearing my clothes, using my laptop, laying in my bed. When I asked her why she felt so compelled to use all of my things, she simply shrugged and said that she found it amusing to pretend she was me. I immediately thought she was slightly crazy. I told her that I felt uncomfortable and that I woul be requesting a room change. She didn’t say anything so I assumed she just agreeed that yeah, she was being psychotic. But as soon as the Dorm Leader approved of my room change, my roommate started yelling, accusing me of stealing her wallet and her money. I had no idea what she was talking about and knew she was somehow trying to frame me but I didn’t realize just how far she had gone.
When the Dorm Leader came to our room to make an inspection, my roommate started showing my pants with her I.D. card in the pocket, pulling out her waller from under my mattress, saying that the Dorm Leader ought to check my laptop because she thinks I hacked into her student account. Of course when the Dorm Leader opened my laptop, indeed my roommates password and login code were saved in my browser. I was completely speechless at how quickly I had been framed. I tried to explain to the Dorm Leader that it was all a show, that I was being framed, tried to explain that my roommate had been using my things, and wearing my clothes but it was hopeless, I was immediately put on academic probation and suspended from the track team. I was devastated and did not know where to turn because I did not know who to trust anymore.
I decided that I would keep my cool, focus on my academics and work hard to prove that I was a good person with a good character, hoping to get back on the track team in time for the season. I did not have any control over this experience and there was no way to keep it from happening to me. But I could control how I reacted to the whole event and what kind of person I would let it make me. I could become resentful and revengeful or I could just move on with my life, avoid close contact with my ex-roommate and make the most of what I had.
What I learned the most from this experience is that there are many malicious people with very bad intentions and that there is nothing I could do to stop that. I could not live in a bubble forever and these people shared the same world I lived in. The best I could do was not to become one of those people, to stay positive and not react with revenge or hate. Others might chose to perform hurtful actions towards others but I did not have to also. I could set an example by not allowing their maliciousness affect my life and rising above their immaturity. Life may be cruel and there isn’t anything I could do about that but it does not mean I had to be cruel also.
In many of my experiences since I have applied this same philosophy and I think it has made me a better person, one that is positive and flexible with the various challenges life throws at me. I think in this experience of mine during my freshman year, I could have taken many actions out of spite, allowing hate and rage to get the best of me and holding bitterness against my roommate. I am glad that I did not allow that bitterness to consume me and that instead, I turned to pacifity. My reaction to this first experience set a precedent for me for the rest of my university years and in the person, I am now. Each and every time I have faced a challenge since, I make a conscious choice to be positive, to not hold a grudge over things I did not have control over or people’s bad intentions that may have been targeted at me.
I advise others to do the same as well. When faced with an obstacle where one can either breed bitterness or practice forgiveness, chose to not hold on to rage and anger. Life throws many challenges and dealing with malicious people is just one of them. This should not let you turn to bitterness as well and holding on to grudges will only make you into one of those people that you are holding hate against, to begin with.
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