#WalangHiya: Enough

I’ve always been afraid of corners, and being cornered. I’ve never been afraid of small spaces, enclosed places.

I was five years old on my first day of Kindergarten. My mom stood by my side in line with all of the other kids that morning. Every kid had their parents accompanying them that day. It seemed pretty normal.  And then she shook my teacher’s hand and let me go when the bell rang. I felt so excited and scared – I didn’t know what to expect my first day of school.

But that feeling quickly plummeted – as I quickly became every other kid’s emotional punching bag.  Throughout the day, all of the kids kept making fun of me.

Are you Chinese?
Do you speak English?
Why does your name sound like chlorine?
Why does your name sound like fluoride?
Why was your mom alone?
How come your dad wasn’t here?
Your parents are DIVORCED?!

I was too embarrassed, too ashamed to admit my parents were split up, that I didn’t have a “normal” family like everyone else. I wanted to be invisible. But I couldn’t. In a classroom full of white and black and latinx kids, I was the only one who looked like me. And I was the only one with a single parent. No one wanted to sit next to me. No one wanted to play with me on the swingsets.

I went to my babysitter’s house after school, and then my mom picked me up after work. How was your first day of school, anak?

I felt so deeply for my mom, even back then. I knew how hard she worked being a single parent, and I didn’t want to worry her about how disappointing my day was. So I smiled and I told her it was great.

‘Nak, you don’t sound happy. Ano ba? What’s going on?

I looked at her. She had stains on her apron from the restaurant, and I knew earlier that day she worked at the convenience store. Her hair was greasy from working two jobs before picking me up. She looked so worried. So tired.

I didn’t want her to know the kids were making fun of me for having divorced parents. I knew that would make her sad, make her lonely. So I made up a lie.

They were making fun of me, Mommy. They were calling me names and they didn’t want to play with me because I’m short. I’m too small.

She responded with heat.

Ay, dios ko! That’s ridiculous. From now on you tell anyone who makes fun of you this, ok? The intelligence of a human being cannot be measured by height. Can you repeat that? Say it.

The intelligence of a human being cannot be measured by height.

Little did I know how that little lie would end up becoming the truth.  Throughout my life, I’ve always been small – the shortest one in the room. Always feeling like I’d never measure up.

Legs were never long enough.
Eyes were never wide enough.
Boobs were never big enough.
Thighs were never thick enough
Races were never fast enough.
Grades were never high enough.
Songs were never sung enough.
Speeches were never loud enough.
Friendship was never fun enough.
Love was never strong enough.
Courage was never brave enough.
Truth was never real enough.

The older I get, the more I realize that living in my own truth and living in my own skin is the only way to truly live. It took me twenty-seven years to learn how to live #walanghiya. And it all boils down to this.

I am enough. My body is only a vessel. It cannot measure all of the soul I have within. To be ashamed of its size is to be ashamed of all that it holds and protects.

The intelligence of a human being cannot be measured by height.

Translation:  Abstract concepts cannot be restrained by tangible objects.  The mind cannot be contained by dimensions.

I’ve always been afraid of corners, and being cornered. I’ve never been afraid of small spaces, enclosed places.


Flerine Crystal Cruz Atienza is a Brooklyn-based pilipinx passionate about intersecting identity politics with brand strategy and media innovation.  She is an active kasama of GABRIELA New York, regularly writes “Lit Lit(erature) articles for TheGIRLMOB, and coordinates monthly community service events with The Black Pearl Project. Born in Subic Bay with an insatiable appetite for adventure, Flerine is a SoCal reared, NC bred, Vegas made PR + Communications strategist with a capacious heart fiercely exploring & celebrating sensory stimulation from local & global interactions. Outside of the office and frontlines of marches, she is a singer/songwriter, world traveler, and curious cook welcoming all opportunities to creatively collaborate with artists and empowering organizations worldwide.  Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram | LinkedIn

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