I look over the students one at a time: there sits the one with yellow blouse, long dark hair, there the two (seem to be intimate friends) one with yellow short hair, blue eyes, with a short with a knot and the one with black curly hair with imposed facial expression, engaged in an animated conversation in low tone, looking over me once in a while. With Black hair, like a straw, and an oddly matched blouse and a skirt, I feel intimidated inside ‘will i ever get to be friends with them?'. Part of me propels me to think so, because it craved for such friendship so long after the lockdown. My storming thoughts are fueled by Tim – our English teacher at this education center – as well as the founder, leaving me with the question ‘Will I ever get to be a good student of his?'. ‘I'm not coming for the next lesson' I say, with fear piercing through my mind. ‘I wanted to try out another education center, but if I don't like it, can I come back?' Maybe because I was trying my best to be a responsible, honest, and loyal student, or maybe because I expected him to confirm that he is okay with that because he is sure of the quality of education he is providing for students, I was struck when he said ‘no' that easily. ‘You can go, but then you have to leave, we don't take back students who left us'. While part of me grew outrageous for his unfair and biased judgment, I couldn't resist the fear of losing a teacher, even if he doesn't seem to be promising. ‘Why not?' I go on. ‘Because this is how it works'. I had sort of promised myself not to expect anything from anyone after my big disappointment from my other education center teacher, whom I overly respected, who I saw as one of the closest people to myself that I expected him to care about. At least I was his best student before quarantine. At least he had taught me for 2 years. At least for the sake of all the laughter and jokes we shared with my groupmates and that teacher. But when the quarantine started, when my world turned upside down, I realized that it was all my fantasy – a teacher caring for a student. It was only after I fought with my bias and realized that a teacher is just a teacher and a student is just a student – expect no more, and if you don't pay, you're now not even a student, you're an outsider. Therefore I had sort of promised myself not to expect anything from any teacher other than just the lesson, but still the easiness that that ‘no' came with once hit me hard, extinguishing my last bit of hope towards intimacy, kindness, and caring for others. As I go home, I nail to myself over and over again my father's words “in this world, nobody but your family (parents, grandparents and siblings), cares for you”. ‘Well, maybe this is becoming strong – you accept there is nothing like proximity, kindness, and care in your relationships with others''. I was totally tired. Tired of believing in the existence of love of teachers, friends, other than family members. I accepted. In this world, everybody is for themselves. This black and white is what the world is. I learned to be cold and keep the distance with others all the time. Until I met my other English teacher, who is now a motherly figure for me. She melted the ice in my heart and convinced me that we're not just teacher and student in the classroom and strangers outside it, but we remain teacher and student anytime, anywhere, and in any case. She convinced me that I could actually turn to my teachers, friends, not just my family when tough times come. I was hesitant as to her intimacy in the beginning after it all happened. But over her closeness with her other students, caring for them like their mother, and trying to bond the students and make them like siblings, I felt love, care, and kindness. The image that my father described, my experience with previous teachers echoed, the one that is black and white became full of color – vibrant colors. Today, I look back and always try to remind myself, when I'm struggling with my academics, that there is love, care, and kindness; life is not just black and white. True, not everyone can paint it, but that doesn't necessarily mean people who can bring colour don't exist. They do, you just need to keep believing in and meeting them someday.
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