#LifeEh: Ostracism, Gossiping, Friendships, And Independence

Another #LifeEh observation.

There were some consequences of my experience, as a very young 4th grade student, of ostracism by my classmates. One was to avoid — consciously or unconsciously — doing anything throughout the rest of my academic career at St. Xavier’s school that could potentially lead, again, to something similar.

I started being weary of cliques — especially among classmates — for example. I think that happened little by little, over an extended period of time. Another thing I avoided was to not be part of alliances that came about through a shared opposition to someone else or some other people, especially schoolmates. And, yet another thing I avoided doing was gossiping about others.

I had already been struggling with a deep feeling of shame and insecurity anyway, engendered by my socio-economic background and other personal and domestic issues. The incident of ostracism must have reinforced my lack of feeling of connection with others.

Beginning secondary school, still plagued by shame and self-doubt, at time wondering if something was wrong with me, I began questioning my identity etc. Little by little, I think a need to be my own person started taking root. In addition to being plagued by personal issues, I felt stifled by many elements of our culture — many of our beliefs and practices — and aspects of our society etc. I felt the need to break out of who and what Nepali society said I was, or should be, or could be, or had to be etc. I maintained my fiercely guarded privacy while a desire to be independent burned inside.

But of course, on the outside I did many of the things I felt I had to, to “fit in” and be “accepted” by school friends, acquaintances, and society. As one of the top students in the class, I was friendly with many. I was friends with a number of different classmates who each were members of differing groups, or “gangs” in the parlance of the time. 

When I myself finally became part of a “gang” in the secondary school, I think I was already in my second last year of my time at St. Xavier’s. I discovered something telling about the make-up of that five-member gang — about half-a-dozen years ago! The farthest they dated back with me — and only one of them at that — was to fifth grade! Otherwise, the other three went back only to seventh!

Regardless, all that continued in my later life too. Whether during my years at the United World College of the Adriatic in Italy, or at Grinnell College in the US, or since as an international teacher around the world, or a social worker here in Nepal, I stayed away from gossiping about others to win or make friends or to attempt to join a clique etc. Having fiercely guarded my privacy, except from very close friends, and having also constantly fought to free myself from the influences of Nepali culture, education, people, and society, while studying, working, and living abroad, I became a fiercely private and independent-minded person.

In Nepal, conformity is sought and those who conform praised, emulated, and held up as model role models. In the years I have been back, I have discovered that, someone with the mind-set and outlook on life and world like mine, is viewed as and treated like an outsider and NOT readily accommodated.

So, here’s the (ironic) observation: looking back at my experiences in Nepal as a student, my experiences abroad — both as a student and an adult — and my recent experiences in Nepal as an adult, my reluctance to engage in gossip, my reluctance to “get along” for the sake of getting along, my insistence on continuing to be a very private and independent-minded person, have prevented me from BECOMING part of, or being accepted by, cliques! Seems like I inadvertently ensured my “ostracism”!! 😀 😀

Of course, while I was abroad , I did make many good friends, and developed many deep and meaningful relationships at a personal level — with classmates, schoolmates, colleagues and others, from all over the world, from a whole range of nationalities, cultures, religions, gender, sexual orientations etc.

I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect, the reason behind some friends who belonged to their own cliques trusting me and confiding in me, and some other people mistrusting and keeping me at a distance was probably one and the same: my reluctance to gossip and backbite!



(If you are interested in other #LifeEh observations, click here, here, here, here, and here.)


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