I’ve always been a shy. A reserved guy. A type of guy who blends into the wallpaper at parties or waits until class ends to ask teachers a question. Someone who won’t make edgy statements in fear of being ridiculed or who has the tendency to avoid eye-contact when called upon for class presentations.
I think I’m just naturally born shy.
My shyness stems from my low self-esteem, which lowers my expression of pride. I’m not likely to boast a good test mark, celebrate a goal in my hockey games, or announce a victory in Trivial Pursuit.
Even if I don’t show it, I’m proud of many things: my schoolwork, my sports achievements, the obstacles I’ve overcome…
But as I lean back in my chair and stare up into the dimness of my townhouse bedroom, I reflect on my experiences as far back as I remember, and a thought surfaces in my mind.
The single most thing I’m proud of is being Armenian.
I’m not sure why this is the case. I’ve never represented Armenia in any competition, nor have I seen the wonders of Mount Ararat in person. Hell, I can barely even speak the language.
Does it stem from a Napoleon Complex?
A small-nation attitude of “us” against “the world?”
I sit up straight and begin to reflect even deeper.
Image: What Michael Likes, Blogspot
There’s truth to the inferiorities of a smaller nation.
For years, many people tried to destroy the Armenians. They slaved us, starved us, tortured us, and even carried out mass exterminations to rid us from the earth.
But the Armenians did not die. We were able to escape to a new world. We continued to sing. To gather around. To tell stories. To laugh. To dance together. It seems because no race or power can destroy the Armenian spirit.
I now come to the realization that I am not just Armenian. I am Armenia.
I don’t embody Armenia in the geographical sense.
Instead, I contain this unexplainable piece of energy or belief or something that manifests inside my heart and will not die.
I wasn’t only born Armenian but born with this piece within.
The amazing thing about this metaphorical piece is that I’m not the only one who has it. In fact, every Armenian carries a fragment of Armenia with them. The piece of Armenia prohibits us from standing down when criticized or oppressed by others.
I believe Armenian-American author William Saroyan realizes this piece too, when in his beautiful quote, he explains…
I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.
It’s perspectives like these that embody my intense feeling of cultural pride. You can call me fat, an idiot, a waste of space, and I’ll feel sadness. But label me “unimportant” or any other insult against my heritage, and I will laugh. I have no reason for such statements to elicit me any anger. I instead, laugh because I know very well the sufferances of my ancestors and more importantly, their unwavering ability to live. Despite all the odds, we were able to preserve our beauties, our musics, and our arts that I share today – and nothing can destroy that. This undeterred response is a response to which I feel embodies the strongest form of pride.
I now plug in the charger for my laptop and rub the wetness from my eyes.
Now, I no longer feel the shame and insecurity of being ridiculed or people telling me I’m not good enough because I know it’s not in my blood to back down.
Although I still might not show it publicly, I’m proud of my past achievements. My most-improved player award in hockey, my paintings that got hung on the middle-school walls, and even my ability to self-teach the bass guitar. But in reality, all of these mean little compared to the pride I hold for my culture.
I am Armenian, I am Armenia, and I am damn proud of it.