The First Day
First day of kindergarten, diaper-bound, I swaddled right through the front door, passing huddles of wailing toddlers and exhausted parents. I didn’t understand their protests; I was drooling, and so were they—we had so much in common, so why be afraid?
Since then, I have had many more first days. From moving across the Atlantic Ocean when I was eight month sold, to transferring between schools every semester all across Shanghai, to ultimately moving back to Toronto at age12, first days, to me, have always been a source of excitement, uncertainty, and discovery. I would pack my bags two nights ahead and set the alarm a few hours too early. I embraced each new school with gaiety and confidence. ComingtoCanada, however, Iknewlittle to expect. Everything I thought I knew about the world was being challenged, and for the first time, I was anything but excited walking into the classroom.
I was one month late for grade seven, but it appeared I had missed everything. The building echoed as everyone sang the national anthem, while I was hearing it for the first time. I was welcomed with a wave of questions. “Where are you from?” “Are you in ESL?” “Have you ever seen a swimming pool?”But as I struggled to utter a response, the curiosity dissipated, and I was left alone with thoughts I failed to translate into words.
Over the next two years, with the help of those around me, the world slowly began to make sense. I learned who Percy Jackson was, why we celebrated Remembrance Day, and how public transit worked. Each day was saturated with new information—new words to search up in the dictionary, new faces to remember, and new routes to take home.
For many of us, first days last much longer than a day. We find ourselves in a place of unfamiliarity, where people are divided by the country in which they grew up, where communication is something we must learna gain. At the same time, for many of us, this has been home for as long as we can remember. The differences will transcend for far longer than a day; they will take years to mend, to be accepted and understood. During this process, there will be 365 first days a year, 365 days of new information, questions about our identity, and assumptions made of us. But we make it because of people who teach rather than tease, people who converse rather than interrogate, people who demand themselves to understand rather than others, and people who look for similarities rather than differences.
At the Human Library, we work to mend these differences, to take the first leap into the unknown, one day at a time.