A dim light: reks's Story
This is the story of a boy who struggled to see the light but rose out of the darkness after seeing the courage and perseverance of his parents. The narrator's name "Reksmey" means "light" or "to shine" in the Khmer language that is native to Cambodia. The narrator also uses “light” to symbolize hope for the audience. He struggles with depression, bullying, social isolation, alcohol use, and peer pressure. The story will be told from a first person perspective.
I never wanted to be a victim. I never wanted to see myself as a victim. I bottled a lot inside because I felt like it was useless to talk about. Although my parents were always loving growing up, as soon as I walked out of the house, I was vulnerable to society’s toxic norms of bullying, social isolation, and peer pressure.
Coming from a “good” household doesn’t always mean your life is perfect. The stereotype of a good household includes loving parents, a suburban house, and a stable income. Saying that my parents worked hard would be an understatement because the things they sacrificed for me and my family, I can’t even put into words. With that being said, all of the hard work they did to provide for me wouldn’t translate to how the outside world would treat me growing up.
A sense of belonging in school is created through the wanting of friends. Nobody wants to be alone. My first fight was with a boy named Austin in 4th grade during recess. I can’t recall why we fought in the first place, but he just didn’t like me. He even spat on my head the following week. I was picked on almost every day by his group of friends. I attempted to try and be a part of his friend group because I thought the bullying would stop. I had very low self esteem because I was fat, I looked different, and I had a name nobody could say. “Reekssmeey,” “Remsky,” “Reksamee” was usually what was spouted out. I went with “Rex” or “Reks” to appease everyone and I didn’t want to feel like an outcast. There’s a certain feeling that takes over when you hear everyone’s name called out normally, then when you’re about to get called upon, there’s an abrupt pause. People might ask why I didn't talk to my parents or anyone else about what would happen at school. It’s because you don’t want them to worry about your problems when you know that they have more important things to deal with. Why should my problems add to their problems? We deal with emotional problems by being silent as kids.
Junior high and the high school transition lead to a lot of social issues that are not dealt with properly, and I was a victim of that environment. School is supposed to be a structured and safe environment for kids to learn. What’s not transparent is that there’s an invisible social structure that is in place during the high school stage for the students. I went to a high school in a predominantly white suburban neighborhood. Good athletics, after-school programs, and an emphasis on post-graduate studies. Students are usually clustered into cliques based on certain factors such as growing up in the same neighborhood, sports they play, or similar interests. I didn’t really have a friend group going into high school. I wasn’t an athlete, I wasn’t the smartest, I wasn’t white, I wasn’t black, I wasn’t Mexican, and there wasn’t an Asian group that resonated with me, so I felt like there was no group I belonged to. I was “cool” with other students, but I never hung out with anyone outside of school.
The power of peer pressure led me on a dark road. In 9th grade, I was invited by Jordan to hangout at his house after school. This was my first real time hanging out with others outside of school and it so happened that he was in the same friend group as Austin and his friends. This group of people was filled with athletes that played football, basketball, and baseball and were socially active because of it. I wasn’t an athlete, so I was usually isolated from those group conversations in the hallways or at lunch. In high school, you want a sense of belonging to some type of group because nobody wants to be alone.
Now that I was essentially “in” this group, it led to me do things that I’m not proud of. I was a part of a clique that constantly verbally bullied others for being different or made fun of others because they weren’t athletic. I wanted to say something and speak up, but I didn’t want to be vulnerable to the attacks myself because I remembered what it felt like, yet I was still made fun of through racial slurs within this group. I laughed with them, and I even joined them with the bullying on others to avoid them doing it to me. We participated in drinking alcohol, and getting it anyway possible, whether it was someone’s older sibling buying it for us, sneaking into their parent’s storage, or other methods. I knew it was wrong, but I felt powerless. If everyone in your group was doing it, that meant you had to. Throughout my high school years, I recall kids smoking weed, drinking alcohol, and even sometimes kids doing drugs like coke or popping pills. This isn’t to glorify kids on drugs, but that was the reality.
Kids are under an extreme amount of pressure during high school. The need to fit in, the need to feel like they’re somebody, and to feel like they’re loved. There’s an epidemic of school shootings and this year alone we’ve had over 20 shootings. I’m here to explain a story of how it feels like to be alone, and to feel powerless in hopes of understanding the need to want to hurt others or yourself because nobody gets it. To feel like there’s no hope.
Then I remembered something. I remembered how hard my parents worked to provide for me. I remembered that my cousins and sister depended on me as a role model. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school where I got the courage to finally speak up for myself and told people how I felt. To this day, I’m friends with Austin and that group of guys, but they are not the same people. They’ve changed. I had bottled up a lot of pain caused by them and the things I did, and I finally explained it in a way that allowed them to understand what they did was wrong, and they’re better people because of it. They have truly grown and changed for the better.
I think God provided me not only the strength and courage to speak up, but the patience to have with these people. Nobody is perfect, but we can change the world by shining the light on someone when their world gets dark. Today I live for others. I live in a way that is a reflection of who I want to be in this world and not who I was. I want to be the example of hope for the hopeless, to be the example of purpose for the aimless, and to be the example of love for the hated. You are not alone, it’s time to shine your light.
Written by Reks Mouk
Inspired by his experiences and hope for the world, Reks created a platform that promotes millennial entrepreneurs who are pursuing their passions. Modest Wealth is meant to uncover the potential or light in oneself and help individuals use that potential to develop themselves through their passion and with patience, determine their purpose.