We were magic.

We were born, little miracles of life, pushed out into the world (against our will?), trembling, gasping, screaming, (against our will.) bits of flesh, blood, bone, sinew. We were cradled and cooed over; we were tickled and taken care of; we were fed and fawned over. We were magic.

We could do no wrong, as we pooped in freshly changed clean nappies, as we peed on $500-suits, as we slobbered over fancy pieces of technology. A laugh, an exclamation of surprise, perhaps even a huff of annoyance, but nothing more, nothing more. We were magic.

We learnt to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, walk, talk. In fits and starts, each at our own pace – time would take its time, time cannot be hurried. The  spilled oatmeal, the walls streaked with crayons, the first cuss word uttered were met with stern looks, time outs and hard slaps on the cheek. But as woeful eyes filled with tears, and dismay dashed across chubby, crimson cheeks, so anger melted and we were gathered back into the arms of those who loved us, returned to our rightful places in their hearts. We were magic.

Send her to playschool, they said. Send him to a childcare center, they said. We needed to learn to share, they said. So we learned to sing nursery rhymes and colour inside the lines. We learned curiosity was less important than sitting in rows and counting to ten. We learned creativity was less important that colouring trees green and people cream (even when our own skins were brown and yellow and black and white and every other colour in between). We learned that mummy smiled at gold stars on penmanship worksheets, and frowned at B+s on artwork. We learned that daddy loved when we kissed him on the cheek, but hated when we kissed Jimmy or Candice or Taylor. We were magic, but we learnt that there were rules.

Days bled into weeks, into months, into years. We spent more and more time inside concrete boxes – face forward! sit up straight! do your work! – and less and less time among plants and people who loved us. There is only one answer, they insisted. Do it my way or no way at all, they demanded. I am right; you are wrong, they asserted. We were cowed into silence, heads bowed till called upon to be lauded for fitting the mould. Were we magic?

Creativity crushed and curiosity quashed, the concrete boxes we spent so much time within spat us out by the hundred, thousand, million – faceless drones ready, moulded to fit the cogs of the machine. The machine didn’t tolerate high margins of difference and if one didn’t fit, the next would. Or the next. Or the next. We were beaten and broken to feed the machine. We were not magic. Not anymore.

Wait.

But you, my friend, you – you who laugh at the spray of rain on your face on a warm summer day. You are magic. You who dance with wild abandon, your cheeks rosy from one too many drinks. You are magic. You who weep at the funeral of a mother, a brother, a lover like your tears will never stop. You are magic. You who shout, who pray, who lie, who love. You are magic. You who breathe. You. Are. Magic.

You see, we are magic. We were born magic. And as we grew, that magic got lost, hidden, buried somewhere deep within us. But it was never lost, never lost. We never stopped being magic. We just forgot that we were magic. And when we remember, we embrace it; we become it. You see, my friend, you were magic. You are magic. We are magic.

One year ago today, I was robbed.

One year ago today, I was robbed of everything. My giant backpack containing all my clothes, electronics, money, credit cards and most importantly, my passport was taken away from me. It was partially my fault for letting my guard down and trusting the wrong people, it was partially the robbers who saw a vulnerable tourist and took advantage of the situation. Either way, now is not the time for blame.

I was in a strange country, far from home, surrounded by people I didn’t know. I had about 20USD, my mobile phone and my tablet (both of which I no longer have either, but that’s a story for another day). No form of identification, no way to get anywhere. For all intents and purposes, an alien from Mars and I were indistinguishable from each other.

As the enormity of the situation sank in, a multitude of emotions flooded my being. I felt angry; at myself, at the robbers, at the world, for having allowed such a thing to happen. I felt overwhelmed; without an embassy or consulate in the country, I had no way of getting a new passport and I would have to somehow figure my own way out of the mess I had gotten myself into. I felt violated; my backpack had become an extension of myself after almost a year and a half of travelling and although not one person had laid a finger on me, my security had been stolen. And I felt very afraid; the reality of being entirely alone in a place far from everything and everyone I knew suddenly seemed terrifying instead of liberating.

The ten days that followed were some of the most difficult in my life. I was reduced to depending on strangers for food, for a place to stay, for even the most basic necessities of life. As someone who prides herself on her independence, it was a humbling experience. A lady, Rosa, took care of me during those ten days, treating me like her little sister and constantly being on the lookout for me. She wasn’t rich, or well-off. She worked as a cook in a little restaurant, lived in a small house with her mother, step-father and two sons. Yet, she didn’t think twice about inviting me into her home, feeding me and providing me with clothes and other necessities.

I remember the first night when she took me to her house. She give me a toothbrush and a tiny tube of toothpaste, and told me to take a shower and get ready for bed. I don’t know what it was about that small act of giving me something as simple as a toothbrush and toothpaste that made me burst into tears. Perhaps, after the completely traumatizing events of that day, someone treating me like a human being deserving of basic hygiene was more than I could handle. Perhaps, it was the sobering realization that I couldn’t even afford to buy something so basic for myself and was almost completely dependent on this complete stranger’s kindness. Whatever the reason, I doubt I will forget that moment for a long time to come.

Well, many things happened in the ten days after I was robbed (if you want the full blow-by-blow story, ask and you may receive) but to cut a long story short, I got back my passport and one credit card and moved on to other adventures from there. But the point of this post is that even in an awful situation where you think there isn’t any hope, the world is full of good, honest people who want nothing more than to help. And there isn’t anything wrong with asking for help when you need it.

So here’s a huge thank you to the kind people in Santiago de Caballeros, Dominican Republic who took me in, fed me, clothed me, and kept me alive while I literally had nothing (special thanks to Rosa and family, Rosita and the POLITUR), and my friends and family in Singapore and all over the world for all their help, support and assurances that everything would work out. Because it did – I’ve lived to tell the tale, and have become a much stronger person for it.

I’ve learnt that life will go on, no matter what. We just need to keep on keeping on, and things will work themselves out. It seemed like a disastrous situation at that time, but one year on, it is just another in my collection of great stories to share. I’ve learnt, and I’ve grown, and I will keep learning and growing. And hopefully, one day I’ll look back on my life and proudly say – it was a life well lived.