I felt like I was dead when people around me laughed, and their smiles
only made me feel more isolated and unhappy. I carried a weight as heavy
as the earth. Anger boiled inside me and made me wonder if I was losing
my mind. Sanity could not exist as long as I held onto the desire for
vengeance against those who had taken my childhood. Trapped by my mental
confusion, I blamed myself for what I was feeling, and lashed out at everyone
Now I realize that the gigantic void created within me when I was young
wasn't my fault. There was nothing I could have done. The emotions I held
onto for so long only kept me from interacting with my new countrymen.
I could not reach out in a friendly way or through humor because I lived
in a fog of rage.
I'm finally making friends and adapting to my new country. When my friend
Adam took me to a football game, the sound and smell of the halftime fireworks
brought back bad memories and made me dizzy, but he understood and I managed
to stay for the whole game. I drive a car, work as a medical-records clerk
at Kaiser Hospital, attend college and even have a cell phonea convenience
I deeply appreciate. There was no way to call 911 years ago on that terrible
I can't identify an exact turning point in my emotions, and I'm still
struggling. However, I've found that speaking about my experiences at
schools and community organizations and writing my memoir have helped.
Sharing my feelings has lessened the burning inside me.
I do worry that when the American soldiers return from Iraq, even without
cultural differences to deal with, they, too, will find that happiness
in others can feel insensitive. At a time when they need it most, they
may find it difficult to reconnect emotionally with their families and
friends. Writer Jose Narosky said, "In war, there are no unwounded
soldiers." I would add that there are no women, children or animals
who escape unscathed.
Still, I know it is possible to move on. For all those years I lived with
revenge on my mind. Now I'm a man with the seeds of love, dignity and
hope in his heart.
Deng lives in La Mesa, Calif.
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.