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  • Annamaria Nemeth

Conformity was not part of my character.

There is one thing I have learned starting from a very young age: Life is about choices. The choices we make ripple though the universe and create a road for each of us that is self-made. We only know what we know, and we can only work within those parameters.

 

I have also learned that change is an inevitable result of those choices. And as we grow and learn, the changes we make are part of the responsibility each of us has to become better human beings. As we work on growing and facing those changes, they become that much more important in shaping who we are. How we respond to those changes attests to our character. Change is one guarantee we have.

 

I am not the same person I was yesterday and I will not be the same person tomorrow that I am today. I have decided, for myself, that I will not make the same mistakes or repeat the same patterns. When we become strong enough to overcome adversity and break a cycle, we create opportunities for the generations who come after us to do things differently and make wiser choices.

 

It has become an expectation in this world that every generation can learn to do better than the one that came before. Because everything changes as time goes by, sometimes it can seem as though ten minutes from now we can become a very different person than what we were before. There is always the responsibility to try to do better. I’ve made mistakes in my life. As you watch my story develop, you will see how those mistakes are the hardest things I have to forgive myself for.

 

Growing up in the environment I grew up in, I learned that fear equals control, control equals respect. Wouldn’t you say that that was an unhealthy way to look at life? Yes, in the very dysfunctional environment that I grew up in, those toxic thoughts work, but if you want to create a loving, nurturing, and safe environment, that is not how you do it. It took me until I was thirty-two to learn that. However, that is for me to discuss later.

 

As my childhood was embracing the huge change of my father’s emigration, my heart and mind were still processing the current state I was living in. Before, when my father was around, my focus was mostly on survival and escape from his rage. Now that my father was not around and my home life was more relaxed, I was noticing the totalitarian structure of my everyday life.

 

At school we were constantly bombarded with brainwashing and indoctrination tactics. School was the major proving ground for teaching citizens to conform. Young minds were shaped so that we would compete with each other in our commitment and dedication to the government.

 

The first major indoctrination started in elementary school when you became a pioneer. A huge ceremony was held to make us feel like we belonged to something amazing. On special days we had to wear our pioneer uniforms and awards were given to kids who exceeded in their learnings and activities regarding the political arena. However, it was actually nothing more than a breeding ground for propagandistic training.

 

Well, you guessed it. This was not for me at all. Conforming and supporting a government I didn't believe in was not going to happen to this girl! This furthered the difficulties I had with discrimination. It added to me being blackballed and I was labeled as a troublemaker. It also seemed as though I was always singled out in the questioning process when government officials visited our classrooms. That, of course, made life very difficult in school and on the home front as well.

 

On the upside, though, it also made me more resilient. My family conformed to the rules to a degree, but my personal experiences opened my eyes enough to understand that this was not the way. I looked around and saw the truth. The future communists of Romania? That certainly was not going to be something I was going to join. People were taught that the communist ideology and ideals would make life better for them if they only would follow the fascist or socialist beliefs. I knew better, though. All you had to do is sit back and watch how people lived, how they treated others.

 

I was part of the pro-natalist measure Nicolae Ceausescu took in order to increase population in my country. He outlawed abortion and birth control which resulted in a population increase. This contributed to the famous Romanian orphanages and the hardships that they caused. Parents couldn't cope, and another dark secret was spreading: illegal abortions. All this was as far I knew and listening to the old-timers, this was a way to increase population and support labor force to serve our corrupt leader.

 

I was born in 1967. That year started the biggest baby boom era in my country.

Even as a child I was smart enough to see what was happening. The older generation still had firm beliefs, spiritual and religious preferences. Not everyone embraced the empty façade presented to us that socialism had now become responsible for the rise of humanity and better living standards.

 

This massive indoctrination process created division and betrayal among families, friends, neighbors, and communities. This was the intent of the government, of course, as everything became more controlled. Citizens were rewarded if they turned in anyone they thought was against the government. Government came first, not God, the belief in God was not tolerated. When it came to family our government rewarded those who turned their family members in, what do you think that did to the family unit? My parents never tried to influence me. They supported my independent thinking and thankfully never punished me for having a voice. That had a lot to do with the fact that they to were against the government policies and totalitarian regime.

 

As I was advancing in grades in school, my fate in life in my country had already been decided. If you recall when I wrote earlier about my school and home life situation, I hated school, my grades were low, and I was always in trouble. The logic behind the decisions made for my life, as far as the government was concerned, was this: Low grades, in trouble all the time, therefore not worth spending the time or money on higher education. Therefore, this would secure for me the career of a machinist in adult life and training for that was going to start as soon as I hit the high school grades. Recruited to support the competitive industrialization era in Romania. It all sounds good right? In my next blog you will see why this was not such a good thing and just another way to control citizens and serve.

 

It wasn’t that I did not like learning or that I was not intelligent enough. My fate was decided because I was not conforming, I was not following the rules, and did not fit into this “box” that the higher powers decided I should fit into, which would enable me to accept and follow their expectations. This also fit perfectly with the industrial era.  School was nothing but a training ground for future communists who followed the “rules”. I was not that person.

 

I had a plaque in our house that said:

“Don’t try so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out.” This was what drove my heart and mind all my life. Fear came later...

 


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