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Andrei Tetiva - I feel enormous and I see monstrous

Author: Andrei Tetiva

I feel enormous and I see monstrous

I wouldn't say I got off to a flying start. It wasn't even a good or satisfying one. Bad luck meant that I was born with severe vision problems, which, even through dozens of surgeries kept within normal boundaries, eventually exploded and left me permanently blind. If I didn't take it too ok from the beginning, all the bad luck decided not to grow up next to my parents (too young to understand the needs of a newborn) and so I ended up belonging and developing in the Romanian foster care system. What I can tell you for sure is that I experienced injustice in all its forms. I have not been spared much by fate, and from vulnerability and doubt as a child, to carelessness and contempt as a teenager, I have experienced all, one by one, but absolutely all the states you can go through, sometimes alternating from one day to the next, that I didn't even know exactly if what I was experiencing was a painful simulation, a grey reality or a normal way of being.

As a child, the biggest injustice for me was that, from the age of 5, I had to understand that not all children are subject to that beautiful rule that "family is only one and is with you from birth until..."

From a few months when I was placed with my first foster carer until I was 9 years old, I changed 3 foster families. They say that when educating young ones, you have to speak their language, reduce information to simple, until the mind can grasp it. If someone can explain in the language of a 5 year old so that they understand that they will have to change their mother, brothers, sisters and get used to a totally new environment, I promise I will nominate them for a place in the record books. Well, I kept changing mothers until I was sick of it, and since there weren't many workarounds, I had to assimilate the situations as such and kept playing at being a kid.

When I got to school, I had dreams in my pocket about how I would be a good student. I could handle it, my mind wasn't playing tricks on me, it was just that my environment kept me trapped in a bubble that I hardly escaped from until I was a teenager. The last foster home I had to live in, from age 9 to 16, was the most profound and telling consequence of the incompetence of an uncaring state. It was the disgusting expression of indolence and bullying. People without any training, without a trace of empathy or common sense are receiving children with disabilities or serious emotional problems into their care in Romania, and not just yesterday, and I am not saying this for the sake of drama. Unfortunately, in Romania you are still forced as a minor, poor or raped woman to bring children into the world whom you may not be psychologically or financially capable of bringing up. Children who, once in the care of the Romanian state, do not necessarily have a happy fate. In short, you give birth and something will happen to them afterwards. Why? Because, although abortion is legal in Romania, you can't have one. The Association of Independent Midwives has drawn up a route that every patient who needs an abortion service has to follow. It shows that more than 80% of public medical establishments in Romania do not offer this type of service or cannot be contacted, and that such an operation at a private clinic costs as much as powdered milk for 5 more children. Ok, congratulations! You have proved yourselves to be heroes, you have saved lives, and what do we do? Are we going to blame 18 years from now that the lives we saved once were knocked down in the street. Is that normal in a civilized society? You saved him, give him a chance to have a decent life, an education, a family that is responsible or even loving …

Coming back, I then understood that if you end up in the care of the state, you are no longer a child like everyone else, but become a low-quality commodity, moved from one emotional warehouse to another. You're that product that someone takes off the shelf just because it's cheap, but in the end, you make some profit off of it. Throughout this whole period of being treated with disgust and maybe only 5% more humanely than you treat a mosquito, I developed in my own person, out of obligation, carelessness as a lifestyle. I can't tell you if what I experienced is 100% identifiable with depression as we now understand it, but I do know for sure that it has caused me serious shortcomings in interacting with those around me. Because over and over my desires were ignored, mocked and overlooked without even getting the slightest bit of attention, I understood that only by screaming, rebelling, kicking, making a fuss would I get reactions, even if not necessarily the ones I wanted. As the song goes, "Ooooo, I've learned that I'll make my own justice".

The school where I learned, at least for the orphaned and backless children, reeks of labeling, meanness and marginalization from the moment I entered. Those with the titles of psychologists, psycho-pedagogues, and even many of the teachers, constantly made me doubt myself, believe that I was ill-bred, bad, underachieving, and that everything that once seemed good in my way of being was lost somewhere along the way. Unfortunately, the Romanian school is not just the place where education is done, 24/7 emotional support is provided and functional future adults are prepared. For the ones like me, it's a nightmare where if you don't fit in, aren't the model and obedient student, you'll be cast aside. (But hey! What a beautiful Romanian school, isn't it?)

What I mean is that I was not a good kid, I was not easily mollified, but that was not entirely my fault, it was more the accumulation of frustration and hurt inside of me, manifested outwardly as a kid could. In their amateurism, people preferred to treat the effect, the cause could remain untouched. What is the result of this idiotic thinking? We will never get to the point of holding the right people accountable for the fact that there are children from disadvantaged backgrounds who become, through today's poorly organised system, tomorrow's criminals. Because we don't understand that I and others like me were the product of a society that was wrong from the ground up. We were nobody's children, treated like jobs by a large number of foster carers and, more often than not, abused in foster homes, and all we can do at those tender ages is invent a shell under which to mask our emotions. This shell, in most cases, takes the form of rebellion, the form of contempt, and ultimately the form of delinquency.

We are uneducated in many ways, including parenting. I spent my pre-teen years, the crucial period in an individual's development, in a family where food and a coat bought on the cheap once in a while meant that you raised a child, that these basic things automatically gave me a solid education as well, and because I didn't starve and freeze to death, it's clear that I have to be a responsible, humble, grateful person. Emotions, dialogue, guidance, love, understanding, integration are not discussed because they don't exist in the universe of too many of us.

The deal is simple. The saleswoman keeps receipts from other customers' purchases, purchases of quality, attractive products, and the assistant comes in every so often and collects them, then presents them to the DGASPC and claims to have invested in the child. That way, he gets some more money out of it, because nah, life is hard and you have to make do.

Finally, in 2018, after years of preliminary meetings between the child and the adoptive family, procedures, paperwork and lengthy psychological assessments, it was only when Drăgănescu Denis Andrei, that is me in my ruined form, came of age that I was adopted, by court order, and escaped from the clutches of a system that had half devoured me. That part of me was taken in, listened to, encouraged, comforted and patted where it hurt, in my emotions, in my self-esteem... I had an operation on my trust in my fellow man, I was given a sense and the freedom to choose who to be, and that's how Tetiva-Drăgănescu Denis-Andrei, or as I introduce myself, Andrei Tetiva, the undersigned, was born. Nice to meet you! I retired Denis due to illness of the soul. He needed to recover from rehabilitation procedures anyway and I am now feeding him with successes, to show him that there was nothing wrong with him, but with those responsible for what he should have become. He has a regimen to follow, based on accomplishments and I am sticking to it as much as I can. Now it's the inner child for me. Maybe the only trace of purity I carry. I let him play, discover, do everything the disaffected in his life didn't let him do in time. I rarely deny his whims and do things to comfort him when he still daydreams. He has a lot of fun, and I soak up all his experience and as much as possible convert it into fulfilled dreams. I wanted to do radio, and here I am now at Impact FM on the morning show. I wanted advertising, and here I am writing copy. That little piece of me wants a lot more, some of which I can't tell you, but I promised her we wouldn't stop there.

The injustices I have not escaped by any means, but the ones I am facing now are easier to bear, because I don't feel that someone is so brutally attacking my physical or mental safety. To be fair, I would like to encounter fewer pitfalls in this society as an adult. It would be nice if those in power would stop trumpeting to gather sympathisers and actually digitise all this administrative stuff they've been saying they're going to do for years and years. The "Romania, I love you" team has a whole article by Cosmin Savu, present here, on the subject and I recommend it. Maybe this way I wouldn't have to go blindly from one secretariat to another, from that counter to the other and so on to solve something that by Email would be ready in an hour. Not to say that I don't know, but when I sign a sheet, it looks like something written with one foot, and that one broken. I don't know, but wouldn't you feel embarrassed if you knew that the blind have adapted to all that technology, but the state still calls them to put pen to paper?

Yes, I also want a high level of inclusion and real understanding, just so the bosses don't turn my texts around on the grounds that I put an extra space in the text, which means someone has to read what I write again and thus we are not performing, as if it isn't obvious that it's a reading error based on visual disability, not proof of incompetence on my part. The point is that from this life up to 16 years old, I understand that if I want to achieve something, I have to fight. Determination and optimism have been planted in me, and it's been firmly ingrained in my mind that if things go wrong, nothing gets solved anyway if I play Cinderella and try to get caught up in the too-warm arms of victimhood. Unfortunately, we don't live in the perfect world, and as long as evil is still part of the universe, we need to think less about the fact that if we lived in a different world, life worked differently and accept that this is our condition now, and we either win or we will lose.

Now if you'll excuse me, I promised that kid I told you about that I'd read him a bedtime story about men of justice and I'm already late. It would be a shame to let him down myself... Thank you.

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