In the fall of 1994 as I was starting my freshmen year in high school, I moved to a new town, I didn’t know anyone I didn’t have any friends, as if that was not stressful enough I also suffered from a skin condition that is constantly inflamed, itching all day and night, causing visible rashes that are on my face and my entire body. Eczema.
I was very self conscious
I remember being worried about how people would judge me, how would they accept me, I was very self conscious. Throughout my high school years I can remember being in the bathrooms constantly applying moisturizers, topical steroids or ointments to my red inflamed face. Most of my day was spent trying to cover up scars, it was a very painful experience not just physically but also mentally.
As a young man trying to find my identity in this world, this war I had with eczema was a war on my self confidence and the eczema was winning. In order to cope with the struggles of my identity, I became the funny guy in the class room, I figured if I made my peers laugh with me I they would not be laughing at me. I became the center of attention, I made an effort to find funny material in the every day to day, I was able to make a class room of 30 plus kids laugh distracting them from my insecurities outwardly.
My eczema got worse
This skill I developed throughout high school, allowed me a way to connect with people, it allowed me to find my identity. As I progressed to adulthood, in the early 2000, I was achieving my degree in electrical engineering, I needed to find a job and I was hired to my first part time job at 24 hour fitness. Adulthood seemed to be falling into place, but my teenage insecurities started to come light again, without warning my eczema had got worse. It was at this time I was given an extensive list of food allergies, to add to my daily struggles, no dairy, no peanut, no eggs, any foods that carry these ingredients I cannot have. As an avid lover of ice cream this was a blow to my soul.
I lost the way of caring for people, I was mad and bitter, for a social and extroverted individual I fed into my demons and separated myself from my friends and family. Filled with self – pity I became very introverted, I didn’t want to be around people.
A change of scenery
This continued until I graduated my Electrical engineering degree, that summer I was given a ticket to the Philippines, as a child my parents took me to the island but I was too young to remember. I packed my bags and landed on the island, my family is from a small town in Ilocos Sur, Cabugao. I will never forget that day, as I got out of that car and looked at my relatives house that I will be calling home for the next two months, I remember feeling a little appalled and disgusted by the living conditions. I was expecting a bed but I got a bamboo floor, I was expecting hot running water, but instead was informed that I would need to get up early to gather from a pump outside to be able to use water for the day.
Read about the rest of Peter’s trip in Good Problems Part II