CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College/Professor Bernstein
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Who He Is

Who He Is


My name is Sami Khan and I’m currently an eighteen-year-old student at the Macaulay Honors College at Baruch. To tell the truth, I’m no different than many of you, except for this one physical blemish that I will continue to have for the rest of my life. This is my story; this is who I am.

The past. I’m six-years-old. “Mr. Khan,” says Dr. Grossman to my father. “I am sorry to inform you, but your son will continue to have arthritis in his left hand, and his left arm will continue to look deformed until he’s old enough to have plastic surgery. I wish we could give you a more detailed analysis, but this is an abnormal condition.”

Fast forward. I’m thirteen-years-old. It’s eighty degrees outside, a warm, sunny September morning. It’s my first day of high school. I walk into my homeroom, being sure to keep my long-sleeved shirt pulled over both my arms. I notice that I’m the only freshman wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I can already see the students starting to mingle. It looks like a pair of magnets coming together, some groups repel, while others attract. The jocks are pulled into one corner, the artists into another, the aspiring scholars into another, and in the final corner? Me. Lonesome, me. The paranoid thirteen-year-old who is willing to be socially awkward before being honest about what my left sleeve concealed. I’d rather be socially awkward than a freak.

Fast forward. I’m fourteen-years-old. It’s my third week of sophomore year. “Ringggg!” goes the school bell. I race out of the school and take the F train all the way to the Forest Hills Rehabilitation Center: my sanctuary. I walk into the center, greeting my peers. I hear an unfamiliar laughter coming from my therapist’s room. I peak my head in to see my therapist treating a new patient. He immediately struck me as one of those people everyone loved: funny, intelligent, caring. As I take a seat next to him, he introduces himself to me as John Kim. He tells me about how he lost his leg during the war in Iraq, and tells me about all the things he can no longer do in life. But why is he telling me this? I’m a complete stranger! Despite the fact that we are both quite similar due to our physical irregularities, he was a completely different person. He was an open and confident person. John’s courage gave me a feeling like no other. I felt inspired beyond words. The next Monday, I turned my life around. I wore a t-shirt.

Fast forward. I’m sixteen-years-old. It’s the first day of senior year. I walk to the front of the classroom, greeting our newly recruited debaters. I stand confidently and tell them about Brooklyn Technical High School’s debate program. They eagerly listen to me, occasionally nodding their heads. At the end of my speech, I ask them if they have any questions. A curious freshman raises his hand and asks me what happened to my arm. I tell him it’s a birth defect, and he asks me whether I’m bothered by it. I tell him that I’m not. I tell him that my arm makes me who I am. I tell him that it was uncomfortable at first to know that every new person I met would be looking at my arm and not at my face. I tell him about how I heard all the different rumors people came up with explaining how my arm became the way it is. And then I tell him something that I was only able to realize because I met John Kim: my arm is nothing more than well, an arm.


1 sbrodetskiy { 12.09.10 at 4:43 pm }

Sami’s story is pretty remarkable. It really says something about kids these days, extracting judgment from a persons’ scars rather than their character.

2 annatraube { 12.10.10 at 4:56 am }

Ditto on Slava’s comment. I might add, this is extremely well written and communicated. Listening to the audio with the vocal expression is especially effective, and has left a deep impression on me. The concluding paragraph is particularly poignant, where Sami says, “it was uncomfortable at first to know that every new person I met would be looking at my arm and not at my face.” It has made me rethink the way I look at new people I meet. Thank you for teaching this very important lesson – not to be ashamed of our those things that make us unique, and not to judge others for theirs.

3 chiub92 { 12.11.10 at 4:35 am }

I admire Sami and how he was able to overcome this obstacle and embrace his individuality. I’m so glad he met John Kim and was able to relate to him and realize that being different was okay.

4 choyeonkim { 12.13.10 at 6:07 am }

I thought your interview was very powerful. I really liked the fact that you wrote the entire piece in your friend’s narrative voice. Thank you and your friend for sharing this story.

5 Catalina Flores { 12.13.10 at 5:16 pm }

Great job Wen! I think it’s safe to say Sami’s story touched us all, and you did a great job at taking yourself out of the interview and giving only Sami’s thoughts

6 taid2292 { 12.17.10 at 7:19 am }

I thought your piece was very evocative and powerful good job

7 sannel { 12.22.10 at 3:35 pm }

This is a really touching story and I love the photos it comes with!