Finding My Voice

As an Asian-American, I've always been very in touch with my heritage and culture. This means that I've always felt more comfortable with my Chinese side. Possibly a side-effect from racism I've faced in America, this is something that I not only have tried to hide, but also try to suppress. Maybe it's just because I'm in the middle of my high school career, when people go through a period of growth and mistakes. Maybe it's because I'm scared that I won't grow if I show that I'm different. Maybe it's simply a mistake. The end result is that I have done all I can to suppress my Asian culture and background. Being an art enthusiast, I decided to help out at a children's camp this summer, and foster their appreciation of art through a program I created. My goal was to unite everyone through a universal language. It was during the second class when I saw there was a little girl sitting in the corner of the room, intently watching the other kids making the project for that day—shaving cream greeting cards. She was the only Asian, and I assumed she felt awkward with the other children because of that. I understood how she felt, but I put on a smile and approached the timid girl. “Hi!” I said, “Would you like to make the project for today?” Slowly, she nodded her head, and I led her towards the craft station. As I led her there, I could feel the energy change. The kids shifted away from her slightly, their body language closed and unwelcoming. It was a moment of heartache and bitterness. I felt bitter towards these kids because they treated her like people treated me. I tightened my grip on her hand, because I remember that she began trembling—like a volcano on the verge of erupting…only it couldn't because it knew what would happen to everything below it. I knew, because I had felt that volcano every day I walked into school. Firmly, I pulled her away and said, “Those kids may seem like the whole world to you right now, but I promise that you'll find people that appreciate you for who you are, and they will become your world. Don't let them bring you down, and keep your head held high. Okay?” She smiled, and the trembling seemed to stop. As I saw her jut her chin out and walk past the other kids with her hands swinging wildly at her sides, I couldn't help but smile. I wished that someone could've done that for me when I was her age. Maybe then I wouldn't have turned out so judgmental of myself. Only then did I realize how hypocritical I was. My advice should've stood true not only for her, but for me as well. How could I tell others to have faith in themselves if I couldn't even do that for myself? So, for once in my life, I told my friends what I was really like. I posted on my Instagram about K-pop and how I loved Asian Dramas. The response I got was incredible. I mean—I received the unavoidable negative feedback, but I didn't care. It was because the positive energy outweighed the negatives, and I got so much support for being myself. The one quote I'll stand by today was spoken by Japanese internment camp survivor, Fred Korematsu. “If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don't be afraid to speak up.” I believe that could change so many lives, if we all just speak up.

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