Growing up as one of the few Asians in a Jewish community, and also a tomboy, I was a social outcast at school. I was often ridiculed for being different from the other girls, but my parents taught me that no matter how others treat you, you should treat people the way you want to be treated. I refused to be like them, so I was still nice, respectful, and helpful to my peers. But, as years gone by, things didn’t change much. Although I knew that I couldn’t be friends with everyone, all I wanted was a bit of respect.
That was until Grade 5, when each of us had to write a ‘I have a Dream’ speech for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in January annually. There was a new kid at school that year who was very popular. I became their target so I started volunteering in the kindergarten class during recess to avoid confrontation.
In my speech, remember writing about my vision of the world and how I wanted future generations to feel respected no matter who they interacted with. After all, until you walk in the shoes of others, no one can truly understand the struggles they are going through. I made connections to my own life experiences, and extended my thinking to world issues like racism, gender inequality, discrimination, and bullying. I spoke about how I was tired of pretending that everything was okay and that we all need to pause and reflect on our actions. While writing this speech, I was confronted with a revelation that we view life through our eyes, not reality, so we need to look beyond to truly understand the impact we have on others.
Last month, I actually pulled out my speech from many years ago on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan 17th). After listening to Cadmium & Rosendale’s latest release ‘Just a Kid‘ today, I thought of my speech and wanted to share an excerpt from it with everyone:
“I have a dream. I dream of a world where we do not define each other by colour, gender, or background. A world where we do not discriminate or patronize others because one of us might be smarter, stronger, or prettier. Why should we fight between each other? Why should we play a game of comparison? What is there to gain from calling people out? I dream of a world where we focus on building a future that is more empathic, patient, and open. This is what will makes us better. It’s not about our looks or abilities that make us better than one another. We cannot be compared. Just like how we cannot compare apples and oranges, we cannot and should not compare people. I dream of a world where we can be inclusive and show everyone respect, love, and friendship. This is my dream. Let’s make it possible so we can live in a future with harmony.”
Looking back, I think I could have written my speech more eloquently, but I was only 12 at the time.
Growing up, I struggled with being ridiculed, but when my teacher asked me to read my speech to the class, that was my turning point and likely what gave me the courage to be the voice for those who are still searching for a way to rise up.
But, life as we all know, isn’t easy. Even today, I still hear hurtful comments about my career choices and capabilities. I’ve honestly been turned down by writers looking for an editor at my company because they said, “I don’t want someone who doesn’t understand English to edit my work.” Yep, that really happened before.
Between you and me, I might have an Asian background, but I was born and raised in Canada and won countless awards for my writing. Though, everyone has the right to an opinion, so I would not judge them for sharing with me their hurtful comments.
Plus, being an Asian who is following their dreams to become a full-time writer, I hear it all the time from family that I’m “wasting my life because I’m not doing something important, like being a doctor or lawyer” (the typical occupations traditional Asian parents prefer their kids to hold).
With a bestselling novel, an EP in collaboration with Kromatix_, 8 digital magazine publications, and many writing and music projects in progress, I don’t think I’m wasting my efforts. Contributing to the literature and music world, while spreading hope, is something I’m very proud of. Some might disagree, but that won’t stop me from continuing and growing in what I’m passionate about.
My upcoming book release will showcase my main message here today: the power of our words.
We have a choice in this world. To live life blending into the crowd, hiding, and following others’ dreams. Or to live life standing out, finding courage to follow our own dreams, and building a community that appreciates what you believe in. Thank you fellow readers for being part of my community.