When I was five, I struggled in kindergarten because I had a hard time understanding and speaking English. All my life, I only spoke Cantonese at home, and going to school was terrifying as it was brutal. The teachers suggested to my parents that I should stay behind, and take another year to catch up. My immigrant mother did not budge and knew that I will grow into it. She wasn’t worried.
When I was in 1st grade, a classmate of mine was kicking sand at me from a sandbox. He was saying something, teasing me possibly. I could smell the dirt in the air, feel the dust on my skin. I didn’t know how to fight back but my soul is naturally non violent. I couldn’t bear the thought of him feeling what I was feeling.
Our teacher came over to us with a scolding look only a teacher could give and the boy blamed me for kicking sand at him. Angered and frustrated, our teacher told me to get up, walk toward a tree and face the tree so I could not say a word. Obediently, I stood and faced the tree trunk, because I didn’t have the words to fight back. Other kids were snickering at me and pulling their eyes back to mimic a chinese person, laughing hysterically while the teacher told them to calm down.
My eyes welled up with tears and all I could remember was pulling at the tree skin and feeling as if something was missing. I promised myself that I would never be at a loss of words again.
When I grew a little older, I started writing daily, journals and whatnot. In my 5th grade drama class, I discussed my wild imaginary ideas with my teacher, who also became my mentor. He suggested I draft a play, for fun. Eventually, it was put into a mini production in school auditorium and my classmates were the actors. I was strangely pleased and embraced the weirdness of creativity and how beautiful it was to see something come to life. I wrote about a little girl who surivived from power lines.
I went to college and that opened up a whole new world of writing. I learnt about the different styles and how styles change in different time periods. Like art, prose and writing is heavily influenced by periods of time. I enjoyed creative writing the most, because you can mold any style of literary devices into your own form. My personal favorite was reptition. And parallels.
Now that I am older, I’m not so worried about the sandbox type of people. They are out there, like all of us. I gained strength from a weak moment, and I think that really sparked my desire to write, and create stories through beautiful words.
And Photography – something I’ve recently gotten into, has opened my world into something so much bigger. You could create a whole day in a few hours, a few edits could take your photo from normal to nostalgic. You can change the mood, you can create the setting, set the tone. They are images, but the most important part of imagery is that it is open to interpretation. Everything is your take. There is no right or wrong answer.
Sometimes I take photos of flowers that have been plucked from the earth. There is something so enchanting about nature and their life cycles – they live and die like everything else. They are sacred little beings that blossom, bloom and wilt. As I watch them in memory through photographs, they are falling apart and wilting like everyone else. Like the world we live in. So complicated, yet so simple.
I’m currently working on a bunch of short stories, and happily photographing on weekends. It is incredibly detailed and vivid in my mind, and short trips on weekends have made my mind full and happy. Despite my normal day job, I am grateful to have time to explore and nurture creativity.
The photographs I’ve taken are a small collection of my progress as a human inhabiting this earth. It’ll be awhile before I finish, if I ever do. I want to share snippets of it with you, here. My little real estate on the interwebs.
I may have been a late bloomer in speaking English, and laughed on by my peers who thought I was too Asian, but that hasn’t stopped me from gaining perspective on telling stories and putting my visuals into words I believed in. My own language.
I believe that anyone can do it, as long as you come from a place of passion. We all have things to conquer, and I hope my message of courage is enough to inspire you. There is one message that creativity always comes with and it is that you are never alone. You can create, and dream and dream again before you create. Words, art, poetry, fleeting moments of life on your camera. It’s yours.
Your strangeness is what will set you apart from the others. Embrace it, and love it.