Sunshine through full-length glass windows, iced latte on a makeshift coaster out of recycled paper, wooden furniture and warm yellow lights; the kind of afternoon your breaths are slow and time passes without you realizing. Three weeks before I am Sydney-bound, where a whole new chapter awaits, I am incredibly thankful to be celebrating this Chinese New Year season of reunions for one more time. The red packets, oranges in pairs and dress-up aside, isn’t it intriguing how our paths can diverge so vastly from those within the same generation? This piece is about the prominent differences that contribute to our diversity.
I am an aspiring Occupational Therapist. My love story with public healthcare was the result of countless service opportunities. I recall vividly, the first time I stepped into a Dementia Daycare Centre – healthcare professionals assisting patients with every functional task; bringing food from the table to one’s mouth, supporting them by the elbow as they take slow steps to get from one side of the room to the other. Slowly, as they put one foot after the other, taking sharp, short breaths in between. Having the same conversation with a single patient over and over again for the first time, I was heartbroken. I left the Centre that day, promising never to return so that I never have to be in such a helpless position again. With the support of peers from Interact Club in Junior College, I continued visiting every week for 2 years. In about 3 days, I am bound for Sydney to pursue Occupational Therapy in the University of Sydney.
I am, also, a daughter to my parents. My first part-time job was at McDonald’s, at the age of 14. Cleaning tables then scooping fries, the ultimate promotion was to eventually stand before the cashier. I was obsessed with the idea of pulling weight at home financially so working part-time did not stop until the year I took ‘A’ Levels. In the day, I was a student; in the nights or weekends, a student care teacher, an administrative assistant or a waitress. In hindsight, I think they were my desperate attempts to feel worthy of my parents’ unconditional love and a relief to the powerlessness in face of their late nights and exhaustion. Today, though, I have learned that the people who love us, love us just the way we are.
I can tell more stories than one, and many more than just these two for sure, about the person I have become today. This is so for each of us in this space: every one of us have multiple stories that give reason to our being and do justice to the complexities of our identities. This phenomenon is one I refer to as the “Diversity of Selves”, where we each accumulate incredible stories across time. In a reality where we have immense opportunities like never before, our everyday choices have compounded and resulted in each of us living in a similar time while experiencing this time in vastly different ways. Think: Polytechnic, ITE or Junior College? Local universities or overseas? Doctor, lawyer, businessmen, engineer or a job not created yet? The privilege of these choices we get to make today contributes to the library of stories we build in our lives and to the increasing diversity of selves.