I was always shy and writing was the only way I knew how to really communicate my feelings. I remember for my elementary speech fest, my teacher took pity on me and allowed me to do my presentation with the lights off and my classmates had to put their heads down on their desks so there wouldn’t be any eye contact. I was that painfully shy which meant that making friends was a struggle. I was known as the weird quiet girl who kept to herself, but I wasn’t bullied because of it. I was just part of the background, like white noise, often slept on as a result. I wasn’t always shy though, and if I had to really think back to what triggered my shyness it would probably be when my family migrated from the Philippines to Canada fourteen years ago.
I learned new words like “diversity”, “culture” which was different than the dominant uniformity of religion and culture in the Philippines. I remember on my first day of school I was labelled as an ESL student. The school system automatically assumed English was my second language, but really it was the only language I knew how to speak despite coming from the Philippines. There was already that ignorance in place that just assumed that if you weren’t from North America you weren’t educated. They pulled me from class to test my English and was surprised when they realized that not only could I speak fluent English (despite my slight Asian accent), but I could also write in English very well.
This was fourteen years ago, before social media took over society, before everyone owned cellphones, before the way politics are today. I cannot imagine the hardships of immigrants today, but being an immigrant myself heavily influenced my writing therefore made me the person I am today. Our hardships make us who we are, never be ashamed of your history.