My Story

So you want to know even more about me?

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My story starts on April 30th in a hospital in Surrey, BC.

I was raised in Surrey, in the same house that I still live in to this day. I have never once moved and went to school in nearby neighbourhoods. All my friends and loved ones live in surrounding areas, and it is a place that I truly call home.

As a kid, I tried a little bit of everything: I did swimming, a bit of ice skating (and failed), golf, basketball, volleyball, piano, writing, singing, cooking. I tried it all, but it was really the artistic stuff that stuck with me. I don’t consider myself to be athletic, though I would (maybe) take you up on the occasional pickup basketball game, go with you to the driving range or go for a run with you.

Music has always been a big part of my life. I was fortunate to start piano lessons at the age of 7, and from there I went to spend the better part of my life playing different genres of music. I currently hold a diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Elementary Piano Pedagogy, and have been teaching for 4 years now. What is even more special is the fact that I am able to teach in the same studio that helped  me to get to where I am today. Alongside teaching, I also spent 5 years accompanying a church choir at a local parish.

Beyond piano, I had always enjoyed singing. I did choir ever since I was in Grade 1, and in high school was a singer in my school’s concert and jazz choirs. And of course, how can I forget my four-year stint as a clarinet player in the high school concert band. While I still play the piano and sing, the clarinet is something that I haven’t played in a while.

But my number one love? Writing. I would say any kind of writing, but sometimes academic writing can be challenging and like pulling out teeth. Nevertheless, I had always been an avid writer. I have kept a daily (or as close as possible to daily) journal every day since the summer between elementary and high school, and I have a journal drawer in my room to prove it.

My first opportunity at being published was when I was 10 years old. As part of a class assignment, each of us were required to write a short story. We did a mass submission of all of our short stories to a short story writing contest for kids and teens nationwide, and my story – “Where Did All the Socks Go?” – was selected to be in this anthology.

Seeing my name in print for the very first time was, in two words, pure ecstasy.

I continued writing, entering as many short story and poetry contests as I could, but to no avail. In short, I got discouraged and I turned to focus on my music. I finished my Grade 10 exam with the Royal Conservatory and began to question to do my diploma exam.

I didn’t really get back into writing until English 11. I was introduced to slam poetry, and from then on, I had begun writing poetry – almost daily – as well as getting back into the swing of writing all kinds of things, from serious prose to short fiction and everything in between. I drew inspiration from a lot of experiences, from first loves to heartbreak, to topics of self-reflection, faith, and culture, to my depression and thoughts of suicide in high school.

In the summer of 2014, between graduating high school and beginning university, I sent two writing samples to the then editor for the Student Life Network blog based out of Toronto. It was completely unplanned and on a whim, and after a bit of back and forth, I started contributing regularly for the blog, publishing my very first piece about why failure is necessary.

Feeling confident, I also sent a few writing samples to another Toronto based blog called Speak Out, which shares stories and experiences around mental health and soon after started contributing regularly there as well, sharing my own personal stories.

Meanwhile, I had started at Simon Fraser University with zero clue as to what I wanted to do. I had always wanted to be a journalist, but self-doubt had taken over and I decided to play it safe with a ghost of an idea that I had growing up. I thought that teaching English would be good. I liked reading, I liked writing – how difficult could it be?

I found out quickly that English in university is a far cry from what it was in high school, and I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. But through my exploration, I came across International Studies, thanks to a wonderful professor who made international development theory super accessible. I pursued it, thinking that I would go into diplomacy or international law (and maybe fulfilling that brief dream of being a lawyer), until I realized that I didn’t have the same drive, the same raw passion that many of my peers did in my IS classes.

I was at a crossroads with little prospects. Having entirely cut out math classes after Grade 11, I knew that there was no hope for me to get into Business or – say what now? – sciences without backtracking and a steep learning curve. So after talking to an International Studies professor – who sold it to me as a ‘haflway between International Studies and English’ – I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and threw myself into Communication at SFU.

Thank God I loved it.

Media theory, political economy, pop culture – I ate it all up.  I love this stuff.  I held onto IS, still pursuing that International Law concentration while also pursuing a major in Communication.

For once, I was really, really enjoying what I was doing in school. I was thriving, getting involved on and off campus, and I wasn’t totally bombing university and gaining 15 pounds plus right off the bat. I was writing regularly for SFU’s student newspaper, The Peak.  I had completed one co-op term already, getting work experience and saving up money for my future.

I was slowly, but surely, making my way.

But as much as I was thriving on the outside, inside I was experiencing a lot of spiritual attack, desolation, stress and anger. 2016 was a difficult year for me, and it had all come to a grinding halt when I was having regular panic attacks in public – something that I hadn’t experienced since my last one in Grade 10, 4 years prior.

At the time, I was preparing for my Elementary Piano Pedagogy exam, and I was failing every single practice exam. I was trying to keep up with all my classes, keep up with my extracurriculars, and keep some semblance of normality for a 20-year-old. But I wasn’t sleeping, my eating habit were all over the place, and I was getting sick more often than not. I had thoughts of suicide constantly. I was constantly on edge and was just waiting to break.

My stress caught up with me, and though I tried to suppress it, it was ultimately a professor that referred me – forced me, thank God – to go seek counselling and psychological help at school. I went for regular counselling sessions and was seeing a physician to rule out any physiological problems.

They say that things get worse before they get better, and this was definitely true. In the week of Christmas and time after, I was sick in bed with some kind of sickness. It lasted for a week, and I thought that this was how I was to die. And if this virus wasn’t going to kill me, then I was just going to do it myself.

While I lay awake thinking of all the pain-free ways to go, I had grown incredibly anxious over the fact that I had registered months prior for this conference hosted by Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO). On a whim in the summer, I had decided to sign up for it since it was in Vancouver. But now that I was sick, anxious, and had flashbacks of the not-so-great experiences I had at other youth events, I was beginning to wonder if this was even a good idea.

I felt better, and well enough, to go. My family was going out-of-town for their own vacation, and I slowly made my way down to the conference. I had two panic attacks on the way there.

But as I went through the conference, I began to see that my fear was unfounded. I was meeting people, opening up, and actually having fun.

It was in a moment of praise and worship that I felt my heart break open, with all my woundedness from my anxieties, depression, broken relationships and pure dissatisfaction with who I had become coming to the forefront of my mind. My arms were outstretched and I was myself for the first time in months in front of a God that I had neglected for so long. I was humbled, transformed, and renewed.

Life continues to surprise me each and every single day, and even more so now that I have a renewed purpose in God. I have continued writing, a lot more for myself and have been freelancing for the new media company Curiocity Vancouver. I have grown in my faith, strengthened my conviction in my career path, fallen in love with people and places, and continually seek out ways to secure a future as a storyteller.

My story is just one story, with so many moving parts and so many contributions to it because of people and places and things that I have encountered. And the beautiful thing is that it’s still being written, to this day!

This blog has been a way for me to tell stories: my own stories, as well as those that I have had the privilege to listen to and the opportunity to re-tell. It is my hope that you find what you are looking here, whether it is consolation, something funny, or learn something new. I hope that you will trust me enough with your own story, because I would love to hear it! Finally, I hope this gives you courage to tell your story, because your story is yours and yours alone! No one else in this world has your story, and it is one worth telling.

So this is my story. What’s yours?

/R