Be Better

Dear Allies, 

I know you all saw the news headlines on March 17th. “Man charged with killing 8 people at Georgia massage parlors”. Of these 8 people who tragically lost their lives, 6 of them were of Asian descent. State representative Bee Nguyen claimed that the shootings appeared to be at the intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia, while some knucklehead officer, whose name is so completely irrelevant, stated that the murder suspect was simply having “a bad day”. Far too often, it seems, whenever there’s a mass shooter who has white complexion we simply call it “someone suffering from mental health”. I could go into why that statement is so overused and is a huge reason as to why mental health stigma is still running rampant everywhere in our society but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because, as we see racial tensions and tension between men & women elevate to a point that we haven’t seen in a long time, I just have to ask.

What the fuck are we, as allies, doing?

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like the hate that we see in our society wasn’t propelled by the hateful spewing that the former president (and his followers) would do almost every time they got a chance. In fact, it would be a straight up lie to say that the comments (specifically those about “kung flu”) had no effect whatsoever on what we saw in the news just a couple of days ago. And so, a lot of blame has to go to this man and the people around him who used their platform in the most negative way possible. But in this lies the problem.

This is the part that frustrates me the most, and it’s something that we see way too much of. Allies (people much like myself) love to put the blame ANYWHERE else. It’s very easy to point our fingers towards the orange troll in office and call him a racist bigot and blame him for the elevated levels of inexplicable hate that we’re witnessing. What’s harder is taking this time and energy to look internally and ask ourselves “am I doing enough for my brothers and sisters?” 

We saw it with Black Lives Matter (“Oh this doesn’t affect me, I’m not racist, my cousin’s friend is black, so this isn’t about me”), with women’s rights (#NotAllMen trending above #SarahEverard), with gay/transgender rights (“Saying “that’s gay” doesn’t make me homophobic!”) and we’re seeing it now with our actions towards the Asian community; instead of openly being supportive and being present in the fight for equality, we’re being quiet. “That shooter wasn’t racist, he was just having a bad day. Kung Flu is a joke, I don’t mean it seriously- so this doesn’t apply to me.” 

This inequality, this hatred, has been fed to us FOREVER; long before 2016. And to point all the blame to the former president instead of doing our part is both lazy and, frankly, selfish. It’s cowardly. It’s an easy escape. And it’s completely missing the point. By throwing the blame somewhere else, we are regressing instead of moving forward. By pointing fingers instead of realizing that it takes all of us to make change, we’re hurting, not helping. 

When I was in the early years of elementary school, I had had a crush on one of my friends. When other students found out and realized that the girl I had a crush on was South Asian, we were both immediately heckled. We would constantly be bombarded at recess on the playground from hoards of other students who kept repeating things like: “You’ve seen what she eats right? Gross”, “She’s not from here, why would you like THAT?”, “How could you have a crush on her, she isn’t even white

This is a hatred that has been fed to us since birth. This is nothing new. And it’s up to our generation to get a hold of it and change the course. Yes, chances are you’re telling the truth when you say “I’m not racist” or “I would never sexually assault a woman”. But those are just words, and actions speak much louder. It’s time to do the uncomfortable work (if you haven’t started already, then it’s seriously time to play catch up), look within ourselves, identify how we can contribute- not just to ourselves but to our inner circles and our communities- and make some serious change. Because I, for one, am exhausted at seeing so many of us allies pointing fingers and distributing blame. I’m tired of the half-ass support that ultimately does nothing (Yes, I’m looking at all of you who posted a black square then went back into hiding, or the people who reposted one story, felt like they were in the clear from judgement, then went back home and told a racist joke to their friends). I’m tired of people chiming into these events and discussions and treating them like trends, only to forget about them when the popularity seems to be dying down and go back to the way they were. Frankly, there’s no time or place for that superficial garbage. We’re talking about peoples’ lives and security, not likes on an Instagram post. 

We love appropriating cultures like the Native American culture. We love listening to R&B, jazz and hip hop. We love going out to a restaurant and ordering ethnic food because “we’re quirky”. Some of our favorite movies are “Parasite” and “Crazy Rich Asians”. And yet, when people are marching the streets simply asking to be viewed as equal, to be able to walk outside at night without fearing getting gunned down or sexually assaulted, to be able to feel comfortable in a room or crowd that they have every right to be in, we fall silent and point the blame elsewhere so that we aren’t inconvenienced. 

As allies we need to be better. We need to be there. We need to put our energy and time into the right things. Stop pointing the blame to everyone else and stop acting like you’re so holy. Stop trying to cancel cartoon shows and old Eminem songs and start making actual significant changes. Use your platforms- whether on social media or in the real world- to spread information and raise awareness. March alongside everyone in the streets and, if there are no active movements or fundraisers going on in your community, organize them. 

This can’t keep happening. If you really truly give a shit like you constantly claim to, prove it. 

Feeling Alone in a Crowded Room

Loneliness. The word itself has a haunting, heavy feel to it; one that grabs your heart strings and tugs on them with a force that no physical impact could have. In a simple definition, loneliness is described as the sadness you feel when one has no friends or company; known by other names such as companionless, friendless or

alone.

This is an incredibly common feeling in our society. It’s highlighted in movies, literature, every-day discussions and classrooms. As human beings we are biologically known for being social creatures, essentially meaning that every person has dealt with some sort of loneliness in their lifetime; whether it be minor (such as working long hours alone in a shop), or more major (alone and camping out in the woods, “Into the Wild” style) circumstances. The one circumstance that is not talked about nearly enough, however, is the feeling of loneliness that some get even when their life is full of people and their social circle is present and supportive.

This circumstance of being alone in a crowded room was identified by myself early into my life. Not recognizing that what I was feeling was depression from an early age made me simply accept the fact that I was weird; that I wasn’t as happy or positive as everyone else simply because I wasn’t born to fit in. This settlement of being an outcast made me feel a constant sense of uncomfortable; one that, for over a decade, I learned to embrace and identify myself with. I was scared to let people in to see the reality; that I was struggling internally day after day while I put on a smile and used all of my energy to get a laugh out of my friends and peers. It got to a point where, in my first year of university, I found myself sitting in a crowded room at one of our many parties- beer, good friends and great music all in abundance- feeling completely and utterly alone.

Loneliness is one of those feelings that, if not taken care of, can creep up on you. It’s a feeling that will keep you up at night and make you seriously question yourself as a person. You have friends, but they don’t really know who you are, I would often tell myself as I laid in bed late at night. If they knew how sad you truly were, they would all leave.

Face it, you’re alone in this.

What needs to be addressed more by those who have experienced this feeling is that the input that the little voice in your head is whispering to you is complete crap. The feeling of loneliness, in this case, is one that those who are internally struggling form out of fear. I felt incredibly alone for years because I refused to let anyone in to see the real me, because I had constructed this “worst-case scenario” in my head that if I opened up to those I loved they would all leave me, because I was terrified of the judgement and disgust that I “knew” the people around me would show when I told them I had depression.

But, when it got to be too much, I realized how wrong I was.

When I finally told my best friend of ten years how I was really doing inside, he cried on the phone and told me he loved me. When I finally told my teammates and my peers, they gave me endless support and showed a love that I did not expect. When I told my family, there were light hearted jokes thrown around and a wave of support that I had told myself would never happen. I quickly realized that the worst-case scenario I had formulated in my head was never going to be the case, that these people in my life were there for one reason and for one reason only: because they loved me and all the quirks that came with me. It made me realize that the barrier I had put up to separate my true self to the ones around me, which had been done in an attempt to protect myself, was actually the one thing making me feel completely and utterly alone. It wasn’t until I took that barrier down where the deep, destructive feelings of loneliness started to really go away.

As people struggling with depression, we often feel like a burden to those around us; like showing our true feelings would scare the people we care about away. We fear that opening up will make us seem weaker and crazier than the average person and ruin any potential relationships (romantic or not) that come our way. The Canadian Mental Health Association states that of all the people in the country suffering from a mental illness, approximately HALF don’t seek help or reach out to their closest friends/family. They also state that a simple reaching out, whether it be professional help or help from those closest to you, could potentially save the lives of over 80% of those struggling internally. It’s an action that I cannot simply stress enough. Opening up to my friends and family not only got rid of that loneliness that was corroding my inner self; it saved my life and helped me become who I truly wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect- I still have those feelings of loneliness from time to time; like I mentioned, as humans this is normal. But knowing that I’m on the same page as my friends and family helps more than I could express in this tiny blog post.

For anyone with the same voice in their head as me telling them “You’re alone in this”, for anyone who has put up a barricade in an attempt to protect themselves and the relationships they’ve built over the years, for anyone who, much like me, can sit in a crowded room and still feel completely alone: try to take that terrifying step of letting your friends and family in. I promise knocking that barricade down isn’t as scary as you think. One of my favourite sayings of all time is the same sentence that used to make me roll my eyes immediately when it was told to me because of how cliché it seemed, because it contradicted everything my inner voice had told me for so long. But it’s one that, when you make it to the other side, you realize is the truest advice anyone could give you:

You’re NOT alone in this.