What would you like to tell your 15 year old self?
I haven’t thought about it very much, but the year I was 15 was a very momentous year.
It was the year my family immigrated to Australia from Malaysia and settled in Perth.
I don’t know, reader, if you can remember much about what you were like as a 15 year old, but I do remember that at the time, I really did feel like I had been exiled. Leaving my school and my friends behind, and everything that was familiar, was just the end of the world. We arrived in Perth in January, and it was hot and dry, and the air smelled funny (gum trees, I know now). I was sullen, sulky and generally bad tempered for a while, and it didn’t help that when I arrived at school the other kids were all in their cliques and uninterested in getting to know an ungainly tomboy, an Asian no less. When we arrived there was a lot of anti-Asian sentiment here and there were times it was downright unpleasant. Like the time I went to get the bus to school and found the bus stop covered in posters proclaiming: “Asians Out or Racial War!”
It took a while for me to find my feet. I took refuge in the school library, and in the public library too – my first exposure to libraries, in fact. I did not understand the obsession with sport and couldn’t (still can’t) swim, so I read lots. I became fascinated with indigenous culture and started to learn more about this country by reading.
Anyway… to cut a long story short, I would tell my 15 year old self this:
- Immigrating to Australia is not the end of the world. In fact, you will have a million opportunities and experiences, and you’ll even come to love it here!
- It’s a shame you didn’t let yourself open up to those of your high school teachers who cared, and who wanted to talk, help, and advise. Thank you though, Mrs B. and Ms. H., for trying!
- And no, your belief that just about everyone else is better, more intelligent and more capable than you is WRONG. You are not too unintelligent to be a librarian. Really.