Those that know me never knew that I always felt different. I was not truly “Canadian” but I was not truly “Vietnamese” either. In many ways, I became a teacher to my parents about a culture that they still had a hard time adjusting to while simultaneously trying to figure out my own. I really did live in two worlds and they would clash often. You could say I was the child that rebelled. I was not the typical obedient Vietnamese girl. I talked back. I played sports. I snuck out so I could do “normal” teenage things. And despite the inclusiveness and the acceptance that I received growing up, every once in awhile I’d be reminded that I was different. One time I was told, “You’re actually normal like everyone else.” What the heck does that mean!? Why wouldn’t I be? And you’d be surprised to know that I’ve heard “Chink” come in my direction and it was said without a thought or batting an eye.
One foot in this world and one in the other and all the struggles with it, these experiences were what would lead me to my education and career in social work. I would come to help others in similar ways the community of Wynyard helped my family. My primary area of interest in my field would become international and multicultural social work, and in particular, issues faced by immigrants and refugees. My masters research would take me back to my roots and to Vietnam; I would find the missing pieces of what it meant to be Vietnamese. Today I have a home to call my own, an education surpassing my parents’ expectations, jobs that allows me to foster my interests and skills with mentors who constantly remind me of the potential I have, and the freedom to play and explore.
You see, my parents sacrificed absolutely everything to come here and then upon arriving, they sacrificed even more to give me every small thing that has led to where I am now. I cannot credit them entirely though. This would not have happened if a community had not given a family a chance and opportunities to build a life that could not be built in their homeland.