Last weekend I attended the 2013 East Coast Asian American Student Union Conference (ECAASU) for the first time. People may not believe me when I tell them, but my life has changed since then. Maybe not my day-to-day life, but what I want for my life.
I could write about where I went and what I did and who I met, but I think it’s more important to write down what I got out of it and what I am going to do.
I’m not someone without a dream. It’s more like I can’t choose the one I want the most. Until last Sunday, my plans were to graduate, land a job in Operations Management (that’s my major) for a well-known company, get rich so that I could support myself while working in non-profit, when I get tired of all that maybe open my own knitting cafe or teach when I’m old and seasoned. I’ve tossed around this idea of working in non-profit for awhile now. Sometimes I feel out of place in a major where everyone is all about making the most money as easily as possible. I just want to change a little bit of this world in which we live. The problem was I didn’t know what I wanted to change. Or maybe I did, but I didn’t know how, that is, until ECAASU.
Something I think about a lot is equality, for everyone. But especially for women and Asians/Asian-Americans; because I’m both and it affects me on a personal level. I’m not saying I’ve lived a hard life. I don’t think I could ever say that, considering my all that my family has gone through so that I could live comfortably with few worries here, in America. But I don’t think we should settle. After attending ECAASU, I realized that I’m not alone in thinking so. And I’ve realized that I’m not alone in trying to find my place in society as both an American and an Asian.
One of the keynote speakers at the opening ceremony was Dilawar Syed. He’s a business guy and a member of the Asian American community, someone that I could definitely relate to. Something he said during his speech really struck me. He talked about how Indian-American tech companies should help small Asian family-run business grow and expand. And he said something along the lines of “Don’t give back; Give as you go.” I have always had the mentality of get rich, keep what you need, and give away the rest. I realized that it’s the reciprocality of giving as you go that will really help us as a society. The moment I heard those words, the notion I had of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life began to dismantle. And throughout the entire conference, I kept learning new things, not necessarily about what problems existed out there (because I already numerous existed), but more about myself and how much I wanted to make them disappear.
The little simmer of activism and rebellion that I’ve had my entire life warmed to a rolling boil by Saturday’s closing ceremony.
ECAASU was a bit overwhelming at first and I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to get out of it. It was a lot to soak in. But slowly the pieces started coming together.
I started thinking about me and what I valued: I’m a young woman with creativity and entrepreneurial spirit trying to make my way in the business world, but I don’t really care about money. I just want to change the world a little bit. I’m also Vietnamese/Asian-American, trying to learn more about where I come from and where I belong. And I’m passionate about women’s issues and minority rights, which only intensified after ECAASU.
Somewhere between Sunday and Tuesday I figured it all out. I want to say that it was like an epiphany or it came to me in a dream but I’d probably by romanticizing it too much. It was more of just a thought that became more and more appealing and real.
I’m seriously considering that one day, maybe right out of college or maybe a few more years down the road, that I will start my own non-profit that helps specifically women and minorities start, run, and expand their own businesses. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? I’d like to think that it was ECAASU that helped me realize this is what I ultimately do with my life.
There is just so much more I could write about my experience, but I feel like I’ve deleted half of my ramblings already. The main reason that wrote all of this was so that I can go back and remind myself of this passion that I’ve felt for an entire week before I forget how it feels. And maybe you read it and and want to join me on my journey.