Mist and Haze: An Artist Memoir

I hate talking about myself to others. I hate writing personal essays about myself. I feel
exposed, naked, like I’m living a bad dream where I had no pants on in class. I want to keep mylife and my experiences private. I can never be genuine when writing a personal essay, much less a memoir. But here I am, writing about myself for a class that I will only interact with for 3 months. Whoop-de-doo, this is going to be fun.

As a child, I have always had an interest for the expressive arts in all forms. I took arts
and crafts classes as long as I could remember. I joined my middle school’s newspaper team and creative writing clubs to learn the basics of writing. I performed for my high school’s competitive chorus team at large scale recitals and national performances. I was actively involved in the arts community in Hsinchu, the city I lived in Taiwan, even though I was nowhere near as talented as some of the artists and friends that I knew. I didn’t mind, though.

Art was a fun and safe way for me to express myself, because I can assume another identity. I don’t have to be Paula the awkward university student who can’t adult for the life of her. I can be Paula the ruthless, or Paula the geek, but mostly I am Paula the budding activist. I have been writing about social injustices and harmful ideologies on my now-defunct WordPress blog since I became passionate about feminism and equal human rights. These posts were often personal, but I assumed a pseudonym for myself. In high school, I was involved with the Sunflower Movement, a nationwide student protest against shady government procedures and a flawed trade deal with Mainland China. I began looking at feminist bloggers and reading about social injustices around the world. This is the furthest I have been to exposing myself to the public.

When I first set foot in Kelowna, I couldn’t bring myself to be part of the arts community
because it lacked what I needed. The choirs here catered more towards the older, Christian community in which I obviously was not a part of. Vocal teachers tended to teach contemporary singing instead of classical techniques. The Creative Writing Course Union was relatively inactive and filled with older students, and they seemed intimidating because of the age difference. The Phoenix News was more towards nonfiction, objective work, so I couldn’t find a platform for my fictional stories as well. Political clubs didn’t sit well with me, because I felt like I couldn’t generate a conversation without people blaming each other for issues that are extremely complicated and lie in a gray area.

I also didn’t feel represented. There weren’t a lot of Asian and Asian-Canadian artists
here in Kelowna, and the few of us that are a part of the community come from different cultures that it was hard to establish a bond. I don’t feel welcomed. I have encountered racist students and Kelowna locals. I have been a victim of verbal attacks because of the colour of my skin in Kelowna. People were quick to assume that I was an international student and stupid because I’m Vietnamese, but I’m actually Canadian. I was an Asian woman stuck in a sea of vipers, and itwas exhausting.

Someday, I hope to overcome my fear and meet new people. Someday, I hope to be a part
of this community that seems so vibrant and alive if it’s not sleeping during the winter. Maybe I will get the courage someday. Maybe.