Introduction: My goals for this essay was to convey my story of change. I wanted to pass on the message that change is never easy, and there will always be challenges ahead. But with every challenge, every obstacle, I will grow and learn to know life a little better. I am proud that I remembered so many details from Toronto, so that I could write about it and make it entertaining. I am proud of the way I wrote my essay and I was pretty strict with myself while writing, I wanted there to be a specific tone. I wish I could have more space to write even more about how Philadelphia has changed me to this day. I wrote more in the past tense, about how I felt in the past moments.
It was a Tuesday morning during 3rd grade at Blake Public Middle School, right outside of downtown Toronto. All morning, we have been working on “Me Posters!”, all the other 20 students and I had to brainstorm, write, and decorate a poster that would reveal who we are at age 9. Joshua was writing about playing basketball everyday, and Joanne wrote about how she loves medicine and her passion in becoming a doctor. I don’t know what passion is, I don’t play sports or instruments, my life is boring. I sat there for an hour looking at my blank poster before Ms. Barr came to ask, “Annie, why haven’t you started your poster?” In which, I exclaimed, “My life is boring, I’m boring, I don’t know anything about myself. I’m no fun.” “Everyone has their own story Annie, and they are all unique in their own way. You’re not boring, you are always smiling, always kind, and you love to make people laugh. People always change, try new things, and become new people.” So I did what I could with my poster, I drew the places I would go to. I paid close attention to what I was doing on a daily basis, how I interact with people, and I was more than ever aware of my words. But still, I was only 9 years old. So I hadn’t taken anything seriously yet.
Trying to find yourself at any age can be very challenging. And most times, everyone is always changing, like Ms. Barr said, whether it be minimal or drastic. Changes in a person can be a result of many factors. One of those factors is the environment of the person. It becomes the people a person interacts with daily, the places the person adventures to, the media, and of course, the person itself. While I was in Toronto, I had a few friends. Luckily for me, my school was very diverse. I was exposed to different types of people at a young age, which opened my eyes about people in general. I had two best friends, Zoolnad and Azka. Zoolnad was Pakistani, and she was always the prettiest girl. Her mom always made the best Chicken Biryani. Azka was Indian, Azka and I lived close to each other so I would try to go over to her house. In which my only guardian, my grandma refused. Azka was a lot darker than Zoolnad was. Here’s the thing, most traditional older Asian people tend to be racist. “You never know what they could do to you, I am only doing this for your safety. Those types of people are scary, dirty and dangerous,” my grandmom always said Pretty soon, I submitted to her ideas, and Azka was gone.
Up until leaving Toronto entirely, I lived there for almost three years. I was 12 when I left. What I knew about myself was: I was a tomboy, I loved riding scooters, I laughed at everything, and would cry about anything, I was still boring. All those things about myself weren’t relevant to me. To be honest, I was scared about the future, I lived in constant fear that I would never be able to live with my parents. So when I was on the steady 14-hour bus ride to the city of brotherly love, I was incredibly excited.
I arrived in Philadelphia on June 13th, 2012. The first day of 4th grade was rough, I had bowl cut bangs, deep dimples, and my Cinderella backpack. The Cinderella backpack was not my idea, the worker at target said that every girl has it, so I should get one too. I realized how much I missed my friends in Toronto. I had never seen so many white kids than I did in class that day. Everything seemed so dull and sad. The kids were not nice, but they had made fun of me because of my haircut. It was the first time someone made a mean comment about me. I cried about it when I ventured back home. My parents were at work until 8:30 pm, so I barely got to see them. I would fake a smile for them.This was the first time I truly felt sadness. I dreaded going to school the next day. For two years, I hated my life. “You’ll get used to it” was not the case for me. I was homesick in my new home.
Towards the end of 5th grade, I grew out my bangs, and started shopping at a store called Justice and Forever 21, no more WalMart clothes. I felt not like me, but change is necessary. After a couple of months, kids at school were being friendly to me. They started talking to me outside of school, and then came my new best friend, Allie. She was white, the popular girl and perfect for me. We had the best time ever, we would Oovoo each other everyday afterschool. Allie and I did a lot of things together and pretty soon, I adapted her talking language, her sense of fashion and I even decorated my room like hers. It was the new me.
All of that was physical though, as I got older, my mindset changed. I was very observant of my surroundings, I noticed the number of homeless people on the street, I noticed the number of times I got catcalled at age 13, I noticed the sadness and depression in a stranger’s eyes. Not everyone would be happy, and most times, people are miserable. For the first time in my life, I saw the bad, the ugly, it wasn’t playgrounds, sunshine and rainbows. I started doing things so that people would like me more, and sometimes I still do this. It was something I had never done in Toronto.
I didn’t realize I was changing, nobody really ever does. It becomes a self reflection thing. I heard many more mean comments, bought things to please society, wasted time on people didn’t deserve it, try new things, liked it, didn’t like it. It’s all apart of life and I would never regret any of it. Transitioning into a new society can be very difficult for anyone, it causes unwanted and wanted change. Philadelphia and Toronto are both big cities with millions of people. There as many differences as there are similarities. I learned so much about myself in both cities. I am not sure where life will take me in the future, but I will always be Annie.