A few months ago, I got to meet the person who inspires me to call myself Asian Australian and be a writer – dancing violinist, Youtuber Lindsey Stirling. I was very lucky and managed to chat with Lindsey before lapping up her energetic performance at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne.
I never expected to look up to her. Her non-lyrical blend of music which is a mixture of classical and dub-step musical genres is (was) not my cup of tea; I’m not a fan of club-esque beats. One day while taking a break from writing an article, I chanced upon her Zelda Medley video. Being a video game nut, I curiously looked up interview clips of her on YouTube and was immediately drawn to the optimism radiating from her personality.
Time and time again, Lindsey has said that it’s okay to be different. She also exemplifies this – wearing mismatched socks, long hair standing up and prancing around with a violin in hand:
Asian Australians. We’re supposedly different. We’re made to feel different. Alice Pung’s anthology of Asian Australian stories Growing Up Asian In Australia illustrates this very well. We stick out in a predominantly white Australia. We get teased “ching chong Chinaman”, teased for being too yellow or dark-skinned. If we don’t get bullied, people innocently ask us, “Where are you from?” When one feels different, one feels like they don’t belong.
People always point out my slight Singapore-Malaysian accent and say that my colourful fashion sense makes me look like an international student. When I first moved to Melbourne and barely knew anyone here, these comments made me feel far from Australian. At the same time, my parents said I had a good grasp of the English language, but I should improve my rusty Cantonese. Back then, I felt too Asian to be Australian and too Australian to be Asian. I felt like a freak.
It was during university that I developed the confidence to call myself Asian Australian. It was also around the time I discovered this inspiring quote from Lindsey:
You don’t have to conform to be accepted. The greatest value comes from loving yourself for who you are.
I met fellow Asian Australians in my classes who confidently went about what they wanted to achieve despite being told they couldn’t because they were Asian. I read diaspora academic texts for assignments, learning 1) the words “Australian” and “Asian” don’t have concrete definitions and 2) Australia is a fair-go nation, a nation historically made up of migrants like my parents. I realised you don’t need to be Caucasian to be Australian and speak Chinese to be Asian.
Do I fit the broad “Asian” or “Australian” stereotype more? Well, I majored in mathematics and cultural studies in my degree. In my spare time, I chip away at improving my piano skills and go to the beach. I like eating sushi and lamingtons. Inevitably, some of us fit the stereotype. Some of us fit the anti-stereotype. And like me, some of us are awkward and exemplify qualities from both character dimensions. As Lindsey says, we need to think of ourselves first to accept who we are:
We can’t live from the outside in, we must live from the inside out […] We have to decide that we love ourselves and then turn to others to make them better rather than always searching for validation from others to make ourselves feel better.
On the subject of overcoming obstacles, she offers:
To transcend, means not to get through something, or get past something. But it means to completely overcome something […] By finding passion, by sharing with other people, we are able to work from the inside out and that’s how we find happiness.
The more confident I felt being in my own skin, the more interested I became towards the topic of Asian-Aussie identities and decided to blog about it. Through my writing, I got the opportunity to talk to Kurunjang Secondary College about being Asian Australian earlier this year and I felt wholly Australian – Caucasian and Asian students listened to me intently with wide eyes. Shortly after this, I had a stretch of alone time and chose to wander around Melbourne’s suburbs far and wide. Everywhere I went, I kept seeing the mundane scenes of Malaysians, Indonesians, Italians, etc. shopping at Woolies and commuting on trams. It hit me they were going about their lives in Australia. Just like me. We’re all the same, as Lindsey puts it:
We rarely think of others as…people. They are more or less objects […] Individuals become people only when we see they have feelings, personalities and passions.
I’ve come to proudly acknowledge I’m Asian Australian and I hope other Asian Australians do the same too. Through writing, I want to encourage us to all get along, connect us all. Stigmatisation and words we don’t want to hear will always be part and parcel of life, but who cares what others think? In a world with different cultures, everyone is unique and entitled to their own opinion – so we should respect differences. For this epiphany, I thank Lindsey Stirling.
Who inspires you? What’s your favourite quote?