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Musical Prodigy Who? MAG
“Are you sure you want to drop orchestra for journalism?” My school guidance counselor asks, shooting me a glance.
Her computer mouse cursor hovers over a course title: “Symphonic Orchestra.”
It’s my sophomore year, and my counselor just informed me that I can’t take journalism and orchestra next year because they’re during the same class period.
“Uh. Yes, I don’t want to take orchestra—wait, I mean no—I mean, it’s right that I don’t want orchestra—I—I—” I feel my face grow warm.
A moment passes.
“Journalism,” I say. “Yes, I want journalism.”
I focus on the carpet fibers as the click! of the mouse seals my academic fate.
Following traditional expectations, my Asian parents believed their Asian kid—namely, me—was destined to be the next Yo-Yo Ma or Dr. Salk. To them, a single yet prominent physical characteristic determined my path of success. To deviate from set cultural expectations was an unthinkable atrocity that wouldn’t only lead to financial instability, but would also mean that the deviator wasn’t using his intellect to his full potential.
Plus, it’s common knowledge that Asians are born to be musical prodigies and mathematicians, not journalists. Their creative writing style would never unintentionally present itself as five-or-less-sentence-paragraphs like that of a news article.
In fourth grade, I started playing violin. I found solace not in playing scales and concertos, but in writing short stories and poetry. However, the shame of having an interest in liberal arts, coupled with the fear of being shunned by my parents, kept me from expressing my passion for writing to my parents. I aimed to never verbalize my desire to quit music, but my ranking as the worst violinist in my school’s orchestra was all my parents needed me to say. After every long-winded lecture on my musical incompetence, I’d write to vent. A flashlight in one hand and a pen in the other, I conducted my writing sessions under my bedcovers after my parents were asleep.
When I came into freshman year, I believed that being Asian meant continuing violin until I graduated, so I stopped writing to focus on music.
But those two minutes of my stuttering and half-finished sentences as I was forced to choose between orchestra and journalism put my preconceived notions into perspective.
Up until that point, I’d thought my parents and race dictated my future. In actuality, my irrational thinking did. My counselor and parents may seem to have ill intentions, but identity politics aren’t what’s at play here.
I’d just much rather read and write words than music notes, and I also just happen to be an Asian with traditional Asian parents. Sure, my parents encouraged my music career, but all they wanted was for me to find my passion. Their beliefs may not be completely valid, but they never said I couldn’t pursue a more liberal subject simply because they didn’t know I wrote.
If I wanted to be a student journalist, so be it, I shall. Sure, one look at me—petite frame, dark hair, flat, almond-shaped eyes—and it’s evident that I’m Asian. But in the journalism world, race and other characteristics aren’t as important as being one hell of a writer. I was just blindsided by the idea that I must conform to stereotypes and expectations.
When I told my parents about quitting music for journalism, they were adamant about preserving my music career – but, they also supported my writing interest.
A passion is a passion, they said.
So as I sit down to finish this essay, I’m in my high school’s newspaper room as the Commentary Editor of my high school newspaper, waiting for my Editor-in-Chief to review my latest article before going to print: an opinion-editorial supporting in-store commerce over the online version.
And as I type this conclusion, I’m reminded of how similar this is to my once routine of late-night writing sessions. Except this time, I’m not in hiding.