Revitalization: The Day I Agreed
Challenging a popular belief can be difficult: one creates a difference in opinions that possibly did not exist before, or at least only existed in silence. Having to think about and decide that your unpopular opinion is worth stating can be tough; the first time I mustered the courage to put myself out there was in the 8th grade. History class: we were playing the game in which an idea is stated and, depending on if a person agreed or disagreed, they would go to a specific side of the room. As different opinions were stated, there was a variety of agreements and disagreements among the class…’till a specific opinion came up surrounding the sensitive subject of women taking charge of their own bodies and choosing to get abortions. For a group of 8th graders the subject was especially controversial and convoluted—but the topic of women’s health services is that way for everyone.
Ms. Yeung, my 8th grade history teacher, read out a statement that said women should be allowed to have abortions. The disagree side quickly began to fill. I panicked for a second, because a part of me wanted to walk over only to join the majority—towering. Waiting. But a bigger part of me knew that my actual views were separate from theirs.
I decided to go to the agree side.
With every opinion, Ms. Yeung would ask two people from each side about the reasoning behind their choices. Since I was one of three in this section, she asked me, "why do you agree with this statement?” Everyone in the classroom looked at me but I wasn't quite sure who was judging my opinion in their heads—and while I was nervous, I managed to answer:
"Women should be allowed to have control over their bodies. No one has the right to decide what a woman can and can not do. It should not be a political issue."
Maybe my phrasing wasn’t exactly that way, but this was what my 14-year-old mind believed, and what my 17-year-old mind still believes. I quickly got a response from the other side, with the same, persisting lash back:
”So you agree with a woman killing a baby?"
I didn't take that question as an attack on my opinion but as the opening for an argument—which didn’t last long, because my teacher knew it was one that could go on forever. I felt perfectly fine afterwards, even a little proud of myself. Making the decision to stick by my beliefs became important to me. It was a turning point, as I realized that there's always going to be controversial topics where the majority will win—but being part of the minority doesn't mean you have to change your own opinions; it just means you have to make for an even stronger argument.
I would make the same decision twice. I still stick by my belief that women should have control over themselves. I learned to not be afraid to speak my mind and represent what I stand for. Being able to do that always opens doors for great discussions and it's always a learning experience (albeit an uncomfortable one) to understand other people's perspectives. Being true to oneself and still being able to understand others’ mindsets is one of the most important skills someone can have.
Later that year, I made another decision that opened a door for me and completely changed my life. My counselor at the time informed all the 8th graders at my school of a program called The Youth Institute in Berkeley- not far from where I live. It seemed interesting and different: a digital media arts program. While I wanted to apply, none of my friends wanted to do it, and that fact discouraged me. I never participated in anything if no one else was doing it alongside me: a trait I was not proud of. But at that time of my life, I was soon to enter high school, and I wanted to challenge myself; in the end, I decided to apply, regardless of the fact that I would be doing it alone in another city. And that decision changed my life, not only in the artistic sense, but in a moral and almost spiritual sense. There, I met one of the most important people in my life, the then-director, who became a second mom to me. I can't imagine myself as a person and as an artist today if I hadn't experienced the program at all or if I hadn’t met the people I did along the way.
My 8th grade year and the decisions I made at that time were my initial building points to become the person I am now and am still becoming. Trust me, the scariest decisions you make—including the decision to put yourself out there—often lead to the best outcomes.
Challenge yourself to do what you like next time.
Challenge yourself to make a decision based on your instincts, and allow yourself to think and feel freely. You'll be surprised by what it can lead to.