A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 千里之行，始于足下.
To begin your journey, you must take an initiative to embark on what’s ahead — only then will the venture eventually fall into place as you envisioned. Although the value of one step may sound futile, substantial outcomes inaugurated with simple beginnings. You must begin in order to achieve, no matter how ambitious the task or goal is in mind.
When I was at the young age of six, my parents took the initiative to bring my brother and I to the United States, the promised land where I was born. It was the first step to a life changing journey, one that will eventually implicate and secure the lives of our future, and the generations that come after us.
They sought for an open minded and passion oriented educational environment for their children. But the golden ticket, like all things gold, came with strings attached. Back in my parents’ hometowns, none were willing to take the leap of faith — based on personal preferences, it was highly unnecessary and too much work that came with great sacrifices — a completely different lifestyle than the comfort zone they had long accustomed to.
They were right, it was indeed the act of pulling out a fresh, clean slate — one that will start off rocky and arduous: language barriers stood as an immutable variable in our daily lives, cultural differences and stereotypes were imposed on us. And as if the hardships of being immigrants weren’t grueling enough for my parents, advisories and judgements from our relatives and friends back in their hometowns bombarded us through all the stilted, lagging video call conversations, as they wore their crosswise frowns.
You should come back, life is so simple here.
It’s so difficult over there — the difference in currency is almost seven times!
But despite the initial staggering lines and precarious curves etched in the slate, my parents chose to overlook the complications, and continue to step forward as a family, toward the beautiful painting exploding with bright colors they had longed imagined that would be our future, the future of their precious children. My parents’ courageous move set a living example for me to take my own step toward my goals and dreams. I learned to refrain from being risk averse, and challenge myself to take the first step and allow the rest of the path to fall into place.
The move to the United States was indeed a shift in environment, on the open minded end of the spectrum. However, I came to realize that stereotypes and prejudice still existed. It seemed as though only certain jobs and occupations corresponded with the standard Asian American conventional image — doctors, business managers, scientists, engineers, lawyers. The potential and possibilities of breaking the stereotypes and thinking out of the rooted box doesn’t seem very practical, but school has always taught me otherwise.
One day in the chilly fall of second grade, as the wind danced the crispy leaves and litters into a veritable ballet, my teacher lined our class up at the front door of the classroom. Despite the loud chatters and a few innocuous horseplay, Mrs. Sandvrick casually brandished her painted fingers to resemble a coyote — the silent coyote.
It worked like magic and within seconds, silence spread through the snaking line until everyone was looking intently at Mrs. Sandvrick, little coyote hands waving in the air. She then repeated what she said before: we’ll be heading to the assembly hall to attend the annual career fair made just for us second graders, by special guests that happened to be some of our parents or local professionals. We were to be respectful as they were willing to take the time out of their day to hold this event for us.
Entering the assembly, rows of white plastic foldable tables were stocked with pamphlets, models, and large Elmer’s display poster boards. Walking past each station and hearing the diverse guests discussing their passions and occupations was a remarkable experience. From first responder heroes to medical professionals to creators and entrepreneurs, each speaker seemed to be another door leading to endless possibilities that branched into even more realms for our explorations. They brightened warmly at the sight of our intrigued expressions and curious hands reaching out to grab a pamphlet or try on a stethoscope.
You can do anything you put your mind to.
Anything is possible, so dream big.
Brimming with even more confidence and bursting with the courage to venture, I couldn’t wait to take the step into the journey of seeking my lifelong passions.
As I grew up, I began to witness the youths of our generations changing our society bit by bit. Young role models are breaking the silence and taking up the roles that not even the adults dare to take. Figures like Greta Thunberg and Isra Hirsi are activating for our environment and fighting to change the climate crisis. Malala Yousafzai, an activist for women’s education, is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17.
Youths have also become influencers on various social media platforms. For instance, Ryan’s World is a YouTube channel, featuring Ryan Kaji, a 10 year old, whose YouTube career started at just the age of three with his parents filming him opening and reviewing new toys on a daily basis.
According to the Guardian, Ryan Kaji had been the highest paid YouTuber for three years at just the age of nine — his revenue stood at $29.5 million and views rocketed to billions.
Marisa Gannon is another example of a proactive teen entrepreneur. At the age of 17, she went from making slime in her bedroom to earning $50,000 a month, according to Channel4 on Instagram.
When Gannon first told her parents about her idea of a slime business, they thought it was crazy and disapproved immediately, she said in a YouTube video. But she did it anyway, and brought about the blooming slime business “Parakeet Slimes.” She expressed her love for earning money from something that brings people joy.
This generation of youths are shedding light on the potential routes to success that past generations have never dared to attempt. As teens, they’re trying to show the society and many generations after us that there is no single definition and route to success, and anything is possible as long as you build the courage to step out and give it a shot.
As a teen myself, I’m greatly influenced by the grit and courage of the illustrious figures of my generation, moreover — my parents, the role models in my own life. They trailblazed a path for me inasmuch as the resources they had and the outlook they forecasted. The path in which I will take the first step toward the changes I want to see and dreams I want to achieve.