The Power of Self Expression

Coming from a country 7124.46 miles away from the United States, three years ago, I entered a new world as a fourteen-year-old girl. I brought my identities and memories from China to the United States, shouldering my parents’ expectations. The United States was waving to me with its blonde hair and blue eyes, and I saw my unknown journey in it. I saw myself standing in the middle of the two worlds, with only language to lead me into interactions with people, to open up people’s hearts, and to help me understand the meaning behind the events I encountered.

I feel the power of language, especially when I am not speaking and writing Chinese—a language that is as easy as breathing for me. I believe that journalism—observing and writing about events in daily life in order to find the real voice behind them–is an approach to people instead of to an event itself. Being a journalist does not simply mean reporting on the news in a community; instead it means approaching people, learning about their drives and passions, and seeking the deeper meanings behind events.

I joined the Journalism class and club in my junior year, with a will to communicate with others and to express myself—a way to wave back at the country that welcomed me two years ago. I started this course with no knowledge of the craft, , but I ended up harvesting so much. The interview requires the journalist’s ability to plan ahead, to ask smart questions, and to be a person that people are willing to interact with. I learned to research about the person I am going to interview. I always put myself in his/her shoes to consider the important events in his/her life, and then I jump out his/her life and think about the interview as a journalist. I interviewed seniors, lower classmen, teachers from subjects I will never study, staff from the dining center, and counselors from the health center. I felt that I really enter new worlds through these conversations.

Growing up in China, my opinions were always suppressed because of Chinese culture and its unspoken rules. Although Confucianism has little influence on Chinese people today, its main idea—hierarchy—continues to influence the Chinese people. In my family, I have had to obey my parents; in my Chinese schools, I have been expected to obey my teachers. Before I have considered expressing my own ideas, I have needed to ask myself: will my parents and teachers approve of what I want to say? A traditional Chinese person always seriously weighs an elder’s attitudes about her or his own ideas. As a result, what I have wanted to say and what I have said have always been inconsistent. I am not blaming anyone; I am just describing the social environment, in China, and its restraints.

For instance, there is no Facebook or Twitter in China—though they have similar social networks. However, in these social networks, people have no freedom of speech because the government closely watches what is expressed on the Internet. Any opinion that is extremely violent, inappropriate, or against the government is deleted. Furthermore, a person’s account will be deleted if s/he continually releases negative information, especially if the negative information is about the Chinese government.

Now, I am in the United States, trying to find a way to speak up and express my true self. I believe that if people can fully express themselves, the world will not have so many problems; better communication will help us to understand one another. Suppressed thoughts and people gradually develop feelings of resentment; so speaking up and expressing oneself can save a person from living an angry life.

Next year I will be the Editor-in-chief for Hallmanac. Imagine that, for a girl with brown hair and brown eyes who was taught to keep her ideas to herself! Each year I become more aware of own voice and seek new ways to express myself. This exciting new position reveals how I’ve changed after three years of studying in the United States. I am officially stepping into an area that aims to discover the true voice of people I interview and myself.

Time passes. Young people become old people who forget the wonderful memories of their youth; however, the power of communication and language endures. The news is a written record that holds the overlapping voices of a society as a whole. And I want to be the person to write, to express, to record beautiful memories and events in our youth as a student journalist at Dana Hall School.

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