As part of TEAM (Together Empowering Asian Minds), a new campaign to address mental health among Asian American women, APIA women are publishing letters to their younger selves.
Dear 12-year-old Kristina Wong,
It's me -- your older OLD ASS self writing from the future -- 2016!
If I remember you correctly, you are wearing two pairs of scrunchy socks over tacky bright leggings, your peers shun you as a "weirdo pervert," and you stay awake at night wondering if you'll ever engage in sexual activity.
Surprise Young Kristina! Nothing changes in the future! The difference is... you will actually forge a CAREER out of your awkwardness! That's right! You are going to grow up to be a PERFORMANCE ARTIST!
I know what you're thinking:
What the hell kind of doctor is a "performance artist"?
How will we break the news to Mommy and Daddy?
You mean I really won't have sex in the future... ever?
In the future, you will monetize your agony for big bucks! (Ok, maybe not big bucks. Maybe not any bucks.) But a hell of a lot of people will know what a freak you are and you won't have to hide it anymore! As it turns out, a lot of Asian American girls are living in complete fear of failing as you are right now! Like you, they are incredibly unhappy and terrified to let anybody know that they are terrified and sad and scared! It's like you and all these other depressed Asian American girls are the Goonies (if the Goonies was a secret society of girls governed by shame and fear).
By the way, the actor who played Chunk from The Goonies is going to be your entertainment lawyer when you are older, but that's another letter.
Where was I? Oh yes! When you grow up, you are going to bypass the Miss Saigon auditions altogether and make a one woman show called Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It's a show about the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American women. It's a statistic you don't know exists now, but when you read about it shortly after college, you'll think: Wow, seems so unbelievable and yet, so innately something I understand.
You will write your show without permission from anybody in Hollywood! You will stand alone on a stage and tell people all over America what a nut job you are! And people will pay to see it and give you a standing ovation after! And then you'll get in the newspaper and occasionally, someone will flip you some grant money! Somehow you mastered the tragedy plus time equation and made a show about depression into a comedy!
What you have been told success looks like -- it's a crock of shit. You will drive yourself crazy chasing somebody else's dream. If you live in fear and deny your own truth (which is, that you love being a big fucking freak) you will be killing yourself on the inside.
From this older stage of life, I will say it still is very difficult to deal with self-loathing and doubt. But what makes it easier is you are getting bolder, braver, and put up with less bullshit year after year. You speak up for what's right. You do what people tell you is completely impractical. You build the road that never existed before. This is your journey as an Asian American woman.
Now stop picking your zits.
P.S. When you get to high school, you need not flirt with the boys who do theater. They are gay. Yes, really. But you won't find out until years later.
The above is excerpted from an upcoming feature for Together Empowering Asian Minds (TEAM). Kristina Wong is an Ambassador for TEAM, a national public awareness campaign aimed at addressing urgent and unique mental health challenges faced by young Asian American women and their loved ones. TEAM will be holding campaign kickoff events on September 20 at college campuses nationwide. Follow TEAM on Facebook for more information.