In the short time that we spent in the Temecula heat, tightly packed in the confines of a beautiful Airbnb, I spent hour after hour reflecting on the lessons I was learning. These lessons not only came from the workshops, but also from the personal anecdotes shared by the CAUSE supervisors and my fellow CAUSE interns. Because CAUSE is an organization committed to helping and teaching Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) how best to contribute to the APA community, the short time I spent at orientation made me face some skeletons from my past that I had spent suppressing growing up in the South. In addition, an incredibly thoughtful and critical conversation I had with three other interns late into the evening of our last night made me realize that this internship is so much more than I ever thought it could be and in the best way possible.
Our amazing Executive Director, Kim Yamasaki, shared a lesson on networking, which she more adequately labels as “spider-webbing.” This changed how I saw this somewhat artificial endeavor. I had always viewed networking with a certain amount of disdain, for it seemed not disingenuous and intimidating to me. Kim told us, “Spider-webbing doesn’t always mean finding people who share our immediate interests.” But rather, it could mean searching for commonalities with people who do not share our immediate interests. She said that networking does not always have to mean talking to people who hold influence or power; it also means starting a conversation with people that we can also help empower. This 180-degree perspective on networking made me really examine why I wanted to go into public service and how I can best achieve this goal of helping others.
In addition to the wonderful workshops lead by the CAUSE staff, the stories that both Kim, Lindsey Horowitz, and Zenni Duong shared with us truly touched me. Kim reflected that when she was younger, she was ashamed of her father’s profession. I personally have always been deeply uncomfortable with my parents’ broken English as well as my father’s blue-collar job. When Kim said that it was this hardship and this grit that her father accumulated that instilled in him a drive for public service and duty, I realized that my own father was the same way. I have often suppressed much of what made me Asian (much of my identity that I loved) to fit into a Southern Christian crowd for fear of bullying. But I realized after the CAUSE staff’s belief in us being capable of helping the larger APA community that I can only help if I embrace who I am.
Last, but not least, I had an amazing conversation with three fellow interns: Sabrina Inoue, Diana Lam, and Helen Yu. We had all had a fairly tough time in college, whether this was because of personal issues or feeling confused about our career paths, my fellow interns and I became close because we shared our vulnerabilities. Sitting outside, I laughed, cried, and rejoiced that I was not the only person who felt confused. This confusion is a conglomeration of feeling like we did not quite know what our Asian identities meant or that we were not sure about what could make us happy in life. This talk meant so much to me and came at a time when I very much needed it. I’m grateful to CAUSE for bringing us together.
If I could describe orientation in one word, it would have to be: transforming. Even this one word is inadequate to describe the various emotions I felt throughout this experience. It made me realize I’m ready to tackle everything that it means to be an Asian Pacific American, especially the things that will make me uncomfortable in the process. For too long, I’ve let my doubts about my Asian identity stop me from looking deeper into myself and truly figuring out what it is that I hope to contribute to this community. I want to end with another quote from Kim: “Power isn’t only political.” I hope to find other forms of influence, and continue to learn from my fellow cohort, the CAUSE staff, my office placement, and the various speakers and leaders we will meet throughout this summer.