A message to the Emily Yeung of the past.
Dear 2019 Emily,
Don’t freak out. I’m writing to you from July 17, 2020. Some cliché internet time loop made real, you follow? Also, don’t freak out about the fact that I’m telling you not to freak out. At your point in time, it seems like half of the world is on fire, and that is bad enough. But a lot is coming between January and July, beginning with what should have been an impeachment of the Cheeto in Chief and ending in the middle of a long-overdue mass movement against racial injustice, with a global pandemic somewhere in between. Not to mention, the still ever-looming shadow of climate change. A lot is coming that will make you want to cry, scream, and break more than one piece of dishware. Also murder hornets? I’m still not 100% clear on that.
All of this is beginning to feel a bit like the end of the world. But there’s also a subtle feeling that it’s the beginning of a better one. Perhaps for the first time, our generation is beginning to feel like we have some control in shaping the world that we live in. Our voices are collectively swelling, and we are angry. We are angry that in 2020 people still have to live in fear of a society that claimed to give them the rights they deserved but never followed through. We are angry that we may only have half a lifetime on a liveable planet. We are angry that despite everything we know and despite all of the wealth we collectively share, people still turn away from the abuse of marginalized groups and the planet, or even, in all conscience, deny that this abuse exists in the first place.
Okay, so we’ve established that life is just swirling deeper and deeper into a cosmic toilet bowl, and I (we?) definitely speak from a position of privilege. We are employed and visibly, if not ethnically, part of the white majority. But having said that, it’s still okay, if not necessary to be pissed about where we find ourselves. I am trying to use this opportunity to learn and to grow through hardship. As a woman in STEM, I am focussing on online networking, doing my science and preparing as well as I can for post-graduate studies in an uncertain future. As a Chinese Canadian woman, I’m trying to center on things that really give me joy and educating myself more than I ever have on the world and communities around me (while occasionally sending a nervous glance towards Washington DC). I am still worried, but I feel 100% a better person than I was when 2020 began.
For those of us middle-class Canadians (and everyone, frankly), I hope that the Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement can teach us something important about what we really need, sustainability, and our past and current relationship with people of color. We have the opportunity to start a different way of living, to reshape the way we do things on this planet. I hope we do because I know what comes next if we don’t. And so, my dear past self: my advice? Wear a mask, educate yourself, keep pushing forward for yourself and for others, and don’t ever back down. Also, you might want to bring a change of shoes when you go into the lab on July 11, just saying.
You’ll get through it, wet socks and all.