I always questioned what made up my conscience. If it were detached from my body, would I still be me? After 18 years of contemplating, I still can’t tell you who I am, but I can share the experiences that have shaped my character.
Immigrant at the age of five, I travelled countrywide and became familiar with the instability of my household. Each time, I soaked into a unique flavourful culture, but never long enough to fully marinate; overtime, I learned a bit of Mandarin, a little French, some English, but was never fully eloquent in my speeches. As I was quietly sitting in my corner through elementary, nothing substantially sparked my interest. Then, junior high and high school rolled by. I changed locations, but I was still lost, confined in another corner with no motivation but a nearing deadline. Grade 11 was the end of a cliff—the trek had been flat, but I’d soon have to fly and apply to university. When I heard “Pursue your passion,” I always asked, “What about financial stability and securing a livelihood?” Truly, I had no one passion, no one clear path and thus no wings.
When you are stuck and unable to scrunch yourself into a certain mould, it’s time to look elsewhere and try on other fits. Sure, I started volunteering at the age of 14 by luckily having a neighbour who was on the board of directors of a local charity, but I was never invested in my work. Not until high school did I realize how valuable it was to do community work. Yes, it looks great on a resume. Also, doing social good is presumably good for the soul, but on a selfish level, it’s a unique experience for individuals.
What I Did
I started assisting library programs, hosting cultural events and last summer, volunteering with CJ in partnership with FAFA to engage with the elderly during COVID-19. In periods of isolation, we organized intergenerational workshops based on our shared hobbies such as gardening and cooking. The highlight was bonding over new recipes, playing games and hearing each other’s stories. No matter the age, there’s always common ground to start a conversation.
What I Learned
Volunteering imitates the hectic professional scene but with a fun flare forcing you to learn transferable skills while getting exclusive tickets to events and above all, free food. Volunteering should be enjoyable with the perks of feeling more fulfilled and sometimes, a feigned touch of saintliness. In all seriousness, devoting time as a senior in high school to do social work let me explore other passions, gave me insights into organizational professions and hone my linguistic abilities. In other words, it sharpened my blurry identity.
When internally searching for something that isn’t there or reaching a dead end, look outwards for opportunities and try to find alternative paths. For instance, when I had nothing to do and no inspiration, volunteering brought a sense of purpose to my career path.
This year, I chose the themes of community engagement in response to COVID-19 and action on climate change. The plan is to support small sustainable businesses through social media. This can entail giving them a shout-out, reaching out and helping them with digital marketing or assisting with website hosting. The goal is just to act if there’s a need for a service. By supporting sustainable businesses, I hope to encourage consumers to purchase environmentally friendly products, ease our consumption of plastic and reduce the waste of harmful materials in the ecosystem.
My Challenge for You as a CJ Ambassador
If you have an idea for a community project, take action. Do some research and go for it. There will always be uncertainties, but you’ll figure them out as time goes by. If you need any help or advice or have any questions, reach out to us and we’ll be more than happy to support you along your volunteer/career journey.
If you don’t have a project in mind, join the wagon! Find a subject you’re interested in and participate in a related project. If you’d like to join forces on helping small sustainable businesses, reach out to us on Instagram or comment about a business you would like us to do a shout-out on our social media!
“In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.”—Erik Erikson
Act to find where your passions lie!
Ruilin Luo – CJ Ambassador