It’s important to understand where I’m coming from and why I decided to start Beleduins.
Because of that, I thought I should have my first real post be about who I am and my story. The whole story. From the very beginning.
I was born to migrant parents who fled war and genocide in Southeast Asia. My mother, with two young kids by her side, migrated to the United States where she met up with my father. They moved around, had two more kids, then eventually settled in a city in California where I was born.
Being the youngest of five had its pros and cons. I often got the last of the hot water in our one bathroom house but I always got first dibs at the candy and soda. I had plenty of people to look up to and plenty of people to kick my ass if I ever did something wrong. Growing up, we never had much but we always had enough.
I saw a lot of things I shouldn’t have as a kid. People shooting up drugs to standoffs down the street from my house. I heard police sirens, helicopters, fights, and gunshots almost every night as I tried to sleep. From a young age, I knew I didn’t want to live my life like this and that I would make something of myself.
But I never really knew how to do this.
Throughout middle school, I was in and out with the wrong crowd. I went from doing normal kid things like playing basketball to stealing from stores and vandalizing property for no reason. I’ve stolen bikes, gotten bikes stolen, gotten into fights, and avoided being jumped.
But I was also a hustler.
I always did whatever I could to make money. I worked odd jobs doing general labor around the neighborhood. Cutting grass, painting fences, washing cars, and even picking up dog shit. I wasn’t too good for any job.
The year I turned 13 was a big year for me. My oldest brother and sister had moved out and it was down to three of us. We were all there on the day my life changed. The day I took my life into my own hands.
It was an ordinary morning. The sun was shining brightly through the window and the birds were singing their sweet songs. I was in our closet/computer room eating cereal and browsing MySpace. Out of nowhere, I heard a crash. It wasn’t a car crash but the sound of glass breaking. Right away I knew something was wrong. I felt it in my gut and as soon as I got that feeling, I heard screaming coming from downstairs. I ran down as fast as I could and arrived to see water gushing out from my 25-gallon fish tank filled with guppies, tiger barbs, and neon tetras. As my eyes elevated, I saw someone I love crying in pain caused by one of my biggest motivators in life. Before I knew it, I was fighting, pushing, and trying to get them out of the house. After an extra pair of hands came down from upstairs, we got everyone separated safely.
But the damage was far from done.
From that day in my young adolescent life, I knew things would be different. I would never allow something like that to happen again and that I would get my family away from all the chaos.
Once I started high school, I enrolled in the JROTC program they had there. My sister called it social-suicide, but I saw it as a springboard to my goals. I sacrificed a lot of time with my friends, gave up things that I loved to do, and devoted my spare time to become the best version of myself. I carried this on all throughout high school. Through ups and downs and all the typical drama that happens in that time, I got my first big break.
I took the bus to school every morning so, during my senioritis year, I missed first period a lot. One day I got called into the office for what I thought would be a counseling session for being tardy so many times. To my surprise, I was told, along with many others, that I was eligible for what was called the Gates Millennium Scholarship.
I thought to myself, “Wow! What an amazing opportunity!” But my optimism slowly faded into a melancholy thought.
The other people in the room were more intelligent; way more involved, and way better students. I was just a kid with regular hopes and dreams. There was no way I would get this scholarship over them.
One winter morning, as snow fell somewhere else in the country, I decided to apply for the scholarship. At first, it was your typical one. It asked for your demographics, GPA, and awards. Then came the big part. Eight essays. They were intimidating and discouraging. However, it didn’t stop me. I wrote all of my essays that day, spoke from my heart, and submitted the application. I got my letters of recommendation in order and then I played the waiting game. That wasn’t the only scholarship I applied to. In fact, I spent most of my weekends that year applying for scholarships because I knew I would not be able to go straight to a university without one. Denials and rejections filled my inbox and day by day, I started losing faith. I was just a kid with regular hopes and dreams and there were plenty others out there like me.
Then it happened.
I got the big packet.
I became a Gates Millennium Scholar.
Once again, my life had changed, only this time for the better.
The next chapter of my life took place in college. Where everyone tries to find their place. Like most people, I stayed in the dorms but was only two hours away from home. I went back often because I felt like I didn’t belong. I was no longer surrounded by my peers. I was uncomfortable and anxious. It was my first time on my own and after all, I was just a kid with hopes and dreams. At the end of my first year, I finished with a 2.4 GPA.
I spent the summer playing catch-up while taking online classes. I reflected on whether or not I even wanted to go back to school. I didn’t feel good enough or ready. I was uncomfortable.
Little did I know, being uncomfortable is how I became who I am today.
Going back to college for the second year, I hit the ground running. I found a part-time job and was prepared to be the best version of me. Then that one dreadful class that makes everyone change their major took another victim. I was back to being uncomfortable. I was in unfamiliar territory because I never studied in high school. I never knew how. I ended up finding another job in addition to the one I already had. Then I hit the ground running again only to find the road I was on didn’t fit me. Once again, I changed my major.
I changed my major a total of five times during my undergrad. The same number of years it eventually took me to graduate. But graduate, I did. And between the time I graduated and changed my majors, I learned so many things about myself, success, life, and my purpose.
It was clear to me what my purpose was in life; et serve dare.
To give and serve.
To give everything I learned back to others and to serve my community.
Who I am today is because of all the ups and downs in my life. The failed classes, rejection letters, job denials, and other negative experiences were obstacles that I had to overcome. But with darkness, there is light. Learning opportunities in every corner. I would never change anything in my past. Not even my broken fish tank. Although I have accomplished many things, there is so much more to be done. That is the reason why I started Beleduins. To share my story and my experiences. To give back everything I’ve learned and to have others with me while I become the best version of myself.
So to answer the question, who am I?
I am someone with hopes and dreams. Someone who is going to change the world.