As you all already know, I went volunteering with AIESEC in Poland end of last year and I would say this volunteering experience may not have been as great as I expected. Neither was it the most productive summer I've had. However, subtly, I've grown to be a better person. This blogpost will be about my biggest takeaway from my experience abroad -
Not too long ago, as we were chatting about our Engineering workshops, a girl said some things to me that ticked me off and got me thinking. She said :
"Shuwen I think you're like a damsel in distress. Not in a bad way I mean. You're like the helpless princess in the glass box, and boys just like to help you. You're like ..... a bimbo."
She absolutely didn't mean any harm but I took it in a tone of criticism, causing me to have went in a full defensive mode. I don't know what it is about me, but people tend to always think I'm a dumb bimbo. When I was in high school, a teacher thought I was so stupid, that she told me I will never ever get A for her subject in PMR. In College, someone said "Wow Shuwen, you got full A for SPM ? I thought you were stupid". Another time in tutorial, a boy in Engineering didn't think I could solve the mathematical problem until I pulled a mental arithmetic trick that beat him to the answer before he even typed it on his calculator. Many people have also suggested that I need a boyfriend to help me with my shopping problem, need a boyfriend to control me from eating. People seem to think I'm stupid and I need help, all the time. Please, do I really look like I need a man to solve all my problems for me ?????????
God has blessed me tremendously with amazing people in my life. Back at home, my baby brother treats me as the younger sibling, always being there for me and helping me. Back in Melbourne, all my friends seem to be saints. They are so nice to me that I feel incompetent as a friend. Often times I feel like I'm not doing enough, to be a better friend, a better sister, or a better daughter. Nevertheless I can't help to want to be more than a helpless princess. Not saying that I don't want to be blessed, but I want to be more of the helper, not just the being helped. So I prayed, for God to give me an opportunity to stand on my two feet. I told myself I want to be more Beyonce and less Taylor Swift. Which brings me to the most valuable thing I've taken away from this volunteering experience. Independence.
Its weird. I always linked independent women to women who don't get married, likely to work in the corporate world and wear black all day. I actually do shudder at the thought of not being able to wear bright colours and dresses but that is a whole issue itself.
After arriving in Poland, it didn't take very long for me to realize that I am responsible for myself. Nobody is going to ask "have you had breakfast?" and oh no, definitely no one is going to offer to carry your bag no matter how heavy it is. I have a habit of asking for opinions on what I should buy, what I should eat, and back home/Melbourne, people were never stingy on voicing their opinions on which top I should buy, or which meal I should get. Here however, the only response I get is "Its yours. Decide yourself."
For the first few weeks, I actually felt very much like a damsel in distress. My beloved friends were always there to listen to me complain and whine about how nobody really cares about anything I do but as much as I whined, I knew I brought this on myself. I actually prayed to God for this and I believe it turned out to be a valuable lesson. He showed me the different kinds of people in this world, and opened my eyes to the bigger world outside my own. I've learnt that, nobody, nobody at all is responsible for my life. They are not obliged to help me, or voice their opinions on whether I should have fries with my burger or not. I have learnt to suck it up. Life could be worse.
I asked for an opportunity to prove that I can be an independent person and that was what I received. I believe I've grown to be more independent after 6 weeks here. I don't constantly need help anymore (even if I needed, I can only swallow my whining because no one is gonna help me), and I can make my own decisions on little things. I may still be horrible at making decisions but at least now I don't constantly let someone make life decisions for me. Therefore I am thankful, thankful for this experience that I know is contributing to my growth, making me a stronger and more independent woman. Thank you Poland, and everyone here, for a lesson that I will hold on to forever.
On a side more bimbo note, I will still choose a pink dress over black business attire any time. Sorry, just the kind of image I think of when I contrast damsel in distress and strong independent woman. I think its Disney's fault. The princess that needs help all the time always has the prettiest dresses. The strong independent women who solve their own problems (eg Snow White's evil step mother, Cinderella's evil step mother, Rapunzel's evil false mother) are all evil, and wear black all the time, or other dark colours. Which is why everyone needs to watch Frozen. Elsa dresses prettily and she's not a witch or a damsel in distress. I love it so much I have been asking my younger brother if he would like to build a snowman with me everyday for a week now. He ignores me all the time.