I started 2017 with a plan—or at the very least, something resembling one.
Months later, most Canadians probably forgot, but we did indeed celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this year! The hype was all too real between Ottawa’s grandiose plans and brand aplenty who wanted to make their mark—everyone wanted in on the celebration, myself no exception with #Chronicle150—150 Truly Canadian Stories for its 150th Birthday!
I figured why not—I had experience putting group projects together with two years of Tales from the 2.9 under my belt. At a larger scale, this couldn’t be that bad, right? Yeah… I was in no way ready for what came next.
Back in Grade 7 when school mandated that we do at least 40 hours of volunteering before we graduate, I didn’t know it’d unlock a culture of giving with me I didn’t even know was there. Hazel McCallion’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee. The Square One Youth Centre. The Trillium Health Centre (formerly known as The Mississauga Hospital.) Between these and other high school activities, I’d graduate with more than 2,500 hours volunteering to my name, firmly cementing volunteerism as a driving force in my life.
Even now I see its effects. Spending time helping my church perfect its messaging and raise its kids. Thinking of what we can do to help each other first before thinking about what I can get from others. Giving back to the world is important, and it’s up to me—and adults like me—to teach this to the youth of tomorrow so they can shape a better future.
See, youth get it. They’re not so bogged down with the harsh lessons of adulthood that they’ve lost hope that the world can be a better place. They’re creative. Optimistic. They have the potential to become great people, and it’s up to us to nurture that and give them the tools they need to make it there.
This sentiment in mind, RBC’s celebrating Canada’s 150th with the #Make150Count campaign, a national movement where they’re empowering youth across the nation to do acts of good with their resources at hand!
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to the #Chronicle150, where we strive to find 150 Canadian stories to commemorate this nation’s 150th birthday!
The series took a break for a while—you wouldn’t believe how much is going on here behind the scenes—but it’s high time this project got back on track, and I’m doing that with a piece from Nikki Yeh.
Nikki’s a journalist who was a year above me in high school—I remember seeing her name in print early on in publications like The Mississauga News. Nikki’s #Chronicle150 entry touches on a few themes I’ve returned to time and time again while crafting this series: struggling to develop an identity beyond your race. The multigenerational grind to develop a better future for those who follow. And—of course—some of the reasons why we stay in Canada, like the value we place on family life.
Nikki’s answers hold things many of us can relate to—perhaps they’ll give you pause to reflect on your life and what needed to happen to make you who you are today.
Enjoy the read and until the next,
Who are you and what are you all about?
I tell it like it is – many would say I’m honest, humble, a good listener and a huge pop culture fan (Riverdale, anyone?). I wear many hats as a writer, editor, dance and gymnastics instructor, proud wife and Mom. My time’s currently divided between freelance projects, managing my Facebook group Adventures in Baby Savings, playing trucks with my two-year-old son and helping my 6-year-old daughter count nickels and dimes.
What makes you so Canadian?
Here’s something many don’t know about me: I seldom cared about being Canadian until a few years ago. I used to roll my eyes at the thought of Canadian history, deeming July 1st as “Barbeque and Booze Day.” But after digging into the history of both my maternal and paternal families, it’s hard to deny my Canadian roots.
Hailing from rural China, my paternal great-grandfather – my grandmother’s father, Gee Sing – was a Chinese labour worker in the 1880s for the Canadian Pacific Railway, surviving in poor conditions to improve the future of his family. My dad’s father, Tin Yeh, was one of the first group of students from China to study at the University of Toronto after World War II. Then there’s my Mom’s family – the Yuens, consisting of my Mom’s parents, two sisters and herself – as the first Chinese family to reside in Brampton, Ontario, in the ’60s. (They were even interviewed for their local newspaper!)
Sure, I’m physically Chinese. But for me, being born in Canada isn’t what makes me Canadian. It’s how my family made sacrifices and overcame hardships so that their future generations could thrive in this country.
Gotta say—I thought I’d struck Pauleanna’s nerve in my hunt for Tales contributors. She’d told me she was too busy when I pressed her with one of my emails, but one brief look at her résumé will tell you that’s exactly what she was!
Pauleanna’s ode to her country shows a lot of growth—many of us born here take this land for granted, not fully realising that life’s a lot harder in many countries around the world. My journeys have taken me many places—Maasai huts in Tanzania. Cockroach-ridden buses in Compton. From mountaintops to back-alley shops, I’ve witnessed huge swaths of the human condition, which is why I embrace home with open arms every time I come back!
It’s easy to forget how good you’ve got it when you stay inside your comfort zone for too long, and I think Pauleanna’s piece is a good reminder for us to take stock of these Canadian lives, seeing what we can do to better those who live their lives without.
Enjoy Pauleanna’s piece, and we’ll see you at the next #Chronicle150!
Who are you and what are you all about?
I’m a multi-passionate entrepreneur on a mission to help young women and girls see beyond the limits of their circumstances and create a life they love. I’m also a motivational speaker and nationally published journalist of the best-selling book Everything I Couldn’t Tell My Mother, the founder of New Girl on the Block Inc., a mentorship program that’s way sicker than your average. In the end, I manage a lot, but every passion project is well worth it!
What makes you so Canadian?
As a Canadian citizen, I was very fortunate to have access to many tools that may not be awarded in other countries. One of the biggest things that really served a purpose in my life was getting healthcare when it came to dealing with my mental health. I was grateful to overcome my depression and anxiety and have Canada to thank for it! Growing up in a Caribbean household has helped me get closer to my parents’ roots, but being born in Canada gave me a lifeline to many opportunities to help empower and change people’s lives.
For the #Chronicle150, one thing I really appreciate is when people don’t feel forced to stick to the script.
I met Talia when scouting contributors for this year’s Tales from the 2.9, quickly intrigued when I realised she holds a degree in professional writing from York University!
I’ve developed a real love for the craft over the years, so I immediately respect when others show the same, and I think you’ll see it in Talia’s piece for the #Chronicle150—those years of investment shining through in the story of how she came to Canada and the path to where she is now!
I hope you enjoy Talia’s post below—it’s a great read!
We’ll see you tomorrow for the next post in the #Chronicle150!
My earliest memory of Canada includes a strange collection of items that are surely not uniquely Canadian, but in my mind, are inextricably linked to Canada—flurries, capri pants, and Swedish meatballs.
My family and I moved here sort of accidentally in the fall of 2002. After more than 18 hours driving from Kissimmee, Florida to Toronto to visit my stepfather’s sister and renew his Canadian passport, complications with U.S. immigration led to an unexpected resettlement. Goodbye, Florida sun. Hello, Canadian chill.
It was October, to be exact, during one of those years when winter crept in early. Lawns were still covered in red, yellow and orange leaves, shaken from the trees by gusts of wind that were colder than any breeze I had ever experienced. Before Florida, I had only lived in my homeland, Barbados, so Canada’s chilly temperatures were a first for me. I was fascinated by the sight of my breath suspended in the cool autumn air. I took every opportunity I could get to stand outside and puff little clouds out above my head.