By Karen Ho, Yale-NUS College ’17 – See bio
Growing up, half your life is surrounded by adults who gush over how brilliant and smart and talented you are, and how you’ll grow up to be a beautiful bright young woman someday. The other half of your life is spent feeling inferior to all the other young people around you – the other girls in class who are prettier, or who sing better, or have nice hair and lovely eyes; the older girls you see around who exude beauty in every step they take. They radiate sunshine and their lips spill melodies and they don’t even realise it. And how about yourself? You have fat cheeks. Your words always come out awkward and stupid. You have a chest as flat as a runway. You can’t pull off anything pink. You look dumb in glasses, and even worse in braces.
As you grow older, the light begins to shine in you. You realise there’s more to a person than the features she was blessed with – you take an interest in astronomy or singing or animals, and your passions show in the spark in your eyes. It’s passion, not physical attractiveness, that makes a person’s face radiate with the aura of youth. As you’re learning this, people begin to gravitate towards you. No longer are you the loner with low self-esteem who sits in a corner. You take on different interests, meet different kinds of people, and realise that it’s a person’s personality that captures you, not her looks.
You become a person with passion. People start to know you as the passionate, enthusiastic ball of light. You realise that all a person needs is to come out of her shell to become the beautiful lady she’s always dreamt of being. You know what you’re worth now. People appreciate your contributions, and you realise that you are, in fact, significant. You know your worth.
And then you’re twenty and you’re swimming out of your little wading pool into the rough, infinite sea. The roaring currents hit you on every side. Criticism. Fire. You try to keep afloat. They try to put on different masks on you, tell you what you are not. They’ll say that you aren’t fit for the seas, but you know what you’re worth. Nobody seems to be believing in you, and there’s no lifeboat to save you, no pillar, no stronghold. It’s just you now. It’s a reversal of roles; as a child, others brought you up to uncover the light in you, but now they try to bring you down again.
You’ve gotta swim, swim for your life
Swim for the music that saves you when you’re not so sure you’ll survive
You’ve gotta swim, and swim when it hurts
The whole world is watching; you haven’t come this far to fall off the earth
The currents will pull you away from your love
Just keep your head above
I found a tidal wave begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets; they fired at me from a gun, cracking me open now
I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water, I’m not giving in
The currents will pull us away from our love
Just keep your head above