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Thank You DAY

Dear Asian Youth,

All good things must come to an end. This will be my last piece for Dear Asian Youth as a member of the writing team. Typing those words feels simultaneously strange and calming.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After all, what’s an ending without a beginning?

It was January 2021. My friend–shoutout to Julianne Liu–sent me an Instagram post about an organization called Dear Asian Youth that was taking applications for writers. My first thought? What the heck is Dear Asian Youth? I had never heard of it, but I saw the word ‘Asian’ in it and was immediately intrigued. After doing some research and realizing it was an organization by Asian youth for Asian youth, I knew I had to apply. My job at the time had transitioned to a hybrid role due to COVID, so I had more time to write. As cliche as it sounds, I remember thinking to myself, The stars have aligned for me to do this right now. After an interview with the then-Editor in Chief and Chris Chew (who was late and made it to the last five minutes of my interview), I was offered a position as a writer.

Of course, I was ecstatic for this new role. However, it didn’t take long for me to get hit with a wave of imposter syndrome. It was very apparent that, at 24 years old, I was on the older side of members. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. Here was this majority of high schoolers who were so passionate and active in their communities. And there I was still finding my voice and feeling like the new kid at school. I had no idea what I was doing.

Then the tragedy at the three Atlanta spas in March 2021 happened. I was already wrestling with my feelings from the surge of anti-Asian racism during the pandemic. This was a blow to my heart.

Within DAY, a call was put out on Discord for people to write a piece together detailing what happened and what it meant for the Asian community. I wasn’t going to join because I was still so new and hadn’t written anything yet. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the tragedy fueled by the anti-Asian rhetoric that surged when the pandemic began. And what do I do when I can’t stop thinking about something? I write.

I pushed through my own insecurities and volunteered to join the writing project. If memory serves, I contributed one paragraph because I didn’t want to step on anyone else’s toes. I didn’t think much of it until the piece was posted to Instagram, and I saw my name listed as one of the contributors. A balloon of pride swelled within me. It wasn’t just for the fact that I co-wrote my first piece for DAY; it was also that I had done it with other people who felt just as strongly about the incident as I did. I wasn’t used to working on a group project where all of the members actually pulled their own weight. Being a part of and witnessing firsthand other Asians coming together made my imposter syndrome evaporate. I was chosen to be a writer. There were no mistakes. I deserved to be there just like everyone else. That was the start of my journey.

Almost two years later, I’ve written 13 other pieces, including this one. If it weren’t for the posts on the website, I wouldn’t have believed that I had written all of those. In case you were curious, my favorite pieces I’ve written are…

  1. How Do I Tell Him? (It was the first solo piece I ever wrote for DAY)

  2. Wrought with Gold (I am very proud of navigating the rhyme scheme)

  3. Letter to You (This one gave me closure)

  4. I Accidentally Break the World (This was a labor of love that I hope to expand on one day)

Being a part of DAY has taught me a lot about writing and about myself. I learned that my words resonate with people. My ideas have weight and they matter. That’s as gratifying as any compliment I’ve ever received. I learned that Asian voices are loud and strong. We just need a stage to let it all out.

I thought I would be with DAY for at least another year, but the funny thing about life is that it happens when you least expect it. As much as I love writing for this amazing organization, it did take away a lot of time from my other writing projects. I have a first draft of a novel I hope to publish one day that has been collecting virtual dust. I put that and other endeavors on pause, so I could focus on DAY. Now it’s time to focus on me. Writing this last piece is bittersweet, but it’s time for me to start a new journey. Before I go, I’d like to acknowledge some pretty awesome people.

Thank you to all of the editors at DAY who have given me feedback on my work. You made me a better writer (I’m still working on having varying sentence lengths). I appreciated that your feedback was always constructive and never demeaning. You helped sharpen and refine my pieces to what they are now. Be nice to the writers and give them scraps of positive reinforcement every now and then.

Thank you to all the writers who are putting their work out into the world. Your voices are vital and necessary, and I am inspired by you. Get your drafts in on time, so your editors don’t come for you!

Thank you to the leadership team who created a safe space for Asian youth to be their authentic selves. Amidst constant restructuring, you’ve maintained the core values and atmosphere of what DAY represents, and I know the members are grateful for that.

Thank you to the “mute channel” option on Discord. You’re all delightful people, but getting the onslaught of notifications made me want to throw my phone across the room. I will miss the app the least.

And most of all, thank you, dear reader, for making it through the ramblings of a young adult. I hope you were able to take away something from what I’ve left here. If you’re thinking about applying, do it! You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. There is space for you, and DAY will give you the opportunity to grow and cultivate your potential. Plus, it looks good on a resume. If/when you’re accepted, get involved as much as you can. Ask questions, attend meetings, join writing nights—whatever you can to get the most out of DAY, so you can give it your all. You won’t regret it. I sure didn’t.


Eric Nhem


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