Where I am From and Who I am

Both my parents are immigrants. Growing up, I remember them constantly working. My mom would be sleeping before going to her second job and my dad would be resting after a demanding day at the factory. I barely spent time with them and I became bitter. The realities of having hard working immigrant parents were there were no rules at home and very little supervision; my three older siblings and I were given the responsibility and freedom to make our own decisions from a young age. When it came to our mom telling us what classes to take and what extracurricular activities to participate in, I usually chose something different. For example, while my siblings played string instruments in orchestra, I chose to play the flute and french horn in band. While my sisters played varsity volleyball, I became a varsity cheerleader.

Seven year old Clarisa (far left) and her family.

Seven year old Clarisa (far left) and her family.

This certain independence allowed me a creative freedom to express myself and to fall deeply in love with the world. This was until I faced the decision of what I wanted to study in college. As my siblings pursued nursing and business, I felt pressured to follow in their footsteps in order to become successful and to make my parents happy. So, I majored in biology in hopes of becoming an optometrist and owning my own practice. However, I felt as if though I had traded my creative mind for facts and memorization. I felt stuck. Yes, I had dreams of being in the medical field, but more meaningfully, I had a passion to cultivate the world and to become a changemaker. I faced the decision to remain jaded or to transform my path. I chose the latter.

I took a break from school, not knowing where to go. I occupied myself with the world. I began attending daily mass and became closer to my faith - a value my mother exemplifies for our family; I picked up the first job available to me, a nightshift at a laboratory- an act familiar to my father. I was able to spend more time with my parents and learned to acknowledge one of their greatest sacrifices coming to America: time with their children in order to secure their future. In addition, I turned to social media as an outlet for creativity: YouTube as a way to express my love for fashion and video editing, Twitter to reach out and encourage others, and Instagram to share my experiences, all in hopes of inspiring others. Thus, leading to my studies in media communications.

When I was encouraged to join Asian American Millennials Unite, I was drawn to the logistics of creative and professional use of social media in order to bring a community together. However, I was far from in touch with politics. Doubtful of my qualification, I still applied and was surprisingly accepted into the team as part of the Social Media Leadership Committee. It has only been two months since I started volunteering for this organization, but through my work, research and the leadership of each team member, I have already learned so much about why my voice matters. My voice matters because it is the expression for my aspirations, beliefs, creativity and hopes to impact the world.

Registering to vote after four years of eligibility.

Registering to vote after four years of eligibility.

Voting and mixed media may seem different, but both create dialogues and spaces for inspiration and action. Mixed media gives me the space to express myself and impact the world in a creative way, while voting and political awareness allows me to be an active member of society. Because of AAMUnite, I am now a registered voter. I vote because of the sacrifices made by those before me. I vote for struggling families. I vote because I care about the future of our country. I vote because for every person that does not, the value of my vote increases. I vote to cultivate the world and to be a changemaker.