It takes time – My educational journey
I’ve always been afraid to call myself an artist. Yet in high school, it seemed as if I couldn’t get enough of the arts. Whether it be music, fine arts or dance, I tried my hardest to excel. I was first chair cello in the orchestra, an advanced fine arts student, honor choir member, and was involved in three musicals. I even won my high school’s Visual and Performing Arts award and two scholarships for artistic endeavors. Despite my accomplishments, I always felt discouraged from pursuing a career in the arts or going to an art school. My family said it was too expensive and I probably wouldn’t find a job. I also felt like there was a stigma that artists aren’t worth as much as scientists or engineers. Unfortunately, I fell prey to these fears and stereotypes, and internalized them. My father was a musician and he warned me the industry was unstable, manipulative and a difficult field overall. In addition, my grandmother, who is a large role model in my life, worked a public service job for the city of Los Angeles for over 50 years. She encouraged me to get a stable job and go to a ‘good university’. My grandmother didn’t go to college and wanted the best for me. She didn’t want me to go to community college for fear that I would ‘lose sight’ of my goals, become bored with unchallenging classes and aimlessly linger there for years without getting a degree.
As a result, even though I couldn’t by any means afford it, I went to a state university. I accrued large amounts of debt and started my freshman year as a psychology major because I thought I wanted to become an art therapist; I loved the idea of helping people through art. However, I decided to experience therapy firsthand and through this process, I realized it really wasn’t something that I enjoyed so much. Listening to others and helping them sort through their life was indeed something I enjoyed, but maybe not as a career. In the summer of 2015, I became part of the Asian American Environmental Leadership Academy, and during the fall semester, I took an environmental awareness class. I thought that my true career lied in environmental analysis. It was a social issue that I was inflamed about, something that made me angry and lighted a burning desire to take action. However, state university became more expensive than I could handle, and it was necessary for me to transfer to community college after my first semester.
This past summer, I participated in the Nikkei Community Internship Program, where I was placed at a non-profit called the Little Tokyo Service Center as a business outreach assistant in Downtown Los Angeles. I was extremely excited for this opportunity and the chance to learn about my community and make a change about the causes I was passionate about. However, the reality was I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. My resume was great, I could write a stellar cover letter, but my position at the service center wasn’t what I thought it would be. I wasn’t working on environmental issues, and the impact I was making felt so small in comparison to the large issues I was dealing with like gentrification and homelessness. It was overwhelming for me. I found myself gravitating toward the arts once again, and took it upon myself to do the graphic design for flyers at the service center.
Through my internship, I attended a workshop by John Kabarra who posed the question, “What do you tell people you do, and what do you actually do?” I answered, “I’m a community advocate and business outreach assistant, but what I really love is fashion.” He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Then what are you doing here?”
This was a life changing moment for me. It was the first time I really asked myself, “What am I doing here?” It was the first time nobody was in my head influencing my decision. It was one of the first times where I was truly honest with myself. I was a creative person and I wanted to do creative work, but I was embarrassed about it. Art seemed like a selfish career compared to more ‘noble’ fields like social work, teaching, medicine, etc. The truth was, although I loved my community and I am extremely passionate about social issues, I just wasn’t designed to work in an office. It was hard to come to terms that I might not pursue a career that is ‘respectable’ or moneymaking in others people’s eyes.
Community college helped me explore my interests in the arts and music, and eventually decide on an artistic career. Ironically, as a high school senior, I vividly remember telling my parents, “I’ll go anywhere but East Los Angeles Community College.” Now, I am a proud student of ELAC, about to transfer to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. It was thanks to the resources and the help from my teachers and peers at community college that I’ve been able to apply for scholarships and grow meaningful relationships. I didn’t love filing and data input at my volunteer position, but if I didn’t go through this experience I might still be pursuing a career that is ultimately not right for me. The internships, volunteer positions and community service positions helped reveal a lot about myself; what work environment was right for me, what kind of people I wanted to work with and what I was passionate about. It took multiple non-creative experiences to figure out that I wanted to go into a creative field. It took a lot of convincing and vulnerability to look myself in the face and be honest about what I wanted, and it took an equal amount of courage to express myself honestly. I learned through my community internship that you don’t need to be a big name community player to contribute. I’m giving back to my community in my own artistic way.
As a student who aspires to go through undergraduate, graduate school and maybe a Ph.D. program, the Pearson Scholarship is key to making that dream a reality. In the past, lack of financial resources caused me to unenroll from my state university. Even though community college has been a wonderful experience, it is not the end goal. This Pearson Scholarship is helping make my transfer dreams a reality.
More than that, I feel I am a part of the Pearson community. I am inspired by my fellow scholars’ passion for service and love for their community. Even though many of us have never met, I feel a sense of solidarity for my fellow scholars and I cannot wait to see the great things they will do.
Mentorship is something that I have always desired, and forming a relationship with my Pearson mentor, Julie Watson, is extremely important to me. The mentor fills the in between role. She is an adult that I know I can turn to not only for academic matters, but for personal ones as well. It’s the care and goodwill of parent, combined with the closeness of an older sibling.
If you liked this article, I’d love to connect!
Participate in a visual project that I am working on regarding American identity: https://goo.gl/forms/eMxdWKugaQEuCmBh2
Check out what I’ve been up to: http://taylormkim20.wixsite.com/website
Taylor is a recipient of the 2016 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education. Each Pearson Scholar is paired with a Pearson professional mentor who provides support as Scholars progress toward degree completion. We are incredibly proud of all the Pearson Scholars. Please check back as we continue to highlight each scholar’s story!