When COVID-19 spread across the globe, we were all forced into several months of lockdown. I am a very social person, so staying home for a long period of time with no outside physical interactions was very difficult for me. I was unable to see any of my friends, play sports or even walk around town. At first, I was excited for the lockdown. I was really happy that we didn’t have to go to school and I was able to stay home all day. But soon I realized that the lockdown was a curse and I was plagued with boredom and laziness. Besides focusing effectively on my school work, I played on my phone during class and tried to entertain myself by scrolling through the internet. After a while, I knew that I couldn’t keep doing the same things again and again and felt like I was wasting my life. That’s when I started to turn my life around. I began to go on more walks around my neighborhood and spent less time on the internet. I started helping my dad by doing yard work, and exploring my passion. I built a pigeon loft with my dad and raised a flock of birds and learned how to be self-sufficient, raising quails and harvesting their eggs and meat. When someone stays at home for a long period of time, it is very easy to lie around, be lazy and do nothing, but I knew I had to maintain my physical fitness with my past athletic life and for my mental health. Along with martial arts class, I dedicated at least one hour every day, to work out and exercise while encouraging my younger siblings to do the same. Because of the lockdown, I was able to focus on improving myself as a person and plan for my future. I researched my interests and explored my future careers and created a calendar with all deadlines and events I plan on attending and even figured out what I want to do in the future. I became more grateful for what I had and appreciated nature and myself. It wasn’t easy changing my life, but with little steps and much needed discipline, anything is accomplishable. Although we, Asian Americans, seem much different than everybody else, it is what makes us unique in America’s diverse population. At first, I thought that we Asians are different from other races and that we were inclined to stay within our race, but I soon realized that we are no different than anyone else. We go through the same struggles and obstacles as our peers. When you first read about my struggles during COVID and how I conquered it, if you were not told that an Asian American wrote it, you would not be able to tell if the writer was white, black, Mexican or Asian. That is the beauty of America. No matter the race, gender, religion or beliefs of a person, in the end, we are all Americans. In our current society, hate and misunderstanding plague our country as we are divided into two parties. Those strong beliefs ripped our nation in half as they continue to battle over which ideals are correct. As Abraham Lincoln said, America will never be destroyed from the outside, but America will destroy herself from the inside. Our job as Asian Americans is not to stay quiet, but to stand up and speak our voices. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, you must let America know that we, Asian Americans, care for our country. Our goal is not to divide, but to unite. Do not shut others out for having different beliefs, but rather listen and understand where they’re coming from. The greatest duty an American citizen can perform for his/her country is to give back to their communities and participate. We are privileged to live in a country of opportunities and freedom, for which many will risk their lives, which is why we must give back to the community that nurtured and cared for us. One beautiful thing about America is that there is not one “American race” like there is in other countries. That way we are able to connect with other cultures and understand the world and people around us. As my mother says, we must keep the good traditions of both Asian and American cultures and integrate them into one. It’s sad to see how there is still racism in today’s society, whether it’s against whites, blacks, Asians or other races. Even though I haven’t experienced any racism personally, it is critical to understand the intention of the user. Many people nowadays will joke about stereotypes and “insult” other races, which is totally normal, and it’s even what I do sometimes. We must learn to have a hard shell and figure out whether the user’s intention is to harm us or just joke around. If you feel uncomfortable, do not stay quiet, but speak up. People pick on those who seem quiet, weak and alone. Keep your head high, speak with confidence and try to figure out their intention. And to those who are ashamed of their Asian heritage, do not be ashamed. Your Asian heritage is what makes you different from your peers. Your food, holidays and traditions make you who you are. I hold my Asian heritage with pride as I know that I am contributing to the diverse culture and population of this great country. In conclusion, I want to leave you with a few points. Do not be ashamed of who you are, speak up and voice your opinions. Overcome all challenges and keep your head high through your darkest times. Contribute to your community, vote in your local, state and federal government. Stand up for yourselves and others, do not allow yourself to get pushed around. Be strong, be safe, and most importantly, enjoy Asian food.

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