THE SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT CV OF KIM
When you open your eyes… Will you see the powers blooming in adversity?
When you open your eyes… Will you see the powers blooming in adversity?
There are weaknesses inadequate to the measurement of the professional world. This Website is my space to both manifest and showcase the weaknesses in my curriculum vitae. I want to express that it is okay to have them and that there are also powers blooming in adversity.
If you have weaknesses, the world will not tell you that you are powerful. Sometimes people wouldn’t even be kind, let alone polite. So, I’m telling myself that I am powerful – and it is not for my grades, internships or the like, but for the weaknesses I have overcome.
People knowing me in person would probably agree that I’m not so much of an attention-seeking spotlight person. Please be considerate: It’s definitely not fun for me to not only speak but also speak up about the unspoken.
The Best We Could Do
My mother wrote this letter in 2003 to file for divorce. Us four children then grew up with my dad. While my dad worked the double amount of work, going to his job shifts and coming back to take care of us children, rather than praise, we faced disapproving looks on our motherless home and were subject to the cautious suspicion of Child Protective Services. While I find this system reasonable, it still breaks my heart a little bit looking back.
You see, being left by one’s mother isn’t easy. While my dad burned himself up to give us children light, his irascible voice still echoes. I have been called an “asshole” more than once. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized what struck me most. In his day-to-day anger, for as long as I can remember, my dad would somehow always compare me (and never my siblings) with my mother.
Well, it isn’t easy either being told to be like my mother – a person dead to my dad, a person he utterly hates, a person by whom I myself have deeply suffered. It’s crazy to think for how long I have lived without knowing how not okay that is and only defending me when I’m close to 25 years old.
On Being A Migrant Low-Class Worker
Vanessa Vu: “My parents had also worked on becoming German in their own way. They cleaned the slaughterhouse, fried fritters, sorted cucumbers on a conveyor belt, trimmed the stems of carnations and marigolds, cleaned, cooked and served people food. When my mother became pregnant for the third time, she worked until she could no longer work anymore. She stood on a ladder washing windows with her enormous belly. “Otherwise, they’ll think that foreigners are lazy,” she would say. In the evenings, she would scrub us clean until it hurt. “Otherwise, they’ll think that foreigners are dirty,” she would say. When we went to the library, she would only check out the thickest books, with no pictures. “Otherwise, they’ll think that foreigners are dumb.””
It had to happen during my last three exams ever.
For my Master’s degree, I have to take 6 minor law classes. We are allowed to bring legal texts. What happened at my 6th law test was that my legal book, among all students (along with one other student’s), got picked out by the first supervisor and the higher supervisor then judged my annotations as inappropriate and as an attempt to cheat. In result, I failed the exam but will be able to re-take it (which will extend my study further).
To be honest, I didn’t intend to cheat but I admit my book was chaos pure due to time constraints and that I haven’t gone through the new guidelines on what annotations are okay, and which are not. That being said, I really would have been okay with it and left it like that, if only it were just that.
Confused by the supervisor scrutinizing my annotations, I claimed that it’s my last exam (in law) and my way of annotating has been controlled 5 times before and always been okay. After having heard “last exam” the supervisor suddenly was all about “hardship case”. I had no clue what the supervisor was talking about, I had been sleep and food deprived for the last 24 hours and without any big discussion, I just accepted failing the exam.
When I thought about it afterwards, a weird feeling lingered. Why was the supervisor talking about “hardship case” all the time? I had a rough idea of what it is, but what did it have to do with me? I then looked it up and at my university, when you have failed an exam more than three times, you can apply for another try for serious personal hardship. I have never failed an exam, my worst grade at uni has actually been a one-time C. It struck me that the supervisor would associate me with failing the exam for three times and being a hardship case. So it slowly occured to me that the supervisor may have judged from my foreign appearance. Would there have been something strange about the legal annotations of a Non-PoC and would they have been misunderstood as being a hardship case right away solely by saying “last exam” in clear German words like I was?
It was then when this big realization hit me at the culmination of previous experiences. I have studied hard and achieved grades above average while volunteering, taking extracurricular classes, being younger than peers and so on and so on. In addition, I faced challenges coming from a non-academic family with migration biography. When others took tutoring classes, we earned pocket money through giving tutoring classes. While others were being shephered when ill, we had to write the letter of absence for the teacher by ourselves (bc our dad’s German is not so good). With this in mind, I remembered the phrase I once read on systematic discrimination – that you have to work twice as hard to come half as far. And indeed, here I would find myself working twice as hard and getting half the recognition.
The fatal thing is that somewhere along the way, like little strokes fell great oaks, I not only struggled to internalize my successes, but have come to internalize the doubts of other people instead. On the day of the exam, when I went back to work after studying for 24h straight with hardly any food and sleep, I was on the verge of breaking down – I registered that it is because I do not feel like working hard anymore, unless my body would also suffer. Actually, when the supervisor picked on me, I felt a bit of relief: I knew I was an impostor, finally I got caught! A Swabian-speaking Asian, an Asian-looking German, from a non-academic background at an elitist university, a marketing graduate in a technical Master’s program – it’s me, myself, who is in visceral doubt of deserving to be where I am and feeling out of place.
I have always thought that when I have to explain someone what I think is bad, it cannot be that bad to begin with. Well, if you’re in the minority, you struggle a lot with not knowing whether you’re right or not and it can be hard to realize when people do you wrong.
Thus, I wrote an E-mail to the supervisor, not to withdraw my acceptance of having voluntarily failed the exam, but wanting to sensibilize her on what it means when she associates someone like me with a “hardship case”, saying things like “I was lucky I didn’t get caught earlier” and simultaneously, “Why can’t I just be annotating like everyone else in the room seems to manage”. Like I couldn’t exclude the option that I did not cheat just through careless annotation, could the supervisor say 100% sure that she was free of discrimination just through careless thoughts?
She was quite nice in that she actually read my long mail in the first place and additionally offered to talk in person the next day. She explained me her argument for bringing up the “hardship case” and I’m not sure what to think. Now, strangely enough, but I would have just been fine with that… If it wasn’t for something additional that happened.
She tried to be all nice and wanted to encourage me to be stronger and more self-confident. We talked about examples like she asked me why I would feel uncomfortable when being asked to teach how to cook rice in Germany, when she wouldn’t feel offended if she went to Vietnam and someone asked her to make “Sauerbraten”. She asked me why my uncle would feel wounded by odd looks when wearing sandals to a restaurant (which is why he was wearing closed shoes at 35°C when we went for dinner in summer) because her boyfriend would also get weird looks for wearing Flipflops at his age but not mind about it.
I didn’t know what to think or respond. But reflecting on it, I came to the conclusion that something was not right. It’s like when a man would touch the boobs of a woman and as if that were not already terrible enough, since it has never ever happened to him that someone would touch his boobs making him feel harrassed about it, he would deny the woman to feel that way. Plus, trying to uplift the woman to get over herself and just be more tough about it. So, I do not want to disrespect anyone who has been seriously molestated. In racial discrimination, there is a spectrum, and I wouldn’t use these serious terms just like that. In sum, I think in this case it is not her (a White woman with light eyes and blonde hair) call to make and deny me whether I can feel discriminated or not just because it has never ever occured to her. I know she didn’t intend to be mean or anything, but to me ignorance is harmful as well.
Sooo. In the end, I am actually happy the incident happened – I learned more of a life lesson than studying for the initial exam. Hopefully, I will finally finish my studies in March and then I know, that I’m truly strong for having made it and that I do deserve the degree after all. It has not been luck that I didn’t get caught earlier.
This Website is a result of my past 20 hours sitting in front of the laptop, a personal hackathon as it turned out to be. Yaaay, my first own Website!! Please excuse any mistakes and errors, I’ll take another look later. Love, Kim