All of our voices serve a purpose and we use them to help us through every day. I sing songs, divulge my passion, and vocalize my dedication to human rights.
But nothing lasts.
I grew up in a family of golden voices. My cousin is a famous Cambodian pop singer, I grew up listening to my mom sing, and in different Khmer ceremonies, my grandma uses her angelic voice to chant. My grandma is actually somewhat famous in our community for her voice. The local pagoda is near our house and sometimes she would sleep there, just so she could wake up and chant for everyone in the morning.
When I was about five, my mom left our hometown and, there I was with my grandma or Yay in Khmer. When I say I was with my grandma, I WAS. I went everywhere with her. I couldn’t even leave the house and play with my friends because I wouldn’t have enjoyed it.
I savored having a ritual every night before bed with Grandma. We laughed together, prayed together and even chanted together. I remember sitting there trying to imitate her golden voice. She was a mom and a best friend to me.
But nothing lasts.
Eight years ago it was a tragedy. One morning Grandma woke up and there was a change in her voice. She found it difficult to talk. She felt something was in her throat, blocking the fluency of her voice. She told me she’s going to get better, but I felt scared when it was confirmed by a doctor’s document that she was diagnosed with fluency disorder.
I remember being so confused about what was going on.
Days, weeks, and years after that there were no rituals, no laughter, and no more chants. Just silence. Grandma looked so miserable. She had lost her identity.
Grandma lost the power of her angelic voice, but she’s still a superwoman with the power that blesses my heart every single day. And lucky enough she’s still with me every single day stronger than ever at 79 years old.
Since her diagnosis, I realized that in order to make my family happy and to carry on the family tradition, I have to find my own voice. Initially, I didn’t know what to do, so I sang. I thought that was the only way of being vocal. I was never aware that this world is more than blue skies, clear oceans, and emerald jungles until three years after Grandma’s tragedy. I realized that the world can be pretty complex with unsolved puzzles and so I switched from focusing so much on singing for my own sake to making my voice more useful in different ways.
Grandma’s voice meant something to my hometown. So I want mine to mean something. I want to use my voice to change the world. Being able to have a voice is important. I am privileged enough to have grown up in a family where our voices feed us every day.
So I decided that it was time for me to go on a journey to find my voice.
At first, this adventure started a little rough. It all started when I discovered my deepest and most important secret at the age of thirteen. I was curious, confused and an utter mess. I found out that I am bisexual. Since then, I was pretty vocal in making my voice heard. Living in a country where LGBTQ is not fully accepted nor understood, I had no choice but to fight for myself with love and acceptance. I did a TedTalk back in 2017 to convey my passion for human rights and encouraging everyone, especially those who are different to discover their own voice. I felt so proud after the talk, but I was extremely guilty at the same time. I realized that telling people to be strong, to have high self-esteem and to discover their own voice is easy, but what’s hard is to actually do it yourself. Clearly, there were hesitations with my decisions in being vocal but as soon as I think about grandma the hesitations disappeared. I felt the need to make my voice heard more and more every single day.
About a month ago I was apart of creating a feature film internship where I get to sing. That was an opportunity for me to keep exploring my voice as a family tradition. I still very much love to sing and started to write more personal songs in order to hopefully inspire other people with those lyrics and melodies.
This is the journey of finding my voice. I want to empower everyone to find the treasure in their own voice. I believe that as long as we can find that gold, we can use it to better our world.