Writing Challenge: What Makes Me, Me

ThreeSixty’s Writing Challenge is open to all high school students throughout April 2020. Each week, students are asked to submit their responses, and we pick the top ones to share.

Week 3 prompt: How do you know what makes you, you?

Nalani Vang, freshman at Math and Science Academy

Writing Challenge - MeNalani. The name means heavens, and it is from a Hawaiian origin. From the start, the beautifully presented name sparked the interest of my father. On Jan. 1, at this moment, three miracles happened. The beginning of a new year, a new birth and a new life.

When I was in grade school, I used to hate my name Nalani because no one could pronounce it. It was always marked wrong; I wished I had a common name like Emma or Olivia. But, I soon learned from junior high that there was no common name. Every name is an identification tag that makes a person, them. A signature is unique to you and others around you. I am thankful to realize the importance of my name and who it makes me. Every time I mention my name to others, I am filled with clouds of interest, beauty and exclusiveness.

Additionally, my middle name is of considerable significance to my life because I inherited it from my Hmong culture. My culture is a spiritual barrier around my life that protects and guides me through many impediments and achievements. Pakou Chi means the bright, golden flower. In the name itself, it describes my married life as a whole. Because my grandmother picked out this name, not only is it my destiny, but it is an exceptional value of mine that marks another uniqueness of my name. The mask of your name is the first thing that anybody will ever discover about you. It can characterize who you are and how you deem to be.

Moreover, my Hmong culture is also a significant factor in my identity. Growing up in a large, immediate family of 25 people and being the eldest niece in the family, I had to learn the family traditions, the past, and what lies in the future. Hmong culture prevails in various items of clothing, social organizations, festivals, language, and marriage. The spiritual beings lie within yourself and, in the subconscious mind, lay a spiritual world that connected our strings. Education was also an essential event in a child’s life because our ancestors grew up in an impoverished society that didn’t allow for schooling. Therefore, the constant reminder of strict teachings and fast learning expanded on the idea of prospering in education to receive high-end jobs like doctors, lawyers, or engineers. As a Hmong daughter, cleaning, cooking, and acquiring A’s in school were only a few examples of how proper a Hmong daughter should grow up to be. With the growing expansion of technology and the world we know today, the responsibilities are more flexible than they were in the past. The usual housewife act is shown on the faces and burden of our mothers before us. Until now, I have recognized the love and care they do for us.

For this reason, we are here because of them. I am indebted to my family with all the support and wisdom they have contributed to me. My name is Nalani.

Read Students’ Letters to the Future Selves

Read Students’ Definition of Self-Care