Emma Zhou is the house captain of Hillary House. She has participated in a number of extracurriculars during her time at Macleans College, such as the Macleans College Chorale, Musical Production 2021-2023, and the LGBTQIA+ Rights Advocacy Group.

Emma Zhou was asked what her motto throughout her time at Macleans College was. This is her response.

I definitely did not come into Macleans College as a naive Year 9 with a plan. Not once did I really, properly know what was going on with everything. I guess I was more of a ‘fill-your-days-with-cocurricular-and-maybe-it’ll-distract-you’ person.

Now I write this as a Year 13 who others supposedly look up to (or down to, as my taller friends like to joke) and I still only have a vague idea of what’s going on. I have a plan! But it’s prone to change. So if I try to think of a phrase I’ve remembered and lived by for all these years, I cower from imminent decisions and essays. There is, however, one phrase I saw on a Tumblr screenshot on Pinterest that comes to mind and I think I’ve spent these five years learning what it means.

“Take no [insert swear word], give no [insert swear word].”

As a Year 9 child, I’d come from a background of discovering my worth through achievement and external validation. I made senior friends and clung desperately to that because I thought it looked cool. I found myself subtly adjusting my personality to fit with whatever crowd I was with yet still analyzing every interaction for fear that someone didn’t actually like me. I overthought every interaction and it was painful.

A few years down the line, my undisguised personality became bigger, my tone inflexions became more obvious, and my hand gestures got wilder. I like to think my involvement in musical theatre had something to do with it, but I know a big part was the determination to make my intentions clear to others. I didn’t tend to not like people anyway; I was too busy thinking they didn’t like me. Regardless, I tried to assume the best of others unless proven otherwise and treat everyone with a foundation of basic human decency. I gave no [insert swear word].

(Another side thing I’ve learned this year is to not be ashamed. I am a cringe-y weirdo who says things like “lol” and “slay” and who strangers assume is a small child but that is okay.)

Sometimes, otherwise would be proven. In that rare case, giving no [insert swear word] did not mean backing down and taking it, although that took a while for me to learn. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s okay to do things for myself, that it’s ok to step out of things that grate at my insides. I did not owe anyone anything. Not my grades to curious classmates, not my kindness to someone who couldn’t take a hint, not my commitment to a club that left me drained and regretting wasted time.

The one most cruel person I’ve encountered throughout my school years, the one person who said the most hurtful things and kept questioning everything I did, was myself.

— Emma Zhou

However, there is a fine line between refusing to beat yourself up and just being a terrible person, hence the “give no [insert swear word]”. As a wrinkly grape once said, “Perfectly balanced. As all things should be”.

The one most cruel person I’ve encountered throughout my school years, the one person who said the most hurtful things and kept questioning everything I did, was myself. Controlling the voice in my head was the hardest task from this lesson and I still don’t control it; I just counter it with another voice desperately gripping onto unwavering trust in the world and people around me. Sometimes, that has to be enough.

Don’t take [insert swear word] from people. If it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone, do it. If it makes you sad and doesn’t benefit you, don’t do it. Life is difficult, so make it easier for yourself.

June 29th, 2023
Written by Emma Zhou, edited by Clarissa Oblefias

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Humans of Macleans: Haran Thirumeni

Presenting Haran Thirumeni from Rutherford House.

Humans of Macleans: Leo Mamedov

Leo Mamedov talks about his time at Macleans and his thoughts about the school.