I am about to start my corporate career. But who am I? Something is not right.
On the outside I am whole. But inside I am in pieces.
A gay Singaporean man with a British voice and a diploma from a New Hampshire high school, a pianist and a soon-to-be banker, a former navy corporal and recovering ex-lawyer, a certified Asian, a gaysian, a cis man, 95% Chinese and 5% Other, a nonpracticing agnostic, a minority multiple times over, a mongrel of ethnicities and identities and half-identities and half-imagined identities and half-words dreamt in the shadow of the imagination of those identities – where do I begin?
Something is not right. Please, all you clever, helpful readers, help me find my narrative, my creation myth, my defining moment. What am I beyond the sum of these parts? What do I wear for that Google interview? A Penn sweatshirt, a sarong, a handmade suit? How do I slot into my new internship team – as a Singaporean, as a Londoner, as gay, as Chinese? What boxes should I check on my Wharton application? These pieces do not fit. We are worker bees, bland and obedient, and we cannot afford the extravagance of cultural individuality.
And often in the office – sat between a million other young professionals in steely towers from Dubai to Tokyo to London to New York – I feel as if I have become transparent as a piece of glass. Uncolored by sex, ethnicity, or culture. A mere conformist. The rich, confused tatters of my identity, the secret tapestry of my past and my parents’ past – does it matter to the making of these slides? Does it count to the success of this due diligence project?
No. I do not bring it into my job. Survival and success in the business world demands conformity, unity, simplicity. But that is not what I am. That is not what we are, we world-spanning, identity-fusing, culture-confusing nomads in search of a community. We should rejoice in the wild splendor of our diversity. With diversity comes sensitivity, awareness, openness to ideas, and better lateral thinking: culturally diverse work teams constantly outperform non-diverse teams. But for the sake of survival we shut our eyes, we block out that blaze of tangled light.
People of the world! People of color! Cultural hybrids! We need Elivade: the lifelong professional community for people like us. We need a space where diversity is celebrated and difference is championed; a community of aspirational young professionals who work together to mentor and nurture; a stage where people of all identities can come together as one.
There are no easy stories with us. We have as many identities as the sun, come from a million races and ethnicities, love men and women alike; we fit into no molds, have an infinite number of moving parts, but we can all come to Elivade to be ourselves. Elivade is diversity. Elivade is difference. Elivade is community. And Elivade can help us join hands to show the world what marvels we are capable of.
So let us emerge from this raucous chaos as one. Let us go into the workplace knowing and believing that our identity is our strength. Let us unite as a family of hungry, ambitious young professionals, and let us use this platform to do some awesome things. Let us begin by joining Elivade.
Author: Geoffrey Lim