Indonesian version, click here.

Written by Afraa Akira Amadera – 1st Winner of AIYA Jakarta Writing Competition 

Once upon a time existed an impressionable girl, afraid to express her opinion. Thinking outside of the box was never a consideration, she was chained within this cramped, confining box. She was nothing more than a blank canvas. She moulded herself into any shape anyone wanted her to be, twisting and turning as if she existed to fit everyone’s ideals, though such a feat is impossible. 

“What do you like?”

“Anything, I guess.”

“What are your hobbies?”

“Anything is fun, I guess.”

“What are your future goals?”

“Anything works for me, I guess.”

She struggled to find herself; she never had any interests or passions, yet she was too frightened to discover one. This girl stayed that way for many years until something, more exactly someone, changed her forever. This person was like a painter, slowly painting a one-of-a-kind piece of art, vibrant in its beauty and character, on that lifeless canvas. A hero to that girl that changed her life. The painter was Ms. B, my history teacher, and that blank canvas was, you guessed it, me.

I was an immigrant from Indonesia, settling into Brisbane, Australia for a few years as I waited for my dad to finish his degree. For the first time in this new foreign land I was made to think for myself to devise solutions of my own. Though still, I was scared. If I hadn’t read the answer written somewhere, I would never be able to come up with my own answer out of pure anxiousness. The notion that I should not answer unless I knew the exact answer was so deeply nailed into my brain, to the point where I would rather not say anything at all. Everything I did was literally and figuratively ‘by the book’

It wasn’t until I reached year 9 when Ms. B was assigned to our class to teach us history that something within me started to sprout into life. I remember our first encounter; she left such a strong impression on me. She was amazing. I saw her vibrant and bold personality and I yearned for it. “If only I could be like that,” I often caught myself thinking. I have never once considered the possibility that it could come true one day. Ms. B taught us with such passion that showed that she cared for her students. She would ever so patiently wait until every student has shared a piece of their mind on every topic we discussed, making sure no one had any words left unspoken. She had high standards but made sure everyone reached it. It was through this that I slowly but surely started to think for myself, developing my values and views and truly starting to become me.

About halfway into the second semester, she was diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer prevalent in Australia. She broke the news to us during a class, we were all heartbroken but she maintained undying braveness and positivity through it all. Throughout her treatment where she had to have portions of the skin on her face removed she still showed up to all of our classes. She taught us with the same uplifting spirit, making jokes to keep the warm convivial atmosphere of our class. On the other hand, when discussing a serious topic she would never hesitate to stay raw, never sugar coating anything so we could get the best possible understanding of that said topic. That boldness and ability to stay matter-of-fact without any uncertainties is what I completely adore about her.

A few years on, now being back in Indonesia and despite losing connection with Ms. B, her passion still resonates within me. I have started to regularly take up challenges such as debating, and became brave enough to run for leadership positions, something that would’ve never crossed my mind just a few years ago. I credit who I have become to her, her kindness and perseverance will never be forgotten. She gave me my voice, a priceless gift I could never repay. My passion for history and fighting for what is right was realised through her, I feel like now, for the first time, I see where my future is heading. I know my goals, I know what I want to become, I know myself. That is why I wholly believe that Ms. B truly is my Australian hero.