Last Thursday, I was invited to speak at the “Stay and Grow” event organized by PRUDE Inc. The event encourages both newcomers and long-time residents to make New Brunswick their home. It does so by connecting people with the diverse range of economic and business opportunities that’s happening right here and now.
Along with keynote speaker, Bernadette Fernandes of The Varanda Network, fellow N.B. entrepreneurs talked about the journeys that got them where they are today. I was honoured to share the stage with these visionaries and touched by the warmth of everyone there who came out because they love what we have as a community.
Here’s the full text of my story, as told that evening under the grand proscenium arch of the historic Imperial Theatre:
“Hello, everyone – my name is Winluck Wong. As of this week, summer is officially here! It’s extra special for me because it’ll be my first New Brunswick summer experience.
I’m so excited, I don’t even know where to start! I want to try everything, do everything: camping, hiking, fishing. And when things start opening up even more: restaurants, live theatre, music festivals. I want all of that, all at once.
My exuberance isn’t just anticipation of the potential possibilities ahead; it’s also recognition of the overcome difficulties behind.
As far back as I can remember, money was always a bit short in my family.
I remember my mom buying bone scraps from the butcher. There were usually some meat still clinging to parts that weren’t cut too closely. She would shave off thin strips of meat for stir-fry dinners and use the bones to make soup for the next day.
I remember a family friend who worked in a baked goods factory bringing over bags of misshapen croissants rejected by everyone, but treasured by us. To this day, I still relish every bite of croissant I come across.
I remember the only birthday gift I ever got growing up was a Ninja Turtles keychain my mom carefully wrapped from the dollar store. To this day, I still keep the keychain on my desk – its colours pale with time, but forever vivid in my heart.
These are the memories I have of difficulty. But also of tenacity.
Because in spite of the days when everything seemed impossible, my parents did it.
They raised me and my sister. Made sure our bellies were filled and our heads were covered. Even during that month when they had just two dollars left a week before payday.
They put us through college. Made sure we had the skills and values to make it out there. Even when it meant having nothing left over for their own retirement.
Tenacity got us through each day. But it was the willingness to embrace change that truly transformed our lives.
We didn’t shy away from big moves, even if they overturned our way of life. We went from bankruptcy in Ottawa and social housing in Vancouver to a desperate gamble to start a business up north in the Yukon.
Not all changes have to be big either. Sometimes, it’s the smaller ones in aggregate that matter the most.
Like the time I wrote a play for a fringe festival where I rekindled my passion for writing and discovered my fondness for theatre.
Or the time I landed the lead role of an epic play I didn’t know lasts three hours. And at the end of the show, worked up the courage to ask one of the actresses out.
Or the time she suggested we go on a road trip from the Yukon to Montreal. To launch my dream of being a writer and actor when I wasn’t sure I could ever leave my safe government job.
Or the time I asked her to marry me and she said yes. And then a pandemic delayed our wedding, but prompted us to return to her home province of New Brunswick.
So we moved again, self-quarantined, went house-hunting, bought a house together, and now she’s sitting here watching me ramble onstage while there’s still lots to do if we’re to finally get married by the end of this summer.
Especially when times are tough and the future’s uncertain. As soon as something feels off, try something different. Even if you don’t think it’s that significant, it will be when you look back one day.
Keep trying until you find that harmony in your life. That sweet note meaning all is well.
I think I’ve found my harmony. And it’s here with my wife-to-be – in New Brunswick.
Thank you for taking us in.”