An Interview with Delphie Yap: Winner of YOUTHspeak 2017

by Megan Soh, Cedar Girls' Secondary School

“Treat writing is an escape, not a chore.” - Delphie Yap

TOP ESSAYIST: Delphie Yap's essay won the top award for YOUTHspeak Essay Competition 2017

These are the words of Delphie Yap from 3Z, winner of the 2017 YOUTHspeak Essay Competition. Her essay, which was based around the theme of “What Makes Me Who I Am”, is a poignant piece about growing up and finding one’s place in this large, complicated world.

Delphie, who described herself as a rather reflective person, said that she thinks about her life often as she’s writing.

“I’m someone who likes to think about life. I reflect about life while I’m writing, and while I’m writing I learn stuff about myself, and stuff about the world or others that I didn’t know before.”

When asked about why she decided to write about ‘What Makes Me Who I Am” rather than any other topic, she answered without any hesitation.

“I like to write about topics that help me discover and learn more about myself. When I saw the list of questions, some of them were really complicated questions which didn’t really resonate much within me. But for the question of ‘What Makes Me Who I Am’, it immediately piqued my interest because it got me thinking, “What is it actually that makes us who we are?” There are no two people who are completely identical. I wanted to explore more in this area and learn more about myself and others around me. And I definitely did, because after finishing the essay, I actually found out a lot of insights about what exactly shapes a person.”

In order to prepare for this topic, Delphie asked other people what they thought made them unique. She said that through this, she has gained many insights on what shapes a person; their failures, their history and background, and many little personality traits all contribute to the uniqueness of someone.

She hopes that through her essay, she can drive across the message that every individual is beautifully unique and that everyone will eventually get to learn their true identity.

“The message that I wanted to drive across to my audience, more specifically growing teens, or basically people who are trying to find a place in this world, is that it will all work out some day. All the stuff that we faced while we were growing up, one day we’ll look back at it and see that everything fell into place so naturally, just like it was meant to be. It all leads back to who you are, or where you are today.”

Of course, there were challenges that Delphie faced while writing. She mentioned that while she was clear of the message she wanted to convey to the target audience, she was rather unsure of how to do so.

“This piece was especially problematic because I didn’t really know what I was trying to express. I definitely knew that I wanted to start out with the message to teens that it’s okay to struggle with your identity and it will all work out one day, but at the same time I didn’t really know how to achieve that. It was so messy and confusing and I had to write many drafts because I didn’t think people would get what I was trying to say.”

Delphie then shared about how she tried to combat this and organise her thoughts by taking a break from writing, starting anew on a fresh sheet of paper and writing down the main message that she was truly trying to drive across. Afterwards, she tried to build a narrative around that and work from there.

“But I definitely enjoyed the process and it was certainly not painful, stressful or anything. Every single time I wrote, something different came out. With every draft, the product was a little bit more different.”

When it came to giving advice to students in the field of writing, Delphie had some tips to share.

“Keep writing. It sounds so cliche, but I just want to say, don’t let life come in the way of your writing. What I mean is, always try to find time to write. Writing is always something that I can come back to, something that I won’t get tired of. But don’t try to force yourself to write something every single day even if you have nothing to write, because this will eventually make writing very stressful. It should be something that’s natural, and not something you should stress over. It should be something that you enjoy doing and not something that you have to force yourself to do. Always treat writing as an escape, not a chore.”

When asked about what made her essay stand out from the others, Delphie was slightly abashed and uncertain, being the humble student that she is.

“I’m honestly not very sure, but I guess it was the level of personal insight of my essay. Maybe it was because it was unique or because it relates to people. As I said before, I went around asking people what made them who they are, while I was trying to find out more about myself as well, so maybe it was because it was relatable. Maybe you can answer that for me instead,” she said and chuckled.

The more personal part of the interview was about her experiences with struggling with her own identity. Delphie mentioned that after struggling with her own identity, she has become a much happier person. Through the interview, it was obvious that she is someone who values her happiness very much.

“After struggling with your own identity, you start becoming the person that you truly want to be. Sometimes we just go through the motions, and yet we are are only the second best version of ourselves. We’re not the happiest people we can be. But slowly, as you experience life more, all these struggles and life experiences just gets you closer and closer to the best version of yourself where you’re happy. And I think that happiness is something that is very important, because life is so short and precious, what else would you want to be if not happy, right?”

Finally, she was asked about how her life experiences have shaped her writing potential. Delphie pointed out that her life experiences have shaped the way she thinks, which directly affects her writing.

“I don’t really write about my life experiences wholesale. I write to explore and discover something, or sometimes I write to tell others something or to spread a message. I guess my life experiences generally shape how I think and also give me insights to life, the world, and stuff like that. Sometimes I’ll just have that sudden realisation or epiphany and I’ll decide to write that down. And later when I look back at it, it makes me realise a part of my life which I didn’t think was important back then, is actually so important to me now.”

It’s evident that Delphie has a strong passion for writing. Like what she has mentioned, writing is something that everyone can come back to and never get tired of. Hopefully, all students will be inspired and will learn to love writing as a lifelong skill that they can use as a platform to share their thoughts, or sometimes even that much-needed escape from reality.