TED likes to ask you to write what your friend would say is your biggest achievement to date.
To me, my biggest achievement to date is being a Panda.
Most people would think being a Panda mascot sucks.
The suit is hot, it’s stinks, it’s heavy and you can’t see shit.
Most of the occupational hazards are correct, but you also get to be cute, do stupid things and most importantly, bring joy to children.
And I’m not just ANY Panda, I’m a talking Panda.
That speaks 3 languages.
I really think that it makes a lot of difference, a mascot that doesn’t speak is just a mascot, but once you do, you’re a character.
And my Panda, 小呼, is as real to kids as Elmo and the Big Bird, and I’m really proud of that.
I make learning more fun for them, I make jokes about things in the textbook (appropriate ones; because off-camera this Panda says some pretty inappropriate things), I whine about homework like they do, I make sure that they feel that being a kid is okay.
And it’s not just that, I give kids suggestions and life advice that would otherwise sound naggy coming from teachers and parents because as a Panda, I’m a peer; also because my inner child is kicking and well, the advice I give are actually somewhat applicable.
I tell them it’s okay to love yourself even if some people don’t like you, I tell them not to let bullies bring you down, I make studying sound more fun and I make getting scolded feel a little less painful.
As a Panda, I can give kids the respect and appreciation that they often don’t get, because they’re too young to be listened to and take seriously.
And when you receive a letter from a kid, thanking you for making their learning more fun, and telling you that they love you and is rooting for you, that’s just the most wonderful feeling in the world.
And when the mother of a kid who has cancer calls, and tells you that you’ve helped her kid feel like he’s at school again, like he’s normal and he’s having fun, that bittersweet feeling is indescribable.
That’s when you realized being mobbed by kids and conventions, having them hit my head and cling onto my legs is all worth it.
Because the way their eyes light up when they see you, you know, even inside that stuffy sweaty suit, you know, that you’re bringing joy to children.
And that makes me damn proud to be a fucking panda.
I’ve been a director, council secretary, consultant and many other things in my short 22 year old life, but my biggest achievement to date is being a Panda.