The Loneliest Whale
The 52-hertz whale.
All alone, the singular whale of unidentified species journeys the seas. With a call much higher in frequency than that of blue or fin whales, the 52-hertz whale is destined to go unheard–trapped in solitude defined not by physical boundaries, but by its lack of means to communicate. Yearning to be understood, the creature will continue crying out to the legion of whales deaf to its existence in hopes of one day befriending another who speaks its language.
I was the lonely whale.
At the tender age of twelve, I left behind the hustle of China for the rainy shores of Vancouver. The other side of the Pacific was immediately mystifying, but in no time, I mastered the new language. My quick adaptation brought an end to the dreaded English lessons but didn’t prevent others from seeing me as an indecipherable and unpredictable presence at school. The sneers and whispers kept me awake through countless nights, poring over every flaw, desperate for an answer that would ‘fix’ me: Should I act more extroverted? More introverted? Start wearing makeup? Smile with my mouth closed? As the futility of my attempts became clear, I could only mourn my lost voice. The whale spent the next four years trapped in an invisible cage at the bottom of the ocean, quarantined from the world.
In the tenth grade, I was liberated by a classmate who seemed like the kindest person in the world. From a spontaneous Facetime spurred from boredom, two bewildered teens began a legacy of texts and calls exchanged at midnight about our love lives (or lack thereof), hopes, fears, and dreams.
The cage had finally lifted. For the first time, the lonely whale was seen and accepted as itself.
To her, befriending me must have meant so little, yet it encouraged my soft songs to at last reach the surface of the sea. I no longer hid my eccentricities, having been shown that I deserved love and acceptance exactly the way I was: a witty, vivacious, genuine, and outspoken spirit. It was unimaginably exhilarating to let my voice ring free.
Being heard is a beautiful thing.
Now comfortable in my own skin, I resolved to do the same for others. I wanted to be someone’s sanctuary, the same way my friend became mine–to accept the wordless, welcome the weak, and embrace the persecuted.
I will make the silent voices heard.
With this goal in sight, I became the Director of Media of a homeless advocacy organization, conducting interviews on the streets and writing articles for an online Facebook campaign. Who would have known that the starving artist endures menacing threats to provide for his alcoholic wife? That the charming journalist who lost 28 pounds from chemotherapy gets spit on when he begs for a piece of bread? Perhaps the abusers and the passerby all share an innate prejudice against the unknown, but hearing these untold stories of injustice filled me with an unbearable sorrow. Stripped free of arbitrary circumstance, the victims of misfortune are simply caged whales whose extraordinary frequencies deserve to be heard by the world.
Before long, my desire to replicate my friend’s kindness evolved into something more: giving a voice to the homeless is no longer just a part of my role, but something that makes me feel alive. Every action I take is a small step in my mission to fill this vast sea with songs of every timbre and tone. In liberating others, I saved myself–at last, the lonely whale’s cries elicited a response. The cage that had kept me incarcerated, too, morphed into an inexplicable power: a shield that strengthened me and allowed me to keep my head high.
Behold, ocean. I’ve found my voice.
And it won’t be long before the other lost whales do, too.