Gen Z Voices: How Cadence Fong’s search for her ikigai allowed her to embrace the ‘I don’t know’

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Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Cadence Fong is a senior at Legacy High School in Broomfield. She spoke at TEDxYouth Cherry Creek and spoke to Colorado Matters in the studio on Oct. 28, 2022.

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a simple question but the answers can be quite profound. 

For Legacy High School senior Cadence Fong, the answer to that question still eludes her. Not in a dramatic or scary way, but in the way where for now the answer to big questions about her future is clear and empathic: “I don’t know.”

Fong spoke last year at TEDxYouth Cherry Creek about finding her reason to get up in the morning. She found it in the Japanese concept of ikigai.

Fong said she’s modified the core tenants of ikigai to fit her life, and bring her purpose too.

Although I may not have a huge extravagant dream, I definitely have plenty of reasons to get up in the morning,” she said. “The smallest things can bring me joy. Like when I draw a perfectly straight line, and it’s oddly satisfying. Or I finally organize my closet that’s been a mess for three days. Or I finally figure out that tough math problem I’ve been working on for at least an hour. There’s so many things that push me to wake up each day.”

And she’s a firm believer that it’s important to cherish and recognize what these things are in order to give oneself a brighter future.

Fong is one of a number of Colorado Front Range Gen Z students CPR News spoke to about their own TEDxYouth talks. They range from the importance of mental health, to why pronouns matter, and how important education funding is for indigenous youth and teens of color.

The next TEDxYouth at Cherry Creek event will take place March 4.

Explore other Colorado Front Range Gen Z voices: