I sink fast into the ocean below. Like the auspicious hero in a bad adventure film, I undergo the same strange sensation of suddenly slipping into a pit of life-threatening quicksand. Unlike the hero, who is saved at the last possible second by a vine left by the divine, I continue to descend into the Pacific’s dark mesopelagic zone. The piercing teeth and bug eyes of various foreign ocean creatures leave me feeling increasingly anxious. One such creature rips through the water toward me, popping its mouth open before devouring me with a satisfying crunch. Then, as I have many times before, I wake from this reoccurring nightmare with the familiar and frightening sensation of being stripped of my own essence.
That occurred less than eleven years ago. Leaving my Taiwan home to live in America not only left me vulnerable to creatures of my own creation, but exposed me to an unfamiliar and seemingly bizarre world where my Hello Kitty satchel, traditional lunch box, and Chinese identity felt unwelcome. To others, this immigration was an opportunity. To me, it was a catalyst that transformed my perspective on life into a mix of the Asian work ethic and the belief in American dreams.
To gain entry to the top class, where my intelligent Asian friends were and where they garnered such respect and acceptance, my perspective on life became a mix of the Asian work ethic and the belief in American dreams. Spurring a modern Renaissance within myself, the philosophy I grasped inspired me to take ballet, sculpture, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, and horseback riding classes all in the name of taking advantage of the opportunities that were available to me. I stayed up all night teaching myself advanced math, reading Dunant’s The Birth of Venus, and contemplating symbolism in music. Because of trying times, I turned to God, keeping a strong and close relationship with him that has lead me to want to help others in hard times at the Baylor hospital, the children’s museum in Dallas, in Christian youth missions, and at my local church.
Looking back, I’m thankful to my parents for putting me through those copious social and academic adversities. Because of this experience, I’ve come to understand abstract concepts beyond my years, have found somewhat of a balance between two diverse cultures, and discovered that I’m pretty happy where I am. Last weekend, I watched my brother at his soccer game, helped him with his Kumon homework, had a long conversation with my father over Taiwan politics, and went on a walk with a close friend while discussing early Greek art, who’s voting for whom and where we’ll be in ten years. My identity has now become a combination of all my diverse encounters in life.
The ultimate lesson I’ve learned from this experience is evident in this old, tried- and-true Chinese proverb: “A frog in a well knows not of the ocean.” I don’t believe I understand the whole world just yet, but I’ve crossed the ocean, lived somewhere outside of my ‘well’, and discovered in the process, a world of dreams and possibilities instead of nightmares.