Where I’m From

A poem about identity

I am from voices chanting in the street

Songs of revolution, cries of despair.

I am from political protest and peril

Footsteps in sync, signs thrusting in the air

I’m from an unlikely couple

Who discovered true love in a period of unrest

Fleeing a communist China, seeking refuge in the West

I am from they who started at the bottom, yet have climbed to the top

Through whose sweat, blood, and tears gave me all they never got

I’m from a three bedroom home in suburban LA

From a never-ending drought and cars zooming by all day

I’m from a school of two thousand

Most of whom look like me

Whose parents also ventured from afar

To the land of the free

I am joined with others in Him, through Sundays in the pews

My quadralingual story known only by few

I am from the Goddess of Democracy who instilled in me

An innermost passion for justice and liberty

I am from books whose fiction triggered creativity

Inspiring me to jot down my whimsical stories

I’m from notebook paper stamped with Hello Kitty detailing

Which morphed into Word documents saved on my desktop PC

I am from picture books and chapter books

From Aesop’s Fables to Fitzgerald

And later, scribbling away on my own

I am from preschool piano, bubbling with excitement at age four.

Feet dangling from the bench, barely reaching the pedal

I am from local studio recitals at my nearby church

To concerts in Prague’s castles, before an international crowd.

I am from years of sore fingers tapping both sorts of keyboards

Separate mediums for catharsis of all sorts.

I am from a salad bowl of culture

Of roots stemming back centuries.

I’m from historical tragedies larger than anything I’ve ever seen.

From an immigrant couple achieving the American Dream

Who waited until they prospered to then beget me.

But I’m also from choices I’ve made for myself.

From mistakes that I’ve made and the cards that I’ve dealt.

I’m from hobbies and interests unique to just me.

I’m from the place I was born, but also all the other places I’ve been.

From Europe and Asia, the sky and the sea

Where I go and what I see inspires whom I want to be.

Summer Sixteen

 

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Alas, September is here. And that means summer is officially over. Over. Well at least in California it is. I hear on the East Coast, they don’t start until after Labor Day. Am I jealous? Maybe just a little.

This summer was beyond extraordinary. Yes, I’ve been saying that every summer since 2014, but in my defense, each one just keeps getting better. I had the amazing opportunity to attend Stanford University’s High School Summer college this summer and I could not have asked for a better 8 weeks. Before I left, many wrinkled their noses at me and asked why I chose to take more school during my no-school period. Well, yes I did go to school, but that’s really not at all just it.

First of all, I got to live on the most beautiful campus. From the moment I stepped onto the Farm, I was entranced, but as I was able to explore more and more parts of Stanford, I fell in love. It wasn’t just the weather, which by the way, is so beautifully unreal. It wasn’t just the gorgeous palm trees, cool breeze, or intricate buildings. I fell in love with the vibe, the culture, the people, and the way of life.

I was lucky enough to be stuck with a group of amazingly talented and interesting people, with diverse backgrounds and bright minds. We quickly became a family and formed friendships stronger than most I have held for years.

I was lucky enough to choose from a wide selection of courses and take classes that I would not otherwise have been able to. Who knew I was into etymology and classics? Not me, until I enrolled in Greek and Latin Roots of English. I thought I knew what fiction was. Apparently not because I was introduced to a whole new way of writing, reading, and thinking when I took a Fiction Writing workshop class. Both classes were taught and taken by charismatic, intelligent, and creative people. I learned much from my professors, but also from my classmates. Never had I been so excited to attend class or participate in discussions. Never had I been so intellectually stimulated. Never had I found a space where I was so interested and comfortable in academics. Were the classes difficult? At times, yes, but the challenges were all part of the thrill and I learned to appreciate them.

Most importantly, I was lucky enough to be a part of a community culture that respected diversity and tolerance. Where people from all around the globe could gather and learn from and with one another, some (like me) for the summer, and others, for years. Where learning didn’t just happen inside the classroom, but outside of it. Where I learned that many of my beliefs and views were not inclusive of the whole picture. Where listening to other people’s experiences and thoughts fed my own and helped me to understand things just a little bit more from their perspectives.

And in the end, I concede, it was very difficult to say goodbye to the new family we had just formed, but the sweetness counter-weighed the bitterness. August 13th and 14th marked the weekend I cried for almost 48 consecutive hours saying my goodbyes. As my car pulled away from the curb for the last time, I honestly thought I felt my heart break. As I boarded my flight, I felt a sinking in my stomach and had my eyes not already been swollen and puffy (seriously, my mom thought I had pinkeye when I got home) I would’ve let it all pour out again.

I’m a crier. It’s not something I’ve been able to control because when I get emotionally attached, I can rarely hold back the stream so it’s what I’ve just accepted. But I’m also a lover and I can say from the bottom of my heart that this summer has been finding new ways, things, ideas, and people to love. More than I expected and more than I signed up for.

So thanks, summer sixteen. For the ride, the lessons, and the memories. It was wonderful.

Where I’d Rather Be

(all photos are mine, taken from my trips abroad)

Sunny blue skies, glistening sea

Where the bridge is awake and music fills the streets

Perched on a ridge, sipping iced tea

Prague, Czech Republic is where I’d rather be

 

Winter in July, the air here is sweet

Late nights spent happily down by the sea

Exploring the bush, the people, the city

Sydney, Australia is where I’d rather be

 

Vendors and shoppers keep the avenues upbeat

Warmth fills my heart for I’m with family

It is always alive – this city never sleeps

Bustling Hong Kong is where I’d rather be

 

But beauty and wonder is not reality

For relief I travel into my past fantasies

Here, nights are spent restlessly dreaming of sleep

Anywhere but here is where I’d rather be