The wind comes, the waves crash and the rain pours. I am on the shore, facing a long path to the ocean. I do not know what is coming. This was how I felt when I realized I would be attending a boarding school after kindergarten. Just like a sea turtle, at a young age when most kids are still considered babies, I learned to maneuver through deep waters and survive life’s unexpected storms. An uncertainty about the future hit me like a strong current. But to be honest, the future would not seem clear if I just went to a public elementary school like everybody else. As time passed, I grew comfortable with this feeling of uncertainty, embracing the possibilities of a world unknown.
I do not remember much about the actual things I did in the first few years of boarding school, but I do remember that people seemed shocked that I was away from home at only 8 years old, as they still are now when they find out. Some people even asked if my parents really loved me. After 12 years this all seems funny; but at the time, I experienced feelings of emptiness and loneliness. Every Monday seemed like a start of a long and miserable wait for the coming Friday, the day I could go home.
I made regular visits to the infirmary, pretending I was sick. I always hoped the doctor would call my mom and she would bring me home. She never came, instead leaving me in this strange and unknown world. The sense of an unknown future can be cruel sometimes, but the desire for adventure and curiosity instilled in me today is my reward. I began listening to the people near me – my classmates, roommates, teachers, and those whom I would spend the next 10 years with. I started to enjoy exploring this new world. It was like a feeling of rebirth, the feeling of learning how to do things all over again, eating, walking, listening, speaking…
I often find the further one travels from home, the more in focus life becomes. My real journey started when I decided to go to the US for high school. This time the waves of life were much bigger than any I had experienced before. On the first day of my arrival, I picked up my luggage and headed to a hotel. The lady at the front desk of the hotel stared at my passport for a while, and then went to speak with her supervisor. Apparently, I was the first instance of a 15-year old child checking in by himself, and the hotel was quite astonished by my reservation.
The next morning I woke while it was still dark. I sat by the window, watching the empty streets and wondered, “Was it the right choice to come here to this far away place at only 15?” The empty streets reminded me of the lonely nights I had spent in boarding school.
Then a boy figure stepped into my mind. I could see him longing to fit in with the others at school.
He stayed in the corner while others were chatting, laughing, and it seemed like he never belonged to this world. Then he started to sit next to the other kids and listened, and then he slowly started talking, like an infant who was learning everything all over again.
I suddenly realized that boy never left my heart. He lived somewhere, reminding me that I am tough, giving me the courage to choose the life I desired. I sometimes found myself naturally choosing the more challenging path. Maybe I had to stay up late, looking words up in dictionary, finishing the reading task that was so easy for my roommate. I understood there was a price to pay every time I chose to step into a different world. Giving up is the easiest thing in the world. I removed those words from my dictionary. Thinking about that little boy gives me the power and courage to face new challenges because that’s just who I am. I know I have to fight for myself courageously.
Slowly, everything started to make sense. Youth is not a time to gain approval; it is a time to feel, to learn, to find a purpose in life. If I had to live out my childhood again, I hope somebody would tell me how he was lost, and how he found his path. Because this way, no matter what challenges I have to face, I would stretch my arms farther and enjoy the beauty of growth.
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