The moon poured creamy beams into my room as I hid under my quilt. This was the first day of school. I was tired, mentally and physically. Thoughts buzzed through my head. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. After meeting teachers and smiling at people all day, I was left alone in my dorm. I was not exactly by myself, but with 70 other “residents”. I called them residents and called myself lonely, because on that first day, I was an outsider. It was not the first time where I would talk to people I did not know. But this time, it felt different. It felt like there was a gap between me and my other McCallie brothers. Here I am, facing the water, which I need to jump into.
For the first couple of weeks, I truly felt like I was sinking. As a teenage sea turtle, I could not find a balance point. I was balancing both my old self from that distant place called China and my new self at an all-boys school in America. It was a new start, but it would not be easy.
My first memories were from the dining hall – the clamoring of students, how they greeted each other after a long summer, and me awkwardly attempting to start conversations. When somebody asked me what my favorite TV show was, I tried so hard to find an answer. I wanted so badly to know some American television shows that I could discuss. Rather, I just stood there as if I did not understand the question. After a week of feeling painfully out of place in class and especially in the dining hall, I found myself leaning towards smaller social circles, the social circles like International Club and Chinese Table. If a club had a multicultural context, I was signed up. I started to lose my balance. I talked less in English; I started to only involve myself in small inclusive Chinese community. I reflected on my initial motives for studying abroad. I always wanted to understand others and be understood no matter what country or community I was in. So I tried to swim forward again.
Gradually shifting my priorities, I joined the varsity swimming team. I would spend three miserable hours practicing with my teammates, taking photos at the school games. With much hard work, I found myself walking toward the ideal life I wanted. I believed that the photos I captured spoke my feelings about this new world. I never lost my old self, but I started learning to reach out my hands, kick hard and try to get to the finish line everyday. That felt challenging, fresh, and enchanting.
As I look back on my past, I recall telling myself repeatedly: “Remember, the key word is balance.” I have come to realize that my identity is more complicated than the single category of Asian or American. Through my growth and struggle, I begin to cherish my complexity. With friends’ encouragement, I realized how people had cut across the barrier of language and culture to reach the real me. As I swim in the ocean of life, I learned to reach a balance whenever the waves come. I am not sure what community I will be in with a new life ahead of me. But I know that I have to tremble and find a balance point again because that is how I adapt. No matter where the waves lead me to, I will always strive to maintain equilibrium.
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