I am a first-year college student who commutes about an hour from home to Pitt. Most people probably think that commuting is a dreadful chore, not to mention doing that for an hour every weekday. But to me, it is rather a curious time. Aside from the diverse types of people I get to encounter on the trolley and subsequent bus ride to school, it is a time for me to think. From the scorching oven-baked air of summer to the icy blizzards of winter, I am a happy jolly soul during the train rides because I have my thoughts to accompany me. It was during one of those commutes by train that this thought came to me. The blurring view outside the window had made me dizzy, so I thought I’d better stare elsewhere. Then my mind started to drift. I started reflecting on my life.
I categorized my life into two sections, making a comparison between the life I had experienced before coming to the United States and my life currently. I was born in Guangdong, China in 1994 and spent the first eight years of my life there before moving to the United States with my family. My thoughts drifted to Grandmother, who took care of me when my parents worked night shifts at the hospital. She smelled of garlic, ginger, and Chinese herbal ointment. My grandmother was somewhat of a heart-chewer, face-slapper, skin-pincher, or whatever you want to call it for the lack of a better description. She had a particular way of speaking; every sentence she says consisted of a mix of mild swearing and a message that was on the verge of being motivational. She would say something like, “if you keep on being a lazy a**, you’ll waste your youth away and end up dumpster diving for food and sleeping on sidewalks,” or “whose dog sh** are you eating?” Well, you see, I have a sense that some very unfortunate people do have to dumpster dive and sleep on sidewalks, and in America, it’s sometimes a choice! But according to my grandma’s traditional views, we can only blame ourselves for our own misfortunes. Well what does she know anyway? The world’s changing and she had only graduated from second grade.
I remember my father, the man who dreamed of a better life in America before venturing out in 2002. The image of him in my childhood days greatly differs from the image of him now. Before he had come to the U.S, my father had a gregarious way about him that made him easy to get along with. He was also a picture of health. Now, he is a mere shell of his former self, having lost 100 lbs. His gregariousness turned into pensiveness. Having to give up his 10-year-career as a neurosurgeon, my dad spent the next 10 years of his life doing transplant research in various university medical centers. Sometimes I think he is trying to hide his feelings of fear and uncertainty from us. Although sometimes it may seem that he is trying to numb the vulnerability he feels being on this strange new land and having to speak this strange new language, I see it as a sign of courage and perseverance. Life in the U.S. was a struggle to adapt, and the fact that we had to face many hardships used to upset me. I asked my dad once when I was still naïve, “Why give up everything for this?” We were both kind of startled when his reply was, “Because I knew I could have better.”