The second when the plane started shaking as it accelerated on the track, I held my breath. I knew it’s probably gonna be a while till the next time I go back to China. I’ve heard many people say that studying abroad in the U.S. is a life changing experience. I doubted it.
That was back in 2018. I came to the U.S. without any life goal or a so-called “American dream”. I simply did not see myself wasting my life away under the suffocating system that I belonged to. Besides that, aren’t our lives too short to spend away in one place? How are we even supposed to seek the meaning of life by repeating the same things that we’re told to do everyday? Till then, I knew it was time to break the cycle.
When people ask how my life was back home, I told them I spent most of my life in a factory, and I did not know what’s going on outside. I loved staring out of that tiny window during classes because it had everything I once dreamed of. Days were long, but the years were short. I couldn’t really tell how different I looked over those years since I was always in that same black and white uniform with a red scarf around my neck. Difference was never tolerated. The words from their mouths burnt down the merely existing forest of our spiritual worlds, and they wanted more! They wanted to turn everyone into the machines that one day serve for society, the machines that are filled with crushed spirits, broken dreams, and empty pockets.
Why did I choose to come here for high school? I see our adolescence as an endless summer full of mysteriousness and infinite possibilities. How sad it is that so many of us rushed through it without taking a single glance of the view, running towards hope and death. We knew how to cherish time, but we did not know that time never passes away. What’s been passing away is actually ourselves! We were too busy, not even had a chance to talk, to love, to sing, or to cry. When we look back, it’s gone. I cannot let it happen.
The first couple of years went rough. With my broken English, I barely understood any conversation at the lunch table. Not much to say about understanding a foreign culture. I was like an animal locked up in a cage. During Covid, I got a chance to stay over at a friend’s house for a few months. That was the first time I immersed myself into a brand new culture. I discovered another way of living life. I understood what people meant when they yelled out “You only live once!” I broke the cage.
With the years I spent in America, the biggest thing I learned was who I really am. I was sitting on the top of Cheyenne Mountain the day I turned eighteen. I was alone, but not lonely. I knew everything in this world and all the stars in the sky are always by my side. There was no reason for me to feel lonely; no reason to waste my life away at the same old place; no reason to follow the crowd, since life only belongs to those who dare, those who are willing to risk.
Whose rules do I live by? My own.
当人们问起我的过去，我通常半开玩笑地说，“我一辈子都被关在一座工厂里没日没夜地任人摆布，听讲台上的自高自大者们吹牛。就像他们说的，我左耳朵进右耳朵出也是一种本事。” 十年如一日，那一小口嵌在灰白色水泥墙上的窗曾给予了我一切幻想，我常常望得出神。那件被汗水淋透洗了又洗的校服是与我相处最久的伙伴。那条红领巾，他们说是国旗的一角，对我而言不过是天冷时擦抹鼻涕星的一块方巾罢了。“集体的荣誉就是一切！” 他们口腔中喷射出的火焰曾一度焚尽我仅存的精神家园，枯竭了我那颗原本渴望发现诗意的心。也许只有这样才能致敬前辈所谓的“螺丝钉精神”吧！