This weekend I went to go pick strawberries with my family. It was kind of cold out so I needed to wear a jacket. I first just went to grab a sweatshirt, but then saw the bigger red coat in the corner and without hesitation grabbed the coat. My parents looked at me weirdly, I was going to be kneeling in the field to pick strawberries, the big red coat was obviously a strange choice for the day. So I had to explain myself to them, “remember that picture of me when I was five years old, I was wearing a big red coat too and picking strawberries.” Of course my parents remembered, that photo of me was one that my dad had saved as his screen saver for years. “You guys can take another photo of me now, I’ll be in another big red coat.” So we went, me in my coat, and my dad took pictures of me and my little sister picking strawberries.
Looking at the pictures, it’s another sentimental moment for me. The first picture was taken almost 14 years ago, I was a little girl living in Wuhan China, and if you asked that little girl where she would be in 14 years, she would’ve never thought to say Duke University.
Of course, there are a lot of other things 5-year-old me didn’t foresee, speaking English all day for example, or having a little sister.
Teaching classes this week, I played my students the song “少年” on the piano every time to start class, and one of my co-teachers asked me what “少年” meant. I was stumped for a second, it means “young person, youth.” Then I reflected for a moment, “hmm, no it’s more than that.” But I couldn’t really think of good words in English to describe it. There is a deeper meaning associated with the word “少年“, it brings energy, it’s the possibilities of being young, it’s being hopeful for a bright future, it’s fantastic dreams and not just limited to realistic goals. I tried to explain better, but l couldn’t in just a few words. Because to explain what the word really meant to me, I would have to tell him about the little girl that was born in Wuhan China, that went to elementary school there like all the other little kids, who was nine years old stepping on a plane to come to a foreign country. I would have to tell him about the dreams I had and the possibilities I didn’t think to dream of. I would have to tell him about me picking strawberries then, and picking strawberries now. There is too much to say to fit into a few sentences.
When I see all my students’ faces now, I see my younger self reflected in their eyes. They are at an age where it’s ok to dream without consequences, without limitations. There are so many possibilities open to them, so many paths to take and choose from. And I hope all their dreams come true.