I was born in a Chinese suburb of Los Angeles, California. My family is Chinese-American background and my father is an immigrant from Taiwan. I grew up in a conservative environment, and unlike most of the people around me, I started reading hungrily looking for escape before finishing elementary school. To me reading became something that was not only associated with escaping into another world but also with finding my own identity through those characters who had so much more to offer than what I had yet to find within myself. I became a writer because I couldn’t find anything else that would allow me to be as free as reading did.
When I was in the fifth grade, my father, who has been an American Citizen for 20 years, got a new job in China. So we moved from Los Angeles to Shanghai. At the time, I vividly remember spending almost every waking day of the year outside. There were trees everywhere and parks on every corner with zero people walking around so you could read your book uninterrupted.
That was the first time I fell in love with reading. I wanted to read everything, and I spent every day standing under a tree reading a book or two (I didn’t have a mobile phone at that time). At that time, the only thing I knew about my father’s new work was that it involved writing. Every time my father talked about his job or how he would write, he would always use the same metaphor: “I write in a cave”. The fact that he had such a well-paid job in writing made me feel like there was nothing more important for him than writing. But I had no idea what writing was or what it meant to him, or even what it was really like.
When I was 15, a friend told me about a job opening in a company called “Freelance Writing”. Each day I rode a bus that left me at the base of an apartment building with no elevator. I didn’t know who lived there and my father refused to tell me. I stared at the name on the mailbox and it took me some time before realizing that it was my father’s new job. This is where he writes, this is where he sits for 8 hours each day under a lamp smoking cigarettes while writing in his notebook. Right then I decided to become a writer.
The next few years after that I did everything I could to keep myself busy. In high school, I took as many extra curricular activities as possible and stayed out late because the last thing my brain wanted to do was think about what was actually going on in my life. It’s not that I wasn’t happy, it’s just that it felt like all of my peers were always carrying around a weight on their shoulders while mine remained so light, while everything around me seemed so heavy. That never changed until my junior year before applying for college when all of sudden it felt like someone had dropped a piano on top of me. Suddenly I would carry around a weight so heavy that I could barely lift my feet to walk. And with each step, it felt like my head was being pulled down by a magnet while a rope tied around my waist tried to pull me back from moving forward. People always say the first couple weeks of college is the scariest thing for any freshmen, but for me it wasn’t. No matter how hard you tried to ignore it, you were always standing on thin ice and you just thought that no one else would know if and when the ice broke.