Hand imprint on the ground

three influences that shaped my life

How do you simplify an existence down to three main aspects?

Even throughout today, I’ve encountered numerous things that have left me changed from this morning. After all, like Alice in Wonderland says:

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”

There’s no guarantee that these will be permanent, there could be a profound shift tomorrow even — but until then, here are my three:

**(1) My family’s background, culture, and heritage.**

My parents are from one of the poorest provinces in China. Generations before were rice field farmers in a tiny village without electricity, heat, or running water.

Through the power of education and hard work (plus favorable geopolitical timing), my parents helped our family skip at least five or six generations of progress to where we are today.

By the time I was a young adult, we had crossed chasms in socioeconomic and cultural gaps.

Through my parents, I’ve learned what an education can do for you.

**(2) Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me**

This book is beyond a letter to Coates’ teenage son — it was a visceral realization of how different the world can be based on the color of your skin and the zip code you live in, how trapped you can be by these two metrics alone.

I will never forget the image Coates described, of being a young boy in a dangerous neighborhood — and the quick scenario analysis that courses through the boy’s body when a threat appears: do I run or do I fight?

“Not being violent enough could cost me my body. Being too violent could cost me my body. We could not get out.”

**(3) My own peripatetic existence.**

I’ve now been in New York for seven years — the longest I’ve stayed in one place since middle school. Some of these places are places I’ve grown roots, and other places I’ve merely been a passerby leaving little to no imprint.

But regardless, these experiences all taught me how to leave something behind and begin again. To (try) and handle change with grace.

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