My mom flew with me to Taiwan. It was sweltering hot. She settled me in with some relatives and made sure I was in good hands. Her brother worked not far from my teaching assignment in Taipei. I stayed with my my grandfather’s brother and his wife in a nearby suburb. Before returning home my mom took me to Taiwan University Hospital to meet up with a nursing school classmate who worked there and ask if she could arrange for me to volunteer (candy stripe). The hospital was old, walls were cement, and stainless steel carts of instruments and food containers squeaked through the halls. I was repulsed by the smell of the hospital chemicals and had an overwhelming desire to bolt. I can’t remember the conversation, just that I never followed up on that suggestion. This hospital encounter was followed by a magical summer. I found it deeply meaningful to connect with relatives I had grown up hearing stories about and to carve out a place for myself in my family history where strangely, I belonged. I developed rapport with the university students I taught. We were the same age, so different culturally, yet so alike. I enrolled myself in a Chinese class for foreigners. I loved studying Chinese and once completely missed my bus stop having found myself at the end of the route at a remote part of town entirely engrossed in a book about the meaning of individual Chinese radicals and characters. I was fascinated.
That summer, like the last, ended bittersweet. I had a wonderful time in Taiwan. My heart felt full and happy. I felt alive, true to myself, able to thrive. At the same time I was saddened to realize that as much as I wished I could please my parents and continue down the pre-med track, it wasn’t going to work out. I was trying my best to be mature and obedient about my future. Figure out a practical career and major to pursue in place of medicine. At the same time I was passionate and full of dreams. This split mind was tearing me apart.
Upon my return to the States I told my dad I couldn’t study medicine and was ready to withdraw from Stanford and transfer to a less expensive school.
Questions for Discussion: Was I being rebellious? Was changing schools the right thing to do? What do you think?