I’ve always been excited when it comes to my turn to write a staff note, for I see it as an opportunity to force myself to sort my thoughts and reflect on how I’ve grown over the semester. This cathartic space was especially helpful my freshman year, when I spent most of my time studying in the library, yelling at basketball games and learning about myself. I broke myself down into pieces, examined each one and reconstructed a self that I hoped would be more open, more confident and more compassionate. Words were easy to bring to my staff notes then, but this semester, they seem to be choked down by smokes of thoughts that are much more volatile and unruly. Thus, I only have some scattered notes that hopefully I can piece together into a coherent story in the end.
If I were to write a memoir, it would definitely begin by “I was born by water…”
Indeed, there is so much water in my life, perhaps too much. My last name means “flood” in Chinese, while the middle character in my Chinese name refers to a famous traditional poem about a girl standing by the water. I was born by the morning sea and later moved to live by Lake Ontario. Even after coming to Duke, I still need to occasionally escape to Lake Juno or Myrtle Beach for a break and some comfort of familiarity. Since my life until now has been split between three different places, I sometimes feel rootless. But smelling the freshness and staleness of water in the wind, burying my feet deep in the rough sand to feel its tenderness and silently watching waves swim in the frozen frames of time can always remind me of home, no matter where I am.
But after all, home is about reuniting with family.
In August before school started, we went on a family trip to Banff and had a spectacular time. Dad was driving, with Mom sitting beside him, diligently reminding him to watch the speed and taking videos of the miracle-like scenery on Icefield Parkway. I was couching in the back, Nikon D3300 in my hands, and ready to move quickly to either the right or left window to capture “the moment.” Mom warned Dad about the speed again, this time in a louder voice. Dad’s eyes and mine met in the rear-view mirror – a small smirky squint was enough to let each other know that we only wanted the car to go faster.
Feeling extremely secure and comforted in that car, I thought that the three of us could drive anywhere in the world just like that.
But a year ago, I didn’t think that. I was a fledgling eager to fly away from my nest to see the bigger world and conquer the sky. When I did go home, I was impatient with and bored by the lack of academic challenges, exciting events and basketball games in my small, too-peaceful suburb.
When I watched my parents pack up the car with extra luggage to bring home, when I waved goodbye to the car driving away from behind Baldwin Auditorium, when I turned around in my “Class of 2021” shirt to go back to O-Week functions, what I didn’t know then was how college would impact my relationship with the two people that I love the most in the world – how it would strictly limit when, how often and how long I could see them.
And this feeling will likely get worse after graduation when I start working and building a life of my own that will be more independent from theirs.
This summer we met another Blue Devil family in Toronto, of which the father is a devoted Dukie and dresses their only daughter in Duke blue. But the mother is not so willing to send her daughter to pass on the legacy:
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“It’s too far. I don’t want my only child living that far from me,” she said. I would be worried like crazy. All mothers would.”
I am an only child too. But only then did I realize what a courageous mother I have.
When I am at Duke, my friends are my home base.
I was extremely lucky to have had them stumbling through freshman year with me. But the transition from freshmen to upperclassmen and from East to West is a weird one. The tide of excitement has receded, but the urgency of graduation is not so pertinent yet. Suddenly we are inundated and perhaps a little paralyzed by the amount of life choices we have to make. It will be a difficult journey, but it will help us grow into better versions of ourselves. The only question is, will we gradually grow apart in this pursuit?
So now it’s the end. Have I successfully pieced my scattered notes into a coherent story? I don’t know. Maybe.
Can I successfully piece my scattered stories and decisions into a future that I want?
Maybe. I can only find out as I start typing words onto MyFuture.docx.
Eva Hong is a Trinity sophomore and Recess features editor.