November 11, 2013

Reflection: Mia

Mia, A CCI member, reflects upon her early years and her transition into an American family.  Mia, your story is absolutely incredible and your writing it beautiful! Brilliant piece!

The Journey to Self Expression
As a young child I was quiet, obedient and serious. I grew up in a different culture before I was adopted. It was a strict culture with high expectations; there was always pressure, especially on kids, to be perfect and please other people. I came from a somewhat small city in China that was still developing and I was blessed with a foster family while less blessed orphans had to live in the orphanage. 

When I was 3 years old my foster mom sent me to a preschool where my aunt worked. I cried almost every morning before I had to go. Because I was not technically enrolled as a student, I was not able to participate in any activities. I would sit in a chair while the other kids played on the play structures and sang songs. I was there because my aunt worked there and I had nowhere else to go in the daytime. Ever since then I have not liked school, but when adults ask me if I liked school I would always say yes because I knew that’s what they wanted to hear. Even though I was very fortunate, my situation was not the least comparable to now. The society discouraged expressing personal thoughts and feelings. I never knew I had feelings and I didn’t have anyone to talk to most of the time because I was afraid to talk to adults. The adults disregarded children, and treated them as though they did not have a brain. Many times I felt more like a burden to be tolerated than a child and yet I was always reminded how fortunate I was. As a young child living in this oppressive society it really impacted me emotionally and psychologically.

 When I was eight or almost nine I had to move back to the orphanage because I was going to be adopted; I was very sad to leave my foster mom. I lived at the orphanage for about a year and that year I realized how fortunate I was to have had a foster family. In my foster home I was punished often for insignificant things like playing in dirt or losing two Yuan, which is equivalent to twenty-four cents, because my foster mom was constantly stressed by work. Our city was rather poor, especially in our neighborhood, so my foster mom had to work very hard to provide money for each meal. I remember the worst punishment I ever received was when I lost some money and I received 20 beatings. The worst part was I never cried about being punished, I was never upset at my foster mom for punishing me; instead I often thought I was a failure and felt ashamed of myself. Consequence and punishment were always on my mind about every decision I made, and I was always afraid.

 On the day I met my parents to be adopted, even knowing that I probably would never see my foster family and my orphanage friends again, I did not cry. When I came home to America I still did not cry. Whenever I was upset or sad, I never expressed it but if I was very angry I would destroy one of my parents’ personal possessions, a small thing that they wouldn’t care about. I have always suppressed my feelings of anger or sadness because I was always afraid of consequences. Expression of my thoughts has never come easily since I was raised to only be happy and never express myself. 

When I came to the United States it was hard for me at first, but it didn’t take long for me to gain the English language. I had an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, Mrs. Potter, to help me with my language, and I would often call her Harry Potter because I thought that sounded like her name and that was my favorite American movie. I loved her teaching style, but I always got flustered when I had to write. At the time, I thought the reason I was struggling so much was because I was still learning English. I moved to a different school in 5th grade and by then I was almost ready to leave the ESL program, but I still needed help with writing. I was very sad to leave Mrs. Potter, but later I found she had come to my new school to work and I was very delighted and grateful.  My first writing piece in 5th grade was a story about a giant, and now, reading it again, I realize I was a decent writer, (especially for having known English for less than a year). My memory about it however, was that I struggled very much; I had to dictate to my mom in order to express my thoughts, and she would urge me to write on my own and I would just stare at the paper and not know what to write. My mind would go blank every time I had to write. This pattern continued every week throughout 5th and 6th grade because I had a writing assignment each week and very often I would turn in my assignments several days if not a week late.

 This pattern has slowly changed. Now, every time I look at a blank piece of notebook paper or a blank Word Document, I feel the potential of words forming into stories and it feels exciting; I don’t feel the invisible force holding back my thoughts, they flow better and my self-critical thoughts and fears don’t get in the way as much. Now I have gained emotional tools – I no longer cut up my mom’s ear plugs when I’m angry – I can tell her straight out when I’m mad and there are no horrible consequences; she respects and encourages my feelings. I have developed more of my personality through my thoughts and expression; sometimes I enjoy writing poetry and short stories if they are not assigned and I know no one’s going to read them. Sometimes, I even find myself spontaneously singing silly, made-up songs with my sister! Although I have always imagined myself to be a mathematician or scientist, maybe, just maybe, there may also be, emerging from somewhere inside me, a writer.

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