On my first day of third grade, a girl in pigtails pointed at me and called me a “commie.”
I had just moved back to Taiwan from mainland China due to my dad’s job. Taiwan had always been a blurry definition of home—I only returned there twice a year.
As a confused Taiwanese kid who barely spoke any Chinese at the time, I didn’t understand it. I was frustrated and hurt by being misunderstood. The nickname stayed with me for three years. Despite my best efforts to stop it, even my teacher held prejudices against my background—and when you tell a group of eight-year-olds not to do something, it just makes them want to do it more.
As I grew older, I began to understand the cause of their prejudice: it was a matter of perception. What started off as a political stand-off between Taiwan and China trickled down to the people and embroiled future generations in a conflict that to this day affects our cross-cultural relationships. Even now, in an era of supposed tolerance, differences drive us apart. We hold prejudices towards others based off of what we see on the surface and what we are told.
My family dining table is a wooden four-seater adorned with scratches and dents that serve as a reminder of different times. It couldn’t have survived another move. I used to hide underneath it when we were moving. My nine-year-old brain figured that if they couldn’t find me, we wouldn’t have to move.
Like the dining table, I couldn’t survive another move.
The thought of going to a new city and starting over again terrified me. I could never shake off the feeling of being the “new kid.” The constant changing, moving, and lack of stability in my life made me feel vulnerable. I used to hate change.
For a large part of my life, it felt like my family and I were nomads. We were never in one place for more than two years. My father always pursued new job offers when they presented themselves; his motivation was to provide for our family. While I became the shy kid who was always afraid to speak up, my elder brother seemed to have no problem adapting to new environments.
But somewhere along the line, graduating elementary school after attending five different schools, we stopped moving. We settled in Shanghai. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t the person that was coming and leaving. I watched others come into my life only to move across the world years later. I was given the enriching gift of culture; I was in touch with people from all over the world; I was given a key to access the experiences of a lifetime, the good and the bad.
I hated change because I hated the idea of being forced to leave a comfortable environment. But such is life. Even if I didn't want to, change would happen regardless. And after experiencing so much of it at a young age, I developed a thicker skin and became more resilient. As I grew older, I realized I should never feel comfortable in life. I should never settle. I should strive forward and never rely on my environment.
Now, as an adult, I appreciate change. It’s inevitable—as much as we want to run away from it, we will never be able to fully escape it. Changes and challenges force me to move forward, and without them, I’d just fall behind as the world moved on.
I used to hate change.
I no longer do.