It’s been two years since waking up in the ICU, wondering why my head throbbed and why I was there in the first place. It’s been two years since that accident, the bills, the trauma; the memories continues to fade and be replaced with new, better memories.
In the past few weeks, I’ve shed away the final layers of that period of time. I’ve had friends tell me that I’m a phoenix: always arising from the ashes, becoming anew every time. This time around, I feel it is much truer than before; only now do I feel I have the wings to soar.
I’ve been here in Denver for six months now; most everyone who greets me with “Happy Birthday” today doesn’t know about what happened to me two years ago, how I almost lost my life. I’ve tucked that box away, taken my roots up from the City by the Bay, and have planted myself in the Mile-High City.
Every day I am here, I feel more and more at home. This is my calling; this is where I belong.
And this is where I shall celebrate many more birthdays to come.
Some of my favorite classes in high school and undergraduate years were my foreign language classes. I always excelled in Spanish and Japanese; rarely did I feel like I struggled with the classes, except maybe for the grammar. I always pulled through the classes with near-perfect grades. Heck, if it weren’t for my great grade in Japanese when I studied abroad in 2006, I wouldn’t have received the transfer credits from overseas!
In undergraduate studies, I also enjoyed going to all my marketing classes. I felt excited to attend each class and work on new group projects. However, I was also annoyed when I ended up having to pull most of the weight on projects because my classmates were not motivated enough. There are plenty of instances I can think of from those final two years of group projects: in one group project, we made a skit out of some Barbie dolls for our consumer behavior project. There were several disagreements/arguments in the groups, mainly over how we all perceived who was the leader or who seemed to not do enough, etc.
Despite my tendency to be an introvert, I did really well with group presentations. I surprised all of my group mates when I was the first to present for one project. I was always shaky and nervous in the practice run-throughs…but on the day of the presentation, I shined through.
“It was like Helene was a completely different person!” I remember my classmate telling the professor.
The last time I was in Japan was in 2008. My friend had just arrived back in Japan and I wanted to maximize our time together before I left for the States the next day.
We stayed up all night and she showed me the seedy parts of Shinjuku, which is a part of Tokyo. We went to a club where we women sat lined up under numbers and men chose from us based on how attractive we looked. The men and women were only allowed to interact by talking or flirting, nothing more. My friend and I were the odd ones there, since we weren’t drunk nor were we meek like the other women. My friend put on her intimidating stance while I just felt amused by the scene. “See these guys? They’re all gross here,” said my friend.
Next, my friend took us to an underground bar where she was friends with the bartender. We ate a little snack as she chatted with him in the empty bar. Also, luckily in Tokyo, all-night karaoke existed, so we went to one karaoke place to sing until 5am.
We were already exhausted when the sun came up, but we were also hungry. We went to McDonald’s, ate breakfast amongst drunk patrons, and took the train back home. We were both full of adrenaline by this point.
We briefly went back to her apartment to relax a bit and so I could pack up the last of my luggage. I had been without sleep for 24 hours or more; she had been without sleep for much longer. We were growing delirious yet we pushed on, visiting a few small stores to get a few more things for my friends back home before we parted ways at the train station.
Immediately when I took the train to Narita Airport, I fell into a deep sleep. Luckily I was able to wake up in time to get off the train and get on my flight. That plane ride over the Pacific was spent sleeping most of the time, but also chit-chatting with my seatmate and helping her with her English (while I pretended to be Japanese and responded to her in Japanese).
It was an exhilarating experience, to stay up that whole final night before leaving for the US. I can’t say that was the longest I’d been without sleep, but it’s certainly one of my more memorable all-nighters.
I haven’t taken many road trips in my life, or at least none I can remember too well so far. When I was a child, we went on some road trips as a family, but most of them I don’t remember too well. Just bits and pieces of visits to Virginia Beach and West Virginia (to watch dog races, hm).
When my eldest sister took us younger siblings to Williamsburg and Washington, D.C. in 1996, we had fun times singing along to radio songs and just relaxing in the heat of the summer sun while watching everything pass on by. I felt like we were on the road for awhile, but then again I was just a child at that point. Four to five hours in a car is a long time for a kid.
In the past year, I took smaller road trips around the Bay Area/northern California. Always an adventure to see new sights with other novice eyes. The drive I enjoyed the most was driving down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. Watching the Pacific Ocean’s endless horizon beside us was frightening yet also majestic. The glory of nature followed us all the way to the Beach Boardwalk.
Then, there was a road trip to Las Vegas in late August. Although it was intriguing to me to see another part of the state of California along the trip, I didn’t care much for the arid scenery around us. To me, seeing desert is depressing. I need lush greenery, mountains, and water.
Would you rather be super intelligent or extremely good looking?
Hands down, I’d go with the intelligence. That should win over extremely good looks any day anyway (my opinion of course).
In fact, I feel I have more or less lived a life along the lines of being more intelligent rather than good looking. Ok, not putting myself down completely, but growing up, I wasn’t considered too attractive being an overweight Asian girl. But of course, with Asian stereotypes come the “Oh, she’s smart because she’s Asian!” remarks.
That was flattering to an extent. I know I didn’t fare too well in math, so when classmates saw my terrible math grades, it was embarrassing to have them say, “But, I thought….Chinese people were supposed to be smart in math!”