In the summer of 2006 I was inspired to do something that inherently would never have even crossed my mind. I was born and bred to be risk averse. My parents, the resolute material providers that they are, taught me not to fend for myself, but rather to avoid confrontation altogether. Their eastern culture centric and old-fashioned way of child rearing has had a profound effect on the way I lived my life. However, their penchant for negative reinforcement and their inability to show physical affection never impeded me on having a fulfilling and moderately successful life. One great void, or what I perceived as such, was my lack of worldly experience. I was eligible to apply for a US passport for at least five years before I finally decided to get it right before the summer of 2006 at the age of 27. This phenomenon only occurred because I had agreed to travel, with my friends, outside of North America for the first time. This was the summer that I ran with the bulls during the world-renown San Fermín festival in Pamplona, Spain. This experience shaped the course of my life for the next three years and counting.
Not unlike most immigrant children forced to grow up in a foreign land, I struggled for self-identity while being pressured by my parents to assimilate and “fit in” as quickly and quietly as possible. I was to blend into my environment like a chameleon perched on a low level branch, waiting to strike at its next prey, but never knowing who that might be. Assimilate, just exactly what does that even mean to a five year old? I had already slain my festering Chinese accent within my first year arriving here. My remedial levels of reading and writing were forced to march the plank until they too were snuffed out in less than two years. From an academic point of view I was fully assimilated by year two in America. What I lacked was an identity.
I often wonder what type of person I would have been had I stayed in Taiwan and grew up without the rigors and challenges that come with blending into a new culture. Only in hindsight do I realize that having spent most of my formative years trying to be like everyone else around me, I never allowed my inner self to grow. I was never encouraged by my parents to be inquisitive, to explore the unknown, and to dare to be different. I have no doubt they were all of those things themselves, because they are both extraordinary persons, having achieved measurable success by capturing the “American Dream.” When I sat down with them over Thanksgiving break, I interviewed them and confirmed that what they wanted was the best for me – “The path of least resistance” (1) and they felt obliged to provide that path by shielding and guiding me away from the unknown, even though they endured and prospered from their worldly experiences. In 2006 I finally decided to take a chance and dared to be different.
This led me to a chain of decisions that literally brings me here today. First, my employer propositioned me to...