Life and Strawberries

July 15, 2011
By , Ambler, PA
I am very unhappy with strawberries. The redness is not always uniform, sometimes showing hints of unappetizing green/white, like a bruise on the delicate skin. It also ripens and molds much too quickly, giving only a small window to eat it before the fruit goes bad.

The leaves are a pain to remove (as someone who has to serve them all the time, I usually just cut the top part off entirely). The seeds on the outside may look disgusting to first time eaters. Then, when you finally pick the perfect looking strawberry and bite into it, the thing's HOLLOW and mostly sour...

Yet, strawberries are a prized crop for farmers, because people still eat them. Why?

I always think of strawberries when looking at life. Genetically, humans and strawberries are more than %98 identical. Strawberries are born in the deepest parts of a flower and dies when plucked by the grower. We humans are also born in the depths of our mother and die when our life is plucked away.

It is what's in between that gives us the most trouble. Children are born screaming into an unjust world and die leaving their troubles to the still living. In between there is suffering and pleasure in varying degrees.

I was eating strawberries as I was being sent to my grandmother's in China after my parents had divorced. I didn't understand it much then, only that I got to eat strawberries (a delicacy for the little me) and I was going to a place I've never been before.

I spent many years at my grandparents before being sent back to my dad in Beijing to enroll formally in school. I found myself part of a system that didn't cared whether I succeeded or not since there were plenty more kids just like me who were better. I never learned Chinese, I was always the weakest in my grade, I wasn't good at math, and I ignored it all. My dad would yell and cry but I never did learn to love work like the rest of China.

I was sent to America 2 years later, where I found that the system wanted me, yet the people within it did not. I was picked on as the only Chinese in my school (I'm not gonna lie, I didn't have a great personality either) so I had no friends among the kids. My mother made my new home another China, drilling me the alphabet and English I would need to survive. There was no rest for the damned.

Miserable year after miserable year went by (I find myself colored by my growth, it hasn't been nearly as hard as the life of a person growing up on the street or in wild Africa). Eventually, there came a time where I didn't smile anymore for anyone, I learned to spite everything around me. I learned to hate while wallowing in my own self pity. I wanted to die and leave it all to someone else still alive.

If this was a fictional story, I'd tell you about how a girl entered my life and changed it, or maybe how I found a new purpose in studying and became successful in America.

But it isn't a story. Every person feels this sadness in their life. I found that a person can't fight despair, you can only keep on walking and suffer. So I did.

A man can live his whole life like that, just keep walking to fend of their inner tiredness. Others find themselves committing crimes. Rape, drugs, gambling, all the sins of the world to mask that despair like a bottle of perfume on a dung heap. Maybe one will find a figure, an idea, a love, a cause, or a religion to adhere to and stop thinking altogether. They become nothing but an efficient vegetable, a strawberry red on the outside but hollow on the inside.

I am like that today. I take comfort in following the crowd where it might lead me, in writing stories that read true to the mundane browser, and in not thinking. I try my best to get good grades and get into a good college because while my brain says it's hard work, my heart tells me it is a road well traveled. It is a safe path, unburdened by the responsibility of the adventurous and the outliers.

Don't be like me.

I write this small piece of my life as a warning. Even if humans are %98 genetically identical to a strawberry, the %2 that makes us human are ours. We can choose to take the hard path, to stop wallowing in self-deception, to look at yourself in the mirror and realise "Everyday of my life can be spent to do something and in a few years no one will remember, but taking that road off the beaten path to make something of myself will mean more to me than it will to everyone else."

Have a care, and don't be weak like me.

If you can look at another human being as just another person like you, in the same game as you, but laying down different cards, you will gain empathy, and compassion.

If you can look at yourself and face all the fears you ever had, admit all the mistakes you've ever made, and swallow all the sadness you ever felt, you will have wisdom.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. It is as bittersweet of a triumph as living itself. Am I, personally, strong enough to do this? No. I continue to eat strawberries in my comfort, while somewhere deep down the %2 that makes me human is screaming, weeping, and withering into dust.

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