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A Word of Advice

By: Chenwei Ren

If I could meet with any person, past, present or future, for an hour, I would talk to myself from 4 years ago to encourage myself to move outside my comfort zone. For a long time I wondered, what would’ve happened if I moved in with my mom earlier? What would’ve happened if I weren’t so reluctant to leave my dad?

I am from a divorced family. My parents separated a year or so after we moved to America. My mom was kicked out of my grandparent’s house, and was forced to start life in America from scratch. Of course, this meant I was kept with my dad and my grandparents' side. However, my dad and my grandpa usually went out to work for about half the day. My grandma went out to gamble until late noon, when she returned to make dinner. Meanwhile there was me; the kid who they paid little to no attention to.

Growing up, I had little to no manners, didn’t know the first thing about being “ladylike,” and also: very, very, antisocial. Eventually, during this period of isolation and lack of attention influenced my early teen life. I was only taught the basic rules like, “Say thank you when people help you,” or “don’t be self centered.”

One summer, when I was going to be a 7th grader, my mom invited me to live with her again. She was able to finally support me and she said she wanted to teach me discipline. But at that young age and my mindset then, I was stubborn and unable to face change. I didn’t know what my mom had to face to finally be able to ask me to live with her again.

I was in my comfort zone for far too long, and I was too attached to it. The old shy introverted me. The one that was so unwilling and hesitant, the one who used the same “Oh, I’m just unmotivated right now, I’m sure I’ll find my source of motivation sooner or later” excuse. The one who constantly wasted her time as an 11 and 12 year old. She’s now someone capable. Someone with a dream, someone who has a new passion.

“笨鸟先飞.” Clumsy birds have to start flying early, a common, yet powerful Chinese idiom. And this is my story of how this clumsy bird soared higher and higher.

I've always associated myself with this stupid bird who must take off early to make up for her incompetency. Since I am not "smart enough," I must work harder. Because I am not "strong enough," I must move faster. And as these things add up, I am not "good enough" in all of these ways.

Basically, I made myself think I was smaller and smaller and smaller in this world of possibilities. So, I gave up a lot of things. Opportunities I had right underneath my nose, yet chose to ignore.

It’s this constant stress in the back of my head, haunting me with the same line over and over and over again: “Am I enough?” I wanted to prove to myself more than anyone else that I AM enough. I can live without asking the importance of me.

So with that, I realized I wanted to change. I didn’t want to be the same old me who limited myself to what I can or cannot do.

I had to fight. I fought for change, and I fought for myself.

At the end of the day, this is what I would say to my past self, the one I’m glad I let go of: “All limitations are self imposed. Never doubt your potential. Some of the most important and defining moments in life are when you feel crushed down. It is only when you think things are not going your way, that you mess up, that you hit rock bottom, you realize that you are still growing. Stumbling and picking yourself up is the process of learning. Sometimes it takes reaching rock bottom to realize the only place to go from there is up. So the same goes to you, the old Chenwei Ren from 4 years ago. Don’t hesitate. Start now, start where you are, start with pain, start with fear, start with doubt, start with weakness – just start. It’s because you know yourself best that you can do what it takes.”

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