About Kingston’s Short Stories: In this series, I’ll be sharing one story from every year of my life. The stories may at times seem mundane, but its these day to day occurrences that define us. A lesson is then pulled from each story.
“I Wanna Do My Own Thing”
When I graduated high school at age 18, I really didn’t want to go to college since I was a a high school senior. I had a feeling that there was something out there that was greater for me then just going along with what everyone else was doing.
Problem was, I didn’t quite know what it was that I wanted to do as an alternative. My parents weren’t very happy about my outlook and my mom especially was upset.
She didn’t get to go to college and eventually succeeded in guilting me to pursuing higher ed by saying this to the likes of,
“I didn’t work so hard to get to America for my son not to go to college.”
She succeeded eventually, she didn’t care if it was just the community college, just that I went to college. I didn’t want to stay at home and wanted to learn how to live independently, so I chose the University of Nevada, Reno. The premise was that I wanted to see snow, but that wasn’t the real reason.
First Steps Towards Self Sufficiency
After going through orientation and getting set up in a dorm room. School began.
Of course like most college freshmen I had a roommate as well, an Alaskan that came from a broken family.
He seemed like a pleasant enough fellow when we first met. The conversations surface level and polite with some friendly greetings thrown in. I had the standard problems of a youngster living on his own, too much free time and not knowing what to do with it, plus I never was a natural at making social connections so things were fairly isolated for me.
Lost Directionless & Culture Shocked
I slept too much, spent too many hours in the gym, mindlessly browsed the web among other things. There were days when I didn’t want to wake up because frankly I didn’t know what to do for that day. It was falling for Parkinson’s Law where I spent far too much time doing things that was supposed to take a fraction of the allotted time in a subconscious effort to fill up dead space.
Being dropped in a city where I didn’t know anyone and was taken away from the Chinese American community I grew up with and being inserted into a predominantly white one didn’t help neither.
From the male/female relationships, to social gatherings and just the way people talked, it seemed so different.
I experienced culture shock in my own country. And I felt it more then when I moved abroad later down the road in many ways.
While I was still juggling with this new environment, things started to change with the roommate. Less hellos and less consideration when sharing a living space. Eventually the way he behaved was downright rude and we ignored each other. It was strange and part of the culture shock because I thought he was a decent dude.
Eventually he left during the second semester without a word (much to my pleasure) and I didn’t have a roommate for close to half the school year.
I’ve had housemates since then but never a roommate (minus the countless hostels I’ve been in and out of.)
Firstly the culture shock thing is just something you need to embrace. It’s like getting used to cold showers, there is no way to learn it easily, you can mentally prepare, but you need to do the work to get used to it. Each subsequent time gets a little easier.
And keep a goal, something that takes up a lot of time to keep you focused, no matter how humble.
Adapting to a new environment will become less of the main focus on your mind and becomes more tertiary. For me, I found 2 jobs and a club to participate in, one was as a front desk assistant, another as a runner in the college dining hall. The club was centered on taekwondo. These new added occupations gave me more focus which I lacked as a college freshman when I felt overprotected during my upbringing which led to unpreparedness.
Too much unoccupied time is a bane of young people.
The second lesson I learned is when dealing with new people. The analogy I like to use is a Muay Thai bout. During the opening round of the fight, normally nothing major happens (nothing major compared to later rounds but I digress.) This is referring to fighters that don’t know each other. They take added precautions and are in the phase of “feeling each other out.”
This is not to say we are trying to swing at any new person we meet, of course not. The point is that we operate on a defense mechanism. If we act the way we normally do with someone new, we don’t know how the other person will react, so we tread lightly to avoid any negative repercussions. It is only when we know the other party better that we let down our guard and behave normally.
Sometimes that behavior is not to our liking, such as the case with my freshman roommate.
This is a tendency in human nature that I’ve seen repeated over and over again. Recognizing that people tend to be more polite/respectful in the beginning is a lesson that has stood me well.