Category Archives: Personal Stories

Unconditional Love and Happiness

I’ve always yearned for the unconditional and divine. Who doesn’t want their love and happiness to be unconditional? When no conditions are needed to love and to be happy, we can declare that our love and happiness are altruistic and genuine. There is no limit to them; therefore they are pure and divine.

For the longest period of time, I have searched for the boundless expression of love and happiness. I have always longed for love and happiness that needs no condition. But the more I sought after them, the more they elude my grasp.

This is because there is an enormous paradox in my desires. For example, the more I desire unconditional happiness, the more I realized my happiness is a product of conditions.

I think about having certain people in my life, the connections, the possessions, and the right circumstances. How can I want unconditional happiness if the happiness that I want has to meet certain conditions? Am I contradicting myself with what I want? I believe so. Continue reading

Needs and Desires

“What is the difference between a billion and a million?” My Uncle Dan asked in a lecturing, questioning tone. He was pondering philosophical thoughts in his slightly tipsy state after a party. I was his designated driver for the way back home.

Without thinking too deeply, I replied with a casual smile, “The difference is only a thousand times. A billion is just a thousand million.”

He didn’t pause and asked another question. “What is the difference between a million and a thousand?”

Understanding where my uncle was heading with this conversation, I continued my initial response. “The difference is still a thousand. A million is just a thousand thousand.”

“No Sheng,” My uncle corrected me. “There is more than a difference of a thousand times when you compare a thousand and a million to a million and a billion. What is a thousand? That value may be large, but it is still small. When you have a thousand dollars, you can’t afford to buy a house. You could pay for brand new tires for your car, but that’s about it.” Continue reading

Do You Believe in God?

“Do you believe in God?” A missionary asked me directly after handing me a church brochure. He had a jubilant expression on his face, eagerly waiting for my response.

After coming to the front porch of my house unexpectedly due to the sound of the doorbell, being greeted with such a question made me flinch. I looked at his face for a few seconds, not sure how I should respond to him.

Then I cleared my throat and uttered, “I don’t know.”

The missionary was unfazed by my response. He continued his gospel on the bible, telling me the benefits of how accepting Jesus Christ as my lord and savior can change my life for the better. He was super ecstatic about preaching what he believed.

Seeing how the missionary was having such a good time, I went along with him. I nodded at everything he said. I smiled and exchanged some laughter with him. In the end, he told me to consider the idea of becoming a Christian; to become someone of virtue, love, devotion, and worship.

I did not reply to him. I merely said my goodbyes and gently closed the door.

Alone in the silence of my home, I shook my head from side to side and sighed. “To believe or not to believe, the results are one and the same…” Continue reading

Lose Yourself to Know Yourself

“I feel like I’m in a mid-life crisis right now…” My Cousin Simon spoke to me in the truck as I was driving him home to his house after a late lunch at our family’s restaurant. He cleared his voice slightly, and sighed. “I feel so lost right now.”

I glanced over quickly to observe Simon’s expression before reverting my eyes back on the busy road. The traffic was incredibly slow; we traveled less than ten miles in a span of thirty minutes on the highway.

Feeling concerned, I asked, “What’s wrong?” and waited for his response.

“I feel like there’s no purpose to life…Everyone will die one day. I will die too. I’m scared of being a nobody. I want to make an impact in the lives of so many people.” Simon voiced his feelings as he emotionally recalled the past few days. “I don’t know why, but I’m feeling very depressed. There is no growth in what I do. I feel that the path I am on right now only leads to mediocrity. It is the same thing every day. Don’t get me wrong. I love college. I love my friends. It’s fun and all, but if I keep going down this path, I can already predict my future.”

The traffic came to a halt as we stopped in the middle of the highway with an endless stream of cars in front and behind us. My eyes were glued to the back of a vehicle in front of us. The tail lights were shining straight into my pupils, but I was unaware of them. My mind was slowly taking in what my cousin said. Without taking my eyes off, I took a deep breath and replied, “OK then, what are you going to do about it?” Continue reading

Blast from the Past

Just a few days ago, my cousins came to visit me. When we were conversing with one another, I shuffled through my old journals and writing pieces. Some of them were written over a decade ago. When I looked through my past writings, I was filled with joy and deep sense of longing. The events that I went through so many years ago vanished, but the lessons were recorded. My writings are my legacy.

They are my constant companion reminding me of my journey through life. I read through a few of them and, lo and behold, many of them were terrible! Most of them described the physical activities I did in those particular days. I wrote about where I went, who I met, and how I felt. There were many grammar and spelling mistakes. Some of them were even written on napkins!

Nonetheless, I was awed by my writings. Just reading what I wrote felt like traveling through time. I could relive the struggles and growth of those past moments in the present. Each and every one of them told a different story. It made me realize how vibrant, wonderful, and majestic my life has always been.

It does me no good keeping those writings to myself. I learned that the best way to honor them was to share them. I read them to my cousins. Some journal entries made them cringe like the great, awkward teenage years. Others made them mindful, because I was sharing a deep part of myself.

Now I want to share one with you. The writing is from a decade ago when I was a sophomore in high school. May you learn something from it, or at the very least, get a laugh from it. 😀 Continue reading

Wherever You Go, There You Are

“On July 1st, it’s Canada’s independence day! In fact, this year is the 150th year of independence for Canada. It is a really special event.” Radikha, my Indian co-traveling friend, spoke proudly in an excited voice. “We are in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada on this very special day. It looks like all of my planning hasn’t been for naught.”

It was the 3rd day in our road trip to Canada. We have driven almost a thousand miles to reach our destination. I looked wearily at her and lightly smiled. The Canadian flag dangled down vividly on the top of every light post. Between the intersections of the streets were huge concrete blocks cutting off entry from cars and trucks. Police officers guarded these posts in abundance.

Beyond the barricade was an endless stream of people flooding the streets wearing different shades of red and white attires. Even red maple leaf tattoos were visible on the faces of several native Canadians. Continue reading

A Positive Conversation

“Sheng, why is it that you focus so much on positivity? What makes you so positive all the time?” My little cousin Alice whispered as I scrubbed a small bowl in the sink with a soapy sponge. It was her turn to clean the dishes after dinner, but seeing how much she detested washing dishes, I took over her duty.

“What makes you think that I am positive all the time?” I musingly replied to her. “I am just like everyone else. I go through series of emotions from high to low. I, too, wallow in my own despair at times, and sometimes they last for months.” I smiled at my cousin while looking at her astonished face.

“That doesn’t make any sense.” Her eyes narrowed on her forehead. “Then, why is it that you are able to be positive despite being sad at the same time?”

I paused for a moment while feeling my left hand cupping a bowl on the bottom while my right hand rubs the inside of it in a circular fashion. “The answer is really simple. I just don’t take things too personally and I accept things for what they are.”

“What do you mean?” Alice confusingly asked. Continue reading

Our Grandma

“Mom, the kids are home to see you…” My mom’s voice cracked as she called out into the dark, red room in the Li Family courtyard.

My cousin Simon, Chang, Min, and Alice all stood in an arc circling around a metallic, refrigerated casket positioned with its long side parallel to the edge of the room. There was a red cloth that covered the transparent, plastic lid to the coffin. On top of the cloth, a piece of roof plate was centered on the coffin, followed by a hammer and a sickle. These pieces are used as ornaments to symbolize the communist, working class.

Standing on the short side of the coffin, I overlooked the depressed faces of others. Instead, my eyes were staring blankly at the casket before me.

“Grandma, each of us is home to see you…” My cousins and I muttered softly and weakly, as tears flooded our eyes. Continue reading

Lessons from Death

My first encounter with death was when I was 5 years old. My maternal great grandma died during that time. I remembered very vague details from her funeral. But the only thing I remembered clearly was her inanimate body positioned upright on a chair. The funeral director had combed her hair and dressed her up in a traditional Chinese qipao. She sat there motionlessly, but her lifeless eyes stared forward.

Before her, many of my relatives stood shoulders to shoulders around her. My maternal grandma was on her knees wailing and crying out loudly. My grandpa was standing there stoic in his outward appearance, but suffering on the inside. My aunts, uncles, and parents all had their own fair share of misery, emotional outbreak, and silence. I stood there behind them, but I didn’t share in their emotion of misery and loss. I was too young to understand that, but I did feel something that day. I felt fear. Continue reading

Drugs and Alcohol

My elder cousin Gong always bragged about how much he can drink.

“Last night, I had a case of Budweiser.” He exclaimed to the workers at our family restaurant. “I drank all 24 cans by myself!”

Gong prided himself on his feat as if he set a new world record. He continued to talk about his victorious accomplishment with the other workers, but I just laughingly walked by and shook my head.

In my family, it was a very common trait for the male family members to drink. In fact, many of them also smoked cigarettes. I grew up in a family culture that loved to drink and smoke. In fact, I was exposed to these substances at an early age back in China.

I remembered a dining experience I had when I was 4 or 5 years old. During dinner, I was particularly curious about what the adults were doing. My grandfather was smoking and drinking at the same time. He saw that I was constantly pointing to his cigarette and beer.

“Ahaha…Sheng wants to try smoking and drinking.” My grandpa said in a laughing tone. He grabbed me under my arms and lifted me up to his lap. Carefully, he moved the cigarette in-between his middle and index fingers and placed it on my lips. Continue reading