Updated: Jul 19, 2020
1. I can always count on it to be there for me.
Except for that time I forgot that I left my passport with my counselor, who kept it in the safe, and walked out of camp without my passport. I was on my way to Canada for vacation with my family, my grandparents included. My brain decided to turn itself back on when we were more than halfway to Boston; the camp was in Poughkeepsie, New York. Then, it decided it was a good idea to make Dad drive all the way back to Poughkeepsie, to look for the passport when everyone had long left camp, and when I couldn’t find it (because everyone had left), make my grandparents wait in Boston while we take a road trip to Connecticut to the program headquarters and back the Monday after.
2. I am capable of critical thinking.
Not when I’m taking a math test, or doing anything remotely math-related. Consider this function and prove the chain rule. Well, I’ve considered the function. Proof? What proof? I have none. Nada.
3. I am self-aware.
And somehow my mind traps me in existential crises. Am I Chinese? Yes, but why do I feel out of place in my country? Am I American? But if I don’t have a US citizenship, can I be American? Maybe culturally. Or am I Chinese-American? I wasn’t born in the US. Nor do I really live there. So who am I? What am I? Who is this voice talking in my head? Is it me? Is it my ego? Do I really have a personal identity? Does it persist through time? Am I the same person as the one who first started this sentence? *Screams into my pillow then stares off into space.*
4. I can comprehend and speak languages.
Yes, three of them, all at once. Four if you count Shanghainese. Somehow all the words keep mixing together and I’m losing vocabulary in the two languages I can fluently speak. Bilingual who? More like bye-lingual. And don’t get me started on grammar. I can’t even speak human sentences. Who remembers what order words are supposed to go in anyway? And any word can be a verb at this point. Look at me verbing all over the place.
5. I can dream.
Good lord they have recurring themes. Why am I always chased in a mall so I have to jump from the fifth floor to the third and from one escalator to another? Why am I always persecuted? Why am I always running? Why do I wake up in a cold sweat thinking what the hell just happened every other night? When was the last time I laughed in a dream? When was the last time I didn’t have dreams and actually slept for more than eight hours?
6. It’s always working.
I mean, it’s literally always working. When is it not working? Even at 3 a.m., it’s filling my head with random thoughts that I will probably never need, like reasons why vampires cannot sunbathe, but on a biological level, or what would happen once you achieve nirvana, or any type of enlightenment-type superhuman state that I doubt I will ever achieve, or, I don’t know, if I would survive on canned beans—which I absolutely abhor—and stale chips in an apocalypse. My brain is always working even when I sleep, filling my head with dreams that I get half an hour of deep sleep even out of the ten hours I get during winter break. Every minute, I hear voices screaming that I’m a failure, that I’m a mistake, that I will never live up to what I could be anyway, that I should just give up.
7. I can make plans.
I have my entire life planned out till I’m seventy—an elite college education, an MFA in creative writing, a stable, well-paid job for three years before I go off to live in a lake-side cottage in southern Switzerland as a full-time writer all before I turn thirty. I live my life in retrospect, expecting success and glory and a published memoir by the time most peers have a family. I see myself taking every wrong step, failing each day as I open another rejection letter, each an evidence of my failure.
8. I have an active imagination.
I imagine being dragged into the back of a van and sold into a brothel. I imagine strangers entering my home in my sleep and harvesting my organs for the black market. I imagine my parents dying gruesome deaths in car crashes when I’m waiting for them, knowing they’re only late from work or caught in traffic. I imagine my grandparents calling from the ER, or Grandpa calling about Grandma walking out after missing her meds. I imagine everyone that has ever loved me leaving until I’m all alone, crying. I imagine being wiped out of existence, my consciousness fading as my body disintegrates into dust in the fire. I imagine the world ending.
9. I am creative.
A pen, a paper. That’s all it takes for me to unload and create a magical new world in the dull one we inhabit. I record all seven of my trains of thought that share four sets of tracks. I bleed onto the page and it’s almost therapy. I fill the space with sentences so I don’t feel as empty. I process the ugliness in letters, to grasp at answers when nothing makes sense. Words flow out like water in a stream, nurturing, guiding me into the unknown so I can dance. I write, splash ink over the page, and make Jackson Pollock jealous with rage.
10. I am conscious.
I’m alive. I have my own thoughts, albeit dark sometimes. I can think, feel, reach deep within me and reflect, and leave a mark for others to read. I am here and these words are here to stay.