To this day, sometimes I still watch the video my parents taped on my 1st birthday celebration and also my first few steps walking on top of The World Trade Center in New York. That was early morning of July 20th, 2001; about a month and a half before the building was hit by terrorists.
Now that Im older, every time I watch the video, I always ask myself about the mindset of those terrorists. Why would they destroy the lives of almost 3000 people with their own? How could the families of those victims bear the loss of their loved ones? How would they become strong enough to overcome the tragedy that took the lives of so many?
The more I watched and questioned, the more curious I became about the psychology of all different kinds of people.
It triggered my strong interest in studying and analyzing people’s minds. For that reason, I have always had an exploring mind when I read books or newspapers and watch TV, etc.
Anything related to psychology has always interested me more than anything else.
Ever since I first started school, I liked to observe my friends and fellow classmates quietly so I could see what was considered normal behavior and what was considered abnormal. I did this partially so I could learn how to stay out of trouble and be liked by the teachers, and because I found it interesting. Despite not yet knowing much about psychology or how peoples minds worked, I still wondered who or what decided why the so-called abnormal behavior was considered abnormal in the first place.
When I lived in America, we didnt just stay in one place. I was born in San Francisco, California, then moved to Phoenix, Arizona. At the age of four I moved to Batesville, Arkansas, and finally to Canton, Ohio. Shortly after I turned thirteen, I moved all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Cyprus. Moving a lot was sometimes tiring because it often involved surviving off of fast food and attempting to sleep comfortably in the backseat of a car, but it always gave me the opportunity to meet many different types of people between states or rest stops. When I moved to Cyprus, I was not only able to meet people who werent from the same town; I was able to meet people who were from an entirely different country. Besides moving a lot, I also travelled a lot, often to Central American countries and islands. Every once in a while I would go to China to meet my grandparents and other relatives. As a result from all the travelling and moving, I became more interested in learning about cultures and languages. I have made it a personal goal for me to learn a little bit of as many languages as possible.
Asian parents are known for being very ambitious and strict with their children, and my family was no exception. If I wasnt at home working on extra worksheets and homework, I was out doing many extra activities, such as ballet, piano, Tae Kwon Do and swimming. I started piano lessons when I was about four years old and learned from a very early age the necessity of patience when practicing and acceptance of delayed gratification. My efforts to appear graceful in ballet were mediocre at best, much to the dismay of my teacher. She recommended I take martial arts lessons instead of ballet due to my somewhat boyish personality. I took Tae Kwon Do lessons for three years, where I learned the importance of respect, self-control, integrity and perseverance. Although I have a second degree black belt, it would be rather unrealistic for a relatively petite Asian female to actually throw someone. Since I was a baby I have always liked spending time in water because all the clumsiness I commonly display on dry land disappears in water. I took swimming lessons at first but as I got better and stronger, I joined the swim team. I was on the Jackson Phantoms for two years and then changed to the North Canton Nemesis until I moved. Like any other child, I sometimes bickered with my parents because I felt overwhelmed by all the extra activities or resentful about being stuck at home working while I could see and hear other children playing outside and being unable to join them even if they invited me. However, I quickly learned that they were doing this for my own good.
Being American born Chinese was sometimes difficult for me. Growing up, I always had a tough time trying to blend in among both Americans and the Chinese. With my yellow skin, almond-shaped eyes and straight black hair I stuck out like a sore thumb among my American friends and classmates, most of whom were caucasian. In an attempt to seem cultural, people often approached me to say hello or how are you in Chinese. A particularly memorable attempt was a friends mother who proudly served me a bowl of rice with a little soy sauce drizzled on top for dinner because she thought this was what Chinese food was like! In China, people tended to think I was a bit strange because I had a very American mindset and behaved as such. Despite this, I was still known for being very friendly and charismatic. It usually didnt take me long to form a small group of friends wherever I went, even if it was only for a few hours and I would most likely never see them again after I left. Sometimes I was a bit lonely because it was hard for most people to relate to somebody who is split between two nationalities, but I tried not to let this bother me.
In middle school I began to become more self-conscious of my double-identity as I was sometimes bullied for not living up to the stereotypical expectations my classmates and teachers had of me. People thought it was strange that I wasnt extremely good at math and science, and didnt want to become a rocket scientist or neurosurgeon when I grew up. Instead, at the time, I wanted to be a fashion designer! While others wondered why I didnt eat dogs and cats or survive solely on rice, I wondered why people clung onto stereotypes so much. In addition, mental illnesses began to become more prevalent; particularly depression. Depression is an alarmingly common problem in America. Antidepressants are quite liberally distributed and advertisements for antidepressants often show up even on TV channels for children, such as Cartoon Network, resulting in me becoming aware of mental illness at a relatively early age. I began to become much more interested in the topic and began to observe my classmates behavior in a more analytical way; particularly the ones who seemed to enjoy bullying me and the others who were also typical bullying victims. What went through people’s minds when they say things that they claim to have said without thinking? What exactly sets apart the victim from the bully? Why do people think that words are not as hurtful?
During the seventh grade, my class would visit a school called Southgate a few times every month as part of a service learning program, which was a school specially for children with special needs. Many of the students were older than me and were permanently at the mental capability of a child. This service learning would involve myself and another classmate to help the teachers for a day but it also gave me a chance to observe the students and how the teachers worked in the process. I managed to befriend one of the students as well. Her name was Ebba and she had been left mentally retarded as a result of a drowning accident when she was a baby. Despite being unsure of whether she could understand what I was saying, I still liked to talk to her a lot. Ebba usually kept a blank expression so it was often impossible to tell how she felt. On one service learning day, I told Ebba about a classmate who was giving me a particularly hard time. For the first time I saw her expression change to something else as she stormed out, found the classmate I described, and shoved him before the teachers managed to restrain her. I realized that people like Ebba are not necessarily as socially dysfunctional as media might portray them as, because Ebba was clearly capable of understanding, even though she would always remain at the level of a child.
Conclusion: My observations and experiences have inspired and piqued my great interest in psychology and other related fields. I hope that with a degree in psychology I can focus on exploring the patient experience and eventually make a difference in the field.