Because I Am Me

“I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees.”

The House on Mango Street

Emily spelled with E.M.I.L.Y is just Emily. Emily meaning “to emulate” or “wily” is a common name that exists in many places. I am Emily, but I am also myself. I, myself, am an individual.

Nonetheless, We Are Family

People say I grew up lucky. I am a four-leaf clover in a safe environment, raised by the hovering trees that cast a soft shadow over me. My childhood does not experience a traumatic event that would haunt my soul like colored patches that would not go away. I was the kid that hides under an umbrella, away from the damp. 

My dad is a creative cloud, who teaches me to make paper airplanes and moon festival lanterns. He held me tightly when I was a newborn baby that cried so often, and tucked me and my sister in bed every night. He is a family person, prioritizing us before anyone else. People call him selfish, though he paid no mind to them. 

The wise owl that loves to tell me stories filled with moral lessons is my mom. She is a selfless person who is too selfless for her own good. I never really understood her, how she never held a grudge against my grandma for leaving her when she was young. 

They were different. My mom cared too much for others, while my dad only cared for his family. I often assumed that my parents stopped loving each other when an argument broke out. But I didn’t understand until now, that they only argued because they were worried. My dad wanted Mom to care more about herself and her family, and she wanted Dad to care a little more for other people. She says that when he is in a troubling situation, no one would be there to help him if he acts cold to them. 

I did not have a traumatic childhood, but naturally, I would feel down whenever my parents fought. Luckily, I had my sister. We were not like most siblings. Sure, we would bicker at each other’s throats every so often. But that was only for a short moment as we bonded over many things. She was a shrewd older sibling that knew how to handle situations well; yet, as the retorting voices drowned through the thick walls, she was almost as frozen as me. Though, at least we knew that we had one another. Time passed quickly in moments like this, and the once strident voices lowered to a calming state. My sister and I peeked through the white door of our shared bedroom. Our parents sat down and talked; and after a while, things became normal again. 

Carefree Kids

My maternal cousins and I would play hopscotch with our pebbles until one of us fell and cried. We would play tag until one of us got tired of being It. We would play hide-and-seek until there were no more places to go. We would sit at home and watch Doraemon or go to the cinema to watch the new Despicable Me with my sister. We were a group of kids that were inseparable. We were the best of friends. But now that homework and tests are an actual thing, we just don’t have time to play for hours and hours anymore. The bitter nostalgia remains within me as I pass by the carefree kids running around the park every day. I would wish a wish that cannot come true, wishing that we never really grew up.

100 to 0 Percent

Some people are my family, some are my friends, others are strangers. I like a good few people, others get on my nerves. School is an environment filled with a crowd of students. It best expresses the emotions within me. The high- and low-pitched shouts mixed upon one another; still, I could audibly hear people complaining about a class, gossiping behind someone’s back. It’s not that I get angry—because it really isn’t any of my problems—but just annoyed like when a crowd of buzzing flies surround an area of tranquility. And so, a lot of times, I wished to be in a room with fewer people. I’m not sure if it’s because of my desire to stay in a quiet space, and their loud presence ruins it, or if it’s the things they say that goes beyond the meaning of absurdity. Perhaps both.

I prefer spending time with my parents and my sister the most. Although they want me to socialize more, they understand me. My sister says that even if I don’t like a person, I still shouldn’t visibly show it. She is like a blanket that comforts me in unpleasant times. It’s not about being fake, but rather ignoring them. She says, why waste my breath on others who are mostly insignificant in my life. When I think about it, it makes perfect sense, and I would oblige as the troubles clouding my mind start to disperse, as if I had escaped the nuclear weapon fueled by my negative emotions. As if I had escaped an explosion that would come to be the destruction of myself.

Thank You, Coach

At the beginning of seventh grade, my mom signed me up for a basketball club. She said that I needed to be active to stay healthy, and the best way was to get into a sport. I’m not sure why I chose basketball, but perhaps it was during the first time I saw Stephen Curry on TV. With the genuine grin on his face, he made everything seem so simple. The way he never stopped running, the way he effortlessly swished the ball into the basket while the defender guarded him. But he was a professional, while I started out as a nobody. 

The first day of practice, I wore my navy blue shorts and a white t-shirt. I introduced myself to my new teammates, and they introduced themselves. As most of us were beginners, we started off quite easily. Three days a week. From lay-ups to a good jump shot, we learned new skills and new rules. My shirt looked as clean as the first minute. I discovered what I enjoyed doing, shooting baskets. I liked the feeling of satisfaction whenever I made my shot. 

The next week came, winter was arriving with its breezy air. Up and down as we sprinted, night quickly casted over our small build, only the tall park lamp beside the trees made the vision better. The most I remember is lots of running. Five continuous suicide drills we reached, with dozens of painful push-ups we went through. I could only relieve a sigh when practice was finally over. The white shirt I wore was painted on with dirt. At that time, I was sure that many of us, including myself, wanted to quit as our heavy breathings filled the atmosphere. I remembered when one or three of us had skipped practice. I, too, wanted to give up. I really did, but something stopped me. I don’t know if it was my pride or that I, even if just a little, actually had fun learning all the new things. 

My mom drove me to the stadium of a small college. We played our first game and won by over twenty points. The next game, and the next, and another, to the last, we didn’t ever lose once as we celebrated with pure joy. It was just me, my seven teammates, and our coach with our own moment. I think it was one of my happiest memories, and the first time I had ever experienced real teamwork. Coach says that when we work hard together at practice, the game will not be a problem. I never thought that from just a little experience filled with exhaustion and joy, that basketball would become a big part of my life. I don’t think I ever said it, but I am beyond thankful. 

This or That

My mom is our personal nutritionist that likes to eat healthy foods. Once or twice a week, we would eat rice and fish. By all means, there are types of fish that I enjoyed, especially grilled ones. But even so, I hated having to look for tiny bones that should not be eaten. While my mom had taken many of them out, I was still scared. And as a child, I preferred eating fried chicken or scrambled eggs. Though, I wasn’t given a choice; rice and fish was the meal, and it was to be consumed by me. 

At that moment, I wished that I could make my own decision. 

The word “decision” became a bigger part of my life as I grew up. I thought that choosing a path would be easy because one would know what they want. Yet, little did I know, it wasn’t completely simple. What if the choice I make would lead to a dark end? What if I end up regretting, but it becomes too late? Just before my freshman year of high school, these questions became more apparent as I looked at the screen, enrolling my classes. 

At that moment, I hesitated, wishing that there were less choices.

Juli Baker and the Sycamore Tree

The first thing I did for winter break was to go hiking on a trail of Mount Rubidoux. My sister, her best friend, and I, in our cozy jackets, strolled together; and to say the least, it was real fun. At first, the blazing sun threatened to burn through our clothes, and I felt like I had a long-lasting fever. All I wanted at that moment was to go home, hiding from the heat. But it didn’t really last when we got to the part where the tall mountain blocked the sun’s view, and the soft breeze filled our lungs again. That was when I started to notice my surroundings—the breathtaking surroundings. 

I always liked the open view of cities from a hovering area. The people and the cars were small, and especially in the morning where there was not much in sight, I felt tranquility within the vast world. When we reached the top, there were large, sandy yellow steps of stairs leading to more magnificent scenery. Many considered that it was the highest point of the mountain, but there was much more to it. To my left, the immense rocks lay on top of each other, creating a steep trail. My sister decided that we should check it out. As I trudged from one to the other, I felt myself slipping as water vapor damped the light soil. 

Just when I thought I was comfortable with my surroundings, I became hesitant to take another step. The slight fear of height embraced me, and I didn’t want to fall. Even so, I wished to see the view from above. I think it was the moment where I couldn’t trust the sharp slope of the rocks, so I had to trust myself—my feet that held tightly against the ground. As I pushed myself up one last time, I reached the top and observed the fresh, green nature around me. I started noticing more things—the two ravens gliding around each other, the people in blue and red clothes that peacefully jogged up the mountain, and the vast area of hovering trees that covered the secrets hidden within them. The view, the objects, the colors. I felt like I could see everything. I felt like Juli Baker standing on the sycamore tree.

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