Dear Millie 2021 (airplane vers.)
This year has flown by and I didn’t even get the chance to look back at how much I’ve grown. The scuffed sneakers were swapped out for fresh shoes so that I looked down and admired my feet each step that I took. Only now as I fly back to where it all began, in a small town in suburban Michigan do I realize how much I’ve changed. Of course, it’s only natural to look different- taller, plumper, sadder- but it’s scary to compare and barely be able to recognize yourself. Coming back to Michigan scared me because I don’t know if my changing is a good thing or a bad thing. If I had the chance to rewind the clock and redecide, would I still force the family to move to LA for me? Would I still have gone to LACHSA? Would I still have bleached my hair, swapped out my closet, given up christianity and tried to fit in as I always have my entire life? Or would I be able to choose a different path, one with less tears, less hurt, less anger at myself and at the world?
The sad thing is that’s all hypothetical. In the end, I only have this one life on earth before I move on to be with God, whatever that looks like. I don’t want to have too much time to dwell and throw myself into the depths of depression. I just want some slight moments of peace every once in a while, where I neutrally look back and realize all the growing, for the better or for the worse, that I’ve done. And then I’ll move on with my life as all humankind has before me and will after me.
This year had some turbulent ups and downs. I remember crying on the stairs and sobbing to mom that I wish I had never wanted to be an actress, never forced the family to move and created so much hurt. Hansen was failing school, mom’s health was deteriorating, and dad’s temper only got worse. And all of this seemed to stem back to one thing- my forceful transplant of our family ecosystem to the unfamiliar environment of LA. I blamed myself for every single thing that went wrong, and because of that I had to try and prove myself over and over by overworking myself and trying to busy myself with things that weren’t even meaningful to me.
But it wasn’t long before I broke down completely and realized that system of doing things wouldn’t work out for me. I started to do things I actually cared about, and consequently got to dig deeper into those subjects. I got to hold my own rally, which nearly killed me. There were multiple moments where I considered giving up and just not holding the rally at all, and there were also moments where I had no confidence in myself and my capability to pull something like this off. But because I cared so much, I didn’t want to give up and leave this halfway done, as I have with many many things in my past. I needed to do this because I cared about stopping Asian hate.
It felt amazing to pull something off that was entirely my own. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before this year. Now I know that I am capable of so much. There is fire behind my slanted eyes, and power behind my tiny fists. And I want to harness it.
As I finish this year off with a trip back to where it all started, I am only now realizing how much I kind of miss my old life. I got to be the center of attention all the time in that small town. I never doubted my identity, never had to think about the hard questions, because I was surrounded by people that just reaffirmed my preexisting beliefs. That’s not saying I didn’t have my fair share of hurt and pain, because I always had to define myself by the measure of others, which is bound to cause suffering. But I never grew as much as I did these last two years.
So as I make this final trip back, I just want to say that this will not be the last time. I will make sure to keep myself in check, and also check in with myself periodically, because I don’t want to lose my identity ever again. I’m excited to try out this new version of me in my very first familiar environment. But deep down, just as I said to shan, I’m still the same person. I’m still me. The genes that I’m composed of still make me naive, at times insecure, extroverted, hopelessly romantic and determined to make my own way in this world. So I hope that when I come back this time people can still see the emily that they knew so well, while also accepting the parts of me that have grown and changed.