Last night our family celebrated Ling’s high school graduation with Peking Duck—a tradition my parents have instituted after big events. I suggested we go around the table and give Ling a word of wisdom for college. Here’s what folks said:
Me (49): My dissertation on “The Interracial Friendships of White and Asian College Students” found that friendships primarily form along proximity and shared activities. In other words, the ability to spend a lot of time with folks is how you become friends with them. So invest in activities that have great folks!
AND if you find someone you think is awesome, don’t be afraid to go for it. I was so lonely and depressed during freshman year’s brutal Chicago winter that when I found a kindred spirit, I called Erica the next day and kept calling her until we were best friends.
Mama/Po-Po (77): I think finding the group you’re comfortable with is important. I didn’t fit with the party girls, or with the people who liked to play bridge—I wanted to learn bridge, but they were so serious about it that they wouldn’t tolerate mistakes. And I wanted to play and chat. They just wanted to play. So finding the people who share your same values is important.
Kai (16): Expand your friendships. Choose not to hate anyone—just try to get along with people.
[Ling: I don’t hate people!
Kai: Well you get annoyed with them
Scott: She’s not trying to criticize you]
Baba/Gong-Gong (82): I don’t have any wisdom about college.
[Me: What do you mean? How about preventing suicidal feelings? Like you had at Oxford, remember?
Gong-Gong: Oh yes, but that would require telling the story which takes too long.Me: I’ve told them the story.
Ren (14): I haven’t heard the story!
Me: Tell the story please.
Gong-Gong talks about how he felt so pressured at Oxford at his final (and only exams) with his dream of getting 1st class honors so he could become a don (professor) at age 22, that he didn’t sleep for 3 straight nights, disturbed by the ringing of the Magdelen College bells every 15 minutes. His family doctor prescribed opiate sleeping drugs that put him in a daze so he flunked his 1st 5 exams.
Elsie Burroughs, an elderly woman who loved Jesus and Chinese students took him out and prayed for him. He fell into his first natural sleep in days. She said, “There’s the power of God for you, trust him and give me your pills.”
He did. But struggled with whether to take his other stash before bed, finally deciding to trust God and falling into a natural sleep for 7 hours. He went on to get A+s in both his final exams, which earned him 2nd class honors.
This led to his conversion and Elsie becoming his godmother. (He didn’t include how 3 years later he renounced his faith when his mother died of pancreatic cancer despite his fervent prayers and called himself an apostate for the next 20 years until returning to Jesus when I was in 8th grade).
Me: So what’s the lesson there?
Gong-Gong: Trust God and don’t take medicine.
Me: Hmmm. I would have a different interpretation of the moral of that story.]
Scott (50): What I always say: Listen more than you talk, be slow to answer, choose to get along with people.
Ren (14): Study hard. Don’t party. Don’t get drunk. Don’t take drugs. Follow God. Don’t have a boyfriend. . .
All of us: What???? Where did that come from?
Hmmm. . . What does it say about our family that almost all our advice had virtually nothing to do with academics and everything to do with relationships?
So Ling, take our advice or leave it, no matter what we love you whatever you do!
What’s your best advice for a high school graduate?