One hot day in the summer of 1996, I got bored and whinnied like a horse until my dad caved in and drove me to Crown Book Store.
Whilst browsing there, I made my way over to the biography section, where the cover of Morton N. Cohen’s newly-published Lewis Carroll: A Biography attracted my attention. I forced my father to buy it for me and spent the rest of the afternoon curled up, reading about the fascinating, eccentric and moving life of Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll. Over the course of the summer, I became determined to visit Oxford and see where Dodgson had lived and written the Alice books. A year later, my parents let me go on a study abroad program at Oxford that introduced high school students to the Oxbridge method of small seminars and tutorials .
I loved my experience so much that as soon as I got home, I started researching liberal arts colleges that offered a similar conference and writing-based teaching structure. Inevitably, I found out about Sarah Lawrence College, which models its pedagogy after the Oxbridge system. The next two years of my high school life were devoted to getting into SLC, which I did in the spring of 1999 (I got the same acceptance folder as Kat in “10 Things I Hate About You”).
During my first year at SLC, I picked up a copy of the school newspaper to read while eating dinner alone. Inside, I spied the newspaper’s help wanted ad for a production editor. Since I had no friends to take up my spare time, I decided to apply and ended up spending the next three years as an editor. During that time, I attended the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s College Editors Workshop, where I got it into my head to apply for j-school. I got accepted for the class of 2005.
During the first session of my master’s project workshop, a tall, thin man in a black beanie, suede jacket and horn-rimmed glasses walked in. That was Ron. We took to talking and I found him to be rather sympathetic. A little while later, we suddenly developed crushes on one another, and finally started dating in December 2004. When Ron, who had lived in Taiwan for four years before j-school, announced in spring 2006 that he had been offered a great reporting job in Taipei and had decided to take it, I nearly killed him. I had started my first full-time journalism job just a few months before, so I couldn’t skip off across the world. After some thinking, however, I came to see Ron’s moving abroad as a chance to actualize the silent wish that had been percolating in the back of my head since I was 16 and realized I might have screwed myself over by doodling through all those Friday night Chinese school classes–to come to Taipei, my parents’ hometown, and learn Mandarin. I was 25 when I made the decision to move and figured that my mid-twenties was as a good a time as any to live abroad.
Last summer, I actually did it, and here I am today, living near where both of my parents grew up with my fiance (still Ron, duh), and entering my sixth month of Mandarin studies at Shida on a scholarship. All because one sunny afternoon twelve years ago, I got bored during summer vacation and made my dad take me to the bookstore.
You know, I really need to stop letting things get out of control like that.
Ha ha! I’m just kidding. Happy Valentine’s Day, Ron!