American Story

Go out there and show the world what you’re made of. Chase your dreams and listen to silence, you’ll hear truth and realize what a difference you’ve made

-Fiona Gan-

In a little more than five days, I will embark on my journey home and yet it is during this ‘timely’ moment that I was told to produce an article summarizing my American experience. Overwhelmed by the wide scope of topic, I stared blankly at the screen, my eyes fixated at the blinking cursor as each second passes. Five minutes passed and I was still staring idly, my word count slowly crawling, stopping and then continued creeping. In between the spacing and backspacing, I was in actuality, pausing to think. How am I going to tell this story? Certainly, it’s not a glitzy, glamorous life many of my countrymen had expected. Neither is it a life of the rich and famous traversing every possible tourist destinations America had to offer. What’s so special about my experience then? For a moment my heart sank, I thought long and hard before coming to terms with myself. I admit that it is an impossible mission to try and paint my American story on this small canvas. However, having said so, words, I believe have the potential to become the strongest medium of conveying a tale for they grant readers the liberty to interpret a story based on their very own imagination. Yes, your imagination! Therefore, I ask of you to engage in my experience with all the visual power you have and a smile because then and only then can my great little story come alive.

Looking back six months ago, somehow I see an almost different individual, quite possibly a separate entity who evolved into who I am today. I recall as I checked my inbox last December, my heart skipped a beat when I found out that I was going to be hosted in New Hampshire. For a second, the name sounded familiar but when I took a step back and think, I couldn’t quite associate any image in my mind to represent New Hampshire. And quite obviously, I turned to Google, the 21st century man’s best friend. Still, I couldn’t find much about this mysterious place except that winter is going to be extremely snowy and cold, the figure -16C stuck to my mind abruptly. It all seemed so mediocre but I later felt that it represented mediocrity at its best, that all the grand things in life may not necessarily be the best, the prettiest or even the most expensive. It is often these qualities we yearn for which very often blind us from seeing the beauty in the plainest things we encounter.

To me arriving in America was an ejaculation of eternal happiness. Everything seemed so fresh, so exciting and even the most haphazard little things thrown into life amuse me. I thought to myself, this is definitely a brand new start, my metamorphosis. True enough, my following days in New Hampshire proved that I was indeed right. Entering New Hampshire from 36,000 feet above sea level, I was greeted by snow covered mountains and wide open spaces that stretched miles and miles which all seemed so alien from a small town girl’s perspective. It was fleetingly blissful and for a second I thought about the brevity of life, perhaps triggered by my first time away from home, 16,000 km from all familiarities. From then onwards, I knew life in New Hampshire is going to be a vast difference from my life back home. But what I did not anticipate was that this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity; however cliché they seem to sound, they are purely my genuine words unfiltered and uncensored without any intent to exaggerate my humble life here.

I enter Mascenic High with some preconceived notions of an American high school which I later found out in many circumstances may not be true.  Even then, I was trying to adapt to the changes of the educational system and mingling with people that make up the student body. Albeit a small place with only 450 students, being part of class of 09 made me feel like we’re a big family, each of us possessing such vitality that we learn to extract from one another. Going to school daily, I enjoy the classes thoroughly and especially appreciate Psychology and Photography; both of which are not offered in a typical Malaysian high school. I thrive in an open and friendly relationship my teachers and I share. I began to feel that there is so much more to life than just academics and I felt just a slight pang of sadness and regret how I never rejoice in the current; to live in the moment. Now, it is what’s real, what’s present that counts. Gradually, I fell deep in love with everything, my friends, teachers, the learning experience and being in America at the age of 18. My eighteenth birthday was a memorable one. I remember feeling the snowflakes sitting on my palm as I held it out to gaze and marvel over these little white flurries. I find myself repeating this but only because it is undeniably true. Humour, friendship and kindness; I’ve experienced them all here in this little town called New Ipswich.

I would describe all the American things I saw and came to do; the people I’ve met and places I’ve been to. But, no- I decide I would refrain from doing so because those are the imageries of America sculpted by the media and what the world has come to know of the United States. Living in the states for half a year taught me the meaning of true independence and that the world revolves much more than just around me. I have always wanted to spread my wings and fly, to grow and learn to see things from a different perspective. America made my dream possible.  It has made me realize the power of love, kindness and generosity. Though our lifestyles and culture differ on many levels, there are also things that we all believe and share a common ground in. Regardless of the mountains and seas that separate us, essentially it is still the basic principle of life that we all share, the unwritten rule, the unspoken truth-that life and relationships should not be taken for granted. Putting aside all the political and religious views and practises, I came to see what a human heart is capable of, that in between all the differences we point out; at the end of the day we are very much the same. So much so, that sometimes it scares me, more often putting a smile to my face. We mourn and rejoice over the same things, we cry and laugh the same. We are after all human with feelings and it is all these intrinsic values that make us the same and isn’t this the most treasured things in life if we were to lose all our materialistic comforts and monetary gains one day? I would very much without a doubt say that my American life has shown me how life can be so beautiful and to take each day at a time, breathe, swallow and ingest all the awesomeness and purity of the untouchable.

“Six months ago, I arrived without knowing a single soul, but today I leave with footprints on my heart. Congratulations class of 09 and remember all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them”. A wide smile ran across my face as I gave my speech utterly because of the sincerity and satisfaction it brought to me seeing my fellow classmates and staff members giving me a standing ovation. Very vividly I remember, as I spoke on stage during graduation, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I could not necessarily translate into words. It was so fleeting yet felt so eternal. How can something so beautiful like this possibly be a mishmash of opposites? Perhaps this is the beauty in things I have failed to see before I arrived.

About a year ago I wrote on my application essay that I wish ‘to inspire and be inspired by all the American lives that I shall cross path with’. Needless to say, I have been inspired and I know I will leave with pieces of me here in America because it is in this quaint little town that I found me. I’ll miss all the little things I never thought would mean anything to me. The sweet teas, the light breeze, the green lush trees, the most beautiful sunset over a wide open land and also the smiles and the tears. Tears of joy and all sorts more. I’ll miss the occasional homesickness and having to calculate the time difference and prices of everything I purchase. Funny, how funny! It is all these little things that mean the most. My childhood dream has been realized and it is coming to an end soon. Somehow, I don’t feel a sense of closure. Perhaps, like they always say this is not the end, merely the end of a beginning. I will continue on this journey because in a heartbeat I know I can relive this moment anytime, anyplace.


2 Responses to “American Story”

  1. 1 A Mascenic Friend July 20, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    We were, and are, proud to think of you as one of us.

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Miss Fiona

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July 2009
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