I think I’m too young to be talking about the good old days, but I do reminisce about my boarding school days with an aching fondness, which is weird because I absolutely loathed my time there.
My two-year journey started in mid-2002, just in time for the start of second grade and the outbreak of the SARS epidemic. If I start talking about my experiences there, I’d sound like a broken record. The academic stress (elementary schools in China are slightly more challenging than those in America), the homesickness, the bullying: you’ve heard it all a million times over. My fears and struggles were no different to any other kid’s, so there’s no point getting into them. What I do miss about that difficult yet rewarding period of my childhood was the purity of it all. It was a time when we didn’t lie about grades to keep our faces. It was a time when breaks consisted of tag and thumb war rather than Youtube videos and backstabbing gossip. It was a time when girls liked boys because they were funny and sweet rather than tall and dashing. It was a time when orange juice was a breakfast staple rather than a chaser. It was a time when 69 was just an odd number that looked weirdly symmetrical. It was a time when we weren’t afraid to dream.
It was a different China back then, and a different me. I was resilient and compassionate without even realizing it; now, I have to consciously stop myself from pretending to be nice. Everything was so transparent back then: every emotion, every thought we had was tattooed in our expressions. Us teenagers are too sly and phony for our own good, and I guess I’m just tired of guessing all the time. At nineteen, I believe my best days are still ahead of me, but my purest and most honest are long gone.