I was helping a friend with her supplementals tonight which led me to read my own responses to those tough and somewhat insightful questions. One of the questions was: Which of your personal characteristics makes you stand out as an individual?
The roots of my personality arise from numerous experiences I’ve encountered in life. In particular, my determination, persistence and hard work have formed the foundation of my character, stemming from a very important lesson of failure. When I was nine years old, I picked up my first brush and began practicing the art of calligraphy. Stroke for stroke, I drew unreadable, lopsided characters during my first year of practice. Standing behind me, my father would shake his head and say “no, no, no.” Embarrassed, I would secretly throw away the sheets of rice paper I spent three hours writing into the trashcan. When my dad found out, he would take my hand that held my brush and draw a beautifully balanced character, advising me to analyze the word. He would explain how calligraphy is not about perfection but about improving upon my imperfections. If I continually throw away my mistakes, I am throwing away my confidence to do better. His teaching from that experience is one I will never forget. For several months after, I would spend two hours every other night writing multiple sheets of calligraphy, analyzing mistake for mistake that could have contributed to the imbalance of my characters. When I felt as though I was ready to compete, a year has already passed. Exiting that test room and waiting for the results felt like a fast forward memory. I do not remember the anticipation or how confident I was to see the results. All I remembered was questioning why I couldn’t find my name on the winners’ sheet. For the first time, I felt as though the persistence and hard work I spent on hundreds of sheets of rice paper was thrown away within the few hours of testing. At that time of disappointment, my father placed his hand on my shoulder and told me I was a winner.
I started discovering the meaning behind my father’s words during the silent drive home. I looked at my empty hands and realized I won far more by losing the competition than by carrying a trophy home. Calligraphy is not a form of art that can be perfected within a few days, let alone six months. By dedicating two years of my time to calligraphy, I developed patience and balance that ultimately translated to the approaches I take in life. In a way, writing Chinese characters has become a gateway to my personality. It requires a lot of mental crafting to construct a well-balanced character. As strong as I apply pressure on my brush, I emphasize in my academics. The lightness of my strokes and the patience involved in writing each character demonstrates my soft and calm demeanor. Looking at my empty hands, I discovered all that I’ve learned and applied by learning the techniques of calligraphy and the feelings of comfort replaced the sadness that encompassed me. What I learned through the process, patience and balance, was far more valuable than winning a piece of plastic. In that sense, my father was right—I was a winner.
Losing did not stop me in my tracks. Instead, I practiced for another year and won first place in my age group. I competed in other stages three years consecutively and placed first in all competitions. Hard work, indeed, pays off. My prominent traits such as determined, hard working, and persistent have defined me over the years in times of stress, hardships, and failure. Inevitably, I will face difficulties in my life, but my focus is to bring a brighter light to aspects that can’t be changed and improve upon aspects that can be changed. Admittedly, I have failed plenty of times in life other than this particular incident, but if there is one thing I have not failed in doing, it’s to motivate myself to keep trying.
I need to constantly remind myself of this and stop losing sight of who I really am.