Leditor (William Zhuang)

I turned 20 a couple of weeks ago. As a matter of fact, the clock struck while I was sitting in the MAB Lab, bathing under the gray, hospital-esque lighting along with my fellow observers. If it wasn’t for Juanita’s punctual cheering, I definitely would have missed my yearly moment. Earlier that night, Julia brought in boxes of grocery-store mini cupcakes she called “perfectly mediocre,” and I sat cross-legged on the floor with Ines and Claudia, who were both turning 21, surrounded by the entire staff. Juanita found a paper straw in her bag, cutting it in three as a stand-in for the missing candles, and I attempted to suck the cake through the straw (only to get some icing, unfortunately).

My mom flew in from California the next day. The last time we were able to celebrate together I had turned 15, barely a freshman in high school. Los Angeles is still three hours behind Boston, but at least we can now afford the luxury of not always being oceans apart. Her visit gave me a valid excuse to skip classes. I instead showed her around Davis Square and Tufts, trying to summarize for her the key points of my life here within one tour. She was last here in February, posing for pictures beside hills of hardened snow on Prez Lawn. And now she stopped in her tracks every other minute to stand under the trees’ reddened shades, capturing the flurry of falling leaves with her camera.

That night, she took me and my friends out for dinner. As indecisive as I am, I settled on the restaurant weeks ago, a newly opened Chinese place called Haoshiguang in Allston. By some wild coincidence, it is owned by the family of Martin, my best friend from home. His family runs several restaurants back in our hometown, where my entire childhood friend group celebrated every one of our pre-teen birthdays before leaving home one by one for boarding schools abroad. So it felt like a kaleidoscope of time, finding myself at the same table with my mom and college friends at once, switching my tongue to translate between Mandarin and English, while sharing the exact dishes that define for me the familiarity and comfort of Qingdao, my beloved home.

I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I like to compartmentalize. This is accurate, as I tend to deliberately keep my social groups separate from one another to avoid the dreaded moments of awkward intersections. This way, everything can always stay clean and simple! However, it turns out I should give way more credit to every case of beautiful, messy world collision that has been proving me wrong all along. At the Observer, we come from all corners of campus every other week to piece together collages of untold stories, clashing together into vibrant, lovely clusters of mess. Likewise, to see my American friends fight for the last piece of roasted pig foot while my mom chuckled at the scene was an image I had never dared to imagine, yet it made me feel fuller inside than ever before.

Many Thanks,

William Zhuang