A few months ago one of my former high school students found me on Facebook. She still lives in Hong Kong these 20+ years later and last Friday night we finally caught up. It was like time collapsed and we spoke as if resuming a conversation we'd been having the previous day.
I looked at her face over Skype, and she at me, she was exactly the same! She still had her innocence, sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. She went on to share what she'd been doing these past two decades and her words were balm to my soul.
She told me that she had been searching for meaning in her life, to assert her own independence and find her way in the world. Having grown up in an Indian family, it was assumed that she'd never attend college but marry after finishing high school. She had decided not to pursue that path, putting herself through university instead and is now an English teacher herself.
But she didn't stop there, she went on elaborating about her own personal journey of healing and of trying to understand what she (and all of us) are doing here. I heard her fearlessness and desire to know speak to me through her words. I was simply silenced by her willingness to break free from what anyone was "telling" her to do and live for herself. It is never an easy path but it certainly is the most fulfilling.
Toward the end of our conversation, she thanked me for caring about her. When she'd been 17, she'd told me a secret which last night confirmed she had never told anyone else. All of these years I had wondered what had happened with her. If she had indeed done what her family wanted and married an Indian man and possibly moved to the subcontinent. I'd always kept her in my heart, she was such a precious, beautiful child and I'd cherished knowing her.
Maybe her family is unhappy with her as she didn't follow their expectations. Maybe they created this outcome through their own actions. But this young woman decided to wake up and live her life for her. Looking at her across the computer screen and 10,000 miles all I could feel was awe for her willingness to be vulnerable, her desire to heal herself and walk through her painful past, and her intention to then help others along the way. I could not have felt more proud if she were my own child. I was humbled by her passion, commitment to living truthfully and her compassion not only for herself but for others. I know that she will shine her light in our world and be a guide post for many and I am filled with gratitude to have had the opportunity to play a small role in helping her along the way.