June: The Journey to Neverland

In honor of June, the start of seven week high school debate camps, here is an excerpt from my final assignment (a 5000+ word essay on friendship in high school debate) for my Experimental Essays class:


I have only one pinned text conversation, not with my mom or my dad, but with two girls I met at senior debate camp. As stressed college students, the conversation is usually quiet. However, every few weeks, I’ll get a stream of notifications:

Kelly:

Why can’t u all come to Taiwan so we can get lit ?!?’ 😫🥺🥺
I miss u all

Kristen:

yes

we miss u more

uh also can someone help me with my math really fast

This is the sole chat with people I’ve met through debate that I still keep up with. For most others, leaving debate as part of our high school personas meant our chats desertified and staled, gradually buried underneath new college GroupMe and Slack notifications. But here was the difference with Kelly and Kristen: our bonds were rooted in a soil deeper than this activity.

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Saving Face

In the 1998 Mulan animation, Mulan undergoes a comedic physical transformation in preparation to meet the matchmaker. As she attempts to fit into the line of picturesque, proper young women, the movie soundtrack repeats an important plea:

Please bring honor to us
(Please bring honor to us)
Please bring honor to us
(Please bring honor to us)
Please bring honor to us all

“Honor to Us All” highlights the significance of dignity in Chinese culture. But while “honor” conjures images of strict, Confucian families of ancient China, the contemporary narrative is all about mianzi.

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Brightlines and Fine Lines

We’ve reached that time of the year in the Puget Sound when pale sunlight becomes shrouded by indecisive clouds that oscillate between sheer silver and dark gray, when we wake up to a familiar pitter patter rhythm—a reminder that we only have two seasons: three months of lemon sunshine and nine months of minty rain. On my daily evening walks, dim streetlights struggle to break through the rigid darkness. The past few days, I have been trying to loosen my hold on the illusion of summer. (However, this week is supposed to be sunny and/or partly cloudy. Sixty-degree weather won’t stop me from pretending fall has yet to come.)

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