I used to be a robot. Pre-Summer 2011 I was only functioning. I breathed, talked, and walked like a human, but I never quite felt human. All I cared for were grades and test scores; I didn’t sing, play or dance. In order to preserve my robotic sense-of-self I refused to break my comfort zone for anything. If now-me could go back in time I would find the robot-me and splash a bucket of water on it shouting “Wake up, Wake up, you’re living in a dream!” Although my life most certainly isn’t a Disney movie, last summer I did have my Pinocchio moment, and now I guess you could say I’m a real boy. My “Blue Fairy” moment came while experiencing the wonders of China with the State Department’s NSLI-Y program, my first trip anywhere farther than California.
â–º honorable mention 2012 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
My moment takes place on historically preserved street called JinLi in Chengdu. The ancient Chinese buildings towered on either side of me as I peered into all the little shops. It was stifling hot in the almost tropical environment. I stopped at a stand to buy a bottle of bing cha (ice tea). I walked into the main square and watched an elderly crowd dancing a synchronized number. An old man stepped away from the others and walked towards me. He said in Chinese, “American, come dance”.
My robot gears ground objectively. “Too embarrassing,” said my automated voice. But then a spark blazed through my circuits. Why is it too embarrassing? I wondered. Just because I’m afraid of what other people think, or because I’m afraid of being bad at it? Or maybe I’m afraid to let my human out; afraid to shed my metallic skin and do those things that make humankind so beautiful,
That spark induced a short-circuit. Everything I once thought important, fried – My 2150 SAT score, 32 ACT, GPA and class rank – they meant nothing to me in that moment, accomplishments of machinery that had no emotions, that didn’t experience and love the world, and didn’t really love itself either. I felt the metal cage falling off my body, my joints loosened as I followed the rhythm of unfamiliar song. Sweat collected on my skin now, not oil. I finally felt free and alive.
I danced there for ten minutes. It seemed like an eternity; how could my life change so much in only ten minutes? In that moment I became human, and I decided to act like one too. For the rest of my trip I did things I would never have done before – car racing, yoga on top of a mountain, singing “Hey Jude” for five hundred locals, and giving a speech in Chinese on TV in front of ten million viewers. I never knew the feeling of life until I leaped out of my bubble and felt the world spin beneath my feet. I used to be a robot, but China changed me, and I love this new version of myself. I’ve been home for a month now, but for each second of each day I’ve lived my life as a human. Doing, being, loving, laughing, and crying. These are the reasons why I’m not a robot.
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