The Weight of Freedom - Yifei "Johnny" Lang '18

How can somebody like me carry something? My parents accepted a philosophy of education that most parents in China rarely accept or strongly oppose. They gave me absolute freedom on what I do. I can decide whether I learn a musical instrument; I can decide whether I stay at home all summer time; I can decide how much time I spend on my phone everyday. There is no requirement I need to achieve, and no stress is put on me. I cannot complain, no kid can because I enjoyed happy childhood. However, as I grow up, I realize that there is a weight of freedom, a price follows it.

When I went to middle school, my classes were more challenging. I would say “challenging” is not the right word to describe it because all it takes is more effort and focus during class time. With no surprise, I failed the second test in my math class. Some of my friends failed it too for different reasons, but my reason is simple. I did not work hard. My friend joked that his mom would shout at him the whole night and have a two hour conversation with my teacher. It was funny for me because for the first time, I saw terrified eyes with such a big smile. I proudly announced that, “My parents won’t do that because they just never do!” It was my 7th grade speaking. It was not the first time that I was proud of my parents instead of being proud of myself.

I took my test back home because my parents had to sign it. Before I showed my test to my mom, she smiled softly and said: “How do you feel about it?” I started the long testimony I had prepared. Although I can not remember exactly, it was nothing more than “bad luck” or how close I was to the correct answer. The corners of her eyes wrinkled up, and she was reading my test slowly and seriously. Maybe I saw her scowl or maybe I didn’t. Then she turned to look at me and said: “It’s ok, as long as you recognize your mistake, fix it. If you need help, find me or your teacher or your classmate.” She signed her name next to my grade, stared at the number for a few seconds, and gave it back to me.

Perhaps my mom expressed similar emotions when I failed another test or made other bad decisions. She did not shout at me and she was not angry. However, I felt something different out of her soft smile. Something I carried, yet didn’t notice. I realized the fundamental truth of a parent, that every mother and father expect their child to be someone.  My parents gave me absolute freedom, yet it was fully restricted. They have no requirements on me, yet I carried their requirements. They put no pressure on me, yet I carried pressure. I carried every soft smile. I carried every “it’s ok”. I carried every signature beside my grade. I carried nothing and I carried everything.

I am nothing special in comparison to other kids, except the ambiguity, except what I carried is unclear and unlimited.