“Don’t think you’re so special. You are just like everybody else. Humble yourself; do not ever be snooty.”
The 1960s. Beijing, China. Living in and going to school at the Army Compound, little Jasmine had always been the top of her class. Every time she brought home her perfect-scored test, she would get a glance at the test, receive an understated “good job,” followed by a five-minute talk of how humility is the key to great success and ultimate satisfaction. Being a good student, a good child, and a good elder sister was like her duty; it was an expectation set the moment she was born. It was like a large, red banner on the side of the road for her to see while she walks through her life.
Her parents were nice, there was no doubt. Her dad always cooked for her and her younger brother; they would all go to the train station to pick up her mom, who was, at the time, loaded with overwhelming amounts of work. The family would walk home together and share how their days went. Jasmine cuddled in her mother’s embrace and watched her younger brother running around for a few circles and then going back to their parents. The gloomy lights on the roads had yet to be fixed, the breeze started to get cold, yet their hands held so tight and felt so warm. Jasmine waited her whole day for nights like these.
As days passed by, little Jasmine grew up to go to a boarding school. Going to school at a time when there were still six days of school, she could only see her parents and her brother on Sunday. She never enjoyed the food at the dining hall; as all her friends were eating more and more during their teenage years, she always looked the same, even skinnier.
Time fled faster than she thought. Her brother who always looked like her twin now grew so much taller than her. He started to become the one to pick her up at the train station every weekend, carry all her luggage, and ride her — on his bicycle — back to the station. One Sunday afternoon, right before Jasmine was about to get on the train, he called her name.
“If you ever get bullied at school, let me know. I’m much stronger now, I can protect you.”
The young boy scratched his head and stared at the ground while saying this. A few seconds of silence and he looked up, a shy smile boomed on his brave cheeks. His hair was freshly cut, a drip of sweat from bicycling runs down from his hairline through his cheek, jumping to the ground after reaching his chin. His shoulder seemed to get broader, a clear tan line cuts through his upper arms and his ankles: you can tell this young guy was outside running with the boys every day. The boy who used to need her care and attention all the time grew up without her realizing; Jasmine’s eyes scanned his shoulder that has broadened like an aspen.
That afternoon, Jasmine’s dad just “reminded” her to be humble to herself and to others, to never show off, and to always be self-conscious and careful—the same old talk she’s heard over a thousand times already. Holding her frown ever since the conversation has started, no wonder her brother would be worried about her.
The train bell rang, steam rose, wheels started to roll. In one of the compartments, a skinny and beautiful girl burst out her first smile of the day at the boy standing right outside the window she sat next to. She nodded as hard as she could on the train, holding tight the fiction that was supposed to be “forbidden at school.”
Summer of seventeen, the siblings made a silent promise, that they would always try their best to be happy, that they would be great people, and that they would always love each other.
That forever golden summer of seventeen, the forever golden teenagers, so hopeful and loving. The forever golden youth.
The end of the story, Jasmine didn’t become a writer as she wished as a teenager, but she found her passions embedded deep in the field of psychology, to counsel and to relieve others. Growing up, her daughter heard the story a lot of times and was always told to follow her heart rather than the social rules. Now the age Jasmine was when the promise was made, her daughter now types down the final words of this story.
“Listen to advice, but follow your heart.” —Conway Twitty
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