An allegory of a journey


I am a fourth grader at Discovery Elementary in Kentwood, Michigan. I am captivated by the magic of books, the structure of math, and the enchantment associated with science.

On a gloomy winter Michigan night, my parents tell my brother and I, “We’re moving to China.” My little brother, thinking China is a regressing land of farms and indigence, bursts into tears. I, on the other hand, am invigorated.

I am a seventh grader at Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China. I live amongst the towering skyscrapers of the city and interact with my peers from all around the world. Local Shanghainese are fascinated by the girl with chocolate-colored skin who can ramble off fluent Chinese. On a humid Shanghai morning, I’m told, “We’re moving to Florida.” I’m shocked at the erratic location, but nonetheless, I am exhilarated.

I am an eighth grader at Wilson Middle School in Tampa, Florida. For a year, I have resided alongside the palm trees, just an hour from some of the country’s most beautiful shoreline beaches. On a dark, stormy night filled with torrential rain, after getting off the phone with my dad, my mother tells me, “We’re moving to England.” I am more astounded at this moment than I’ve ever been in my life, and while I am more dismayed than usual, I am incredibly inquisitive.

I am a sophomore at Dean Close School in Cheltenham, England. I am surrounded by Victorian houses, winding alleys of a British boarding school, and the English countryside. I am an outlier with my pronunciation of long “As” amongst a sea of short “As” and a distinct lack of “Us” in words like “favor” and “neighbor,” but I love it. On a cloudy day, my parents tell me we are completing our circuit by moving back to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am distressed, but I am ready.

I am a senior at Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I live amongst a community of intelligent, dedicated, welcoming, and loving Rangers. I have decisions to make, but I do not know what my future holds. I am nostalgic, but above all, I am changed.

My moves around the world not only developed me and my personality, but in those seven years, I feel as if they developed my soul. As if a piece of thread originated from each of these pieces, traveled across the world, and converged in Forest Hills, these places are intertwined within my soul.

I learned about culture, and I explored how the world lives. I spent weeks on a Chinese farm, at the happiest place on Earth, and in a Welsh army camp. I encountered people who lived lives of unadulterated merriment and others who lived lives of raw suffering. Pain and pleasure. Dejection and delight. I learned more about the world and the people on it from these experiences than I ever could anywhere else.

To some, to others who don’t know my story, I may be the “new girl,” from fifth, eighth, ninth, or tenth grade. The girl who had a strange accent or never understood local practices or customs. Each of these journeys around the world was accompanied by adjustment and sad tears caused by those who couldn’t understand the concept of welcoming those who look, act, or sound different from you.

However, each of these moves was also accompanied with enrichment and so many happy tears. As a result of my moves, I am blessed to have friends tucked away in corners all over the world. Though I may no longer live abroad, I know my cultural enlightenment will continue with the friends from five different continents that I talk to on a daily basis. It has been incredibly difficult to form deep, personal bonds just to place thousands of miles between them over and over and over again. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It took me seven years and thousands of miles to find myself. Each piece of my disposition has been ingrained from the experiences of my travels, and each move taught me new things. I learned from my struggles and grew with each life lesson I was taught. It was difficult at times, but as a result, I no longer allow the misconstrued judgments of others to affect me. There is a piece embedded within me from dozens of places all around the world, and I am so incredibly grateful for it.