He would tell me stories of growing up in the final stages of the Cultural Revolution. Skipping school to visit the zoo, becoming a Red Guard despite the fact his grandfather was a landlord because he was so well-liked, catching cicadas to race them for fun because he didn’t have television — I absorbed each of those vignettes, mentally adding them to this mythical picture of my dad I had in my head.
A lot of what I did in high school, I did to make him proud. But I also did a lot to make him angry, disappointed or just confused.
When he moved to the U.S. in his early twenties, he met my mom and they pursued The American Dream together. He converted to Christianity, became a Republican and to this day disapproves of many of my “lifestyle” choices.
This year, I hesitated before telling him that I was switching my major to photojournalism. On the phone, he wasn’t surprised.
He said that his parents had pushed him to pursue chemistry when he told them he wanted to be (get this) a photojournalist. Instead of recalling former, emotionally charged conversations we’ve had about my uncertain future, we drafted a plan to go 50/50 on a camera we’ll share once I graduate. I’ve found that resolution comes easier once you’ve accepted the past.
My dad and I were both born in the Year of the Rat. We both drive a little too fast, eat cake the same way and love photography.
His real birthday is April 25, and I’m hopeful for what next year will bring.