London, Ontario, CANADA – With hectic school assignments and extracurriculars, I rarely have a moment to myself when I can take a step back and contemplate my life.
When I did, I couldn’t believe how different my current life is from seven years ago. During the Lunar New Year seven years ago, I lived in Beijing, China.
Chaos and commotion filled the week of the Lunar New Year. Grocery bags full of every kind of meat, seafood, exotic fruits, vegetables and desserts filled the kitchens.
Relatives and friends, whom I didn’t recognize, came bustling through the doors, pockets filled with red envelopes.
During spring cleaning, friends and I would run around the house, playing tag, even though our fingers had residue from sweet rice cakes.
At night, I stayed up, mesmerized by the colorful fireworks dancing across the dark skies.
Street vendors selling candied haw berries and persimmons filled the streets.
During the dragon dance festival, a team of dancers would wear one long dragon costume filling the streets with red, yellow, and green. My heartbeat pounded along with the drums and my spirits soared with the dragon.
When the week of celebration was over, my friends and I would count all our red envelopes and compare who got the most money.
This year, on the first day of the Lunar New Year, I sat in a deafeningly silent English classroom writing grammar quizzes.
Instead of panicking over my misplaced red envelopes, I was panicking over my knowledge of the parts of speech. Instead of going to sleep restless with excitement, I was restless from studying all night.
Instead of shoving egg tarts in my face, I was shoving short stories in my face, frantically looking for literary devices.
The difference between my life seven years ago and today is night and day. Our new year’s dinner of asparagus and white-cheddar stuffed chicken, corn medley, and salmon looked more like Thanksgiving with a few token sprinkles of white rice than an authentic dinner.
While the themes of short stories often change, the theme of assimilation versus tradition has been a constant throughout my life.
Sometimes I wonder if people back home view me as a banana – yellow on the outside and white on the inside – but I’d prefer not to embody that metaphor.
Despite all the extravagance and customs, the Lunar New Year only comes down to one thing – finding calm in the chaos. As paradoxical as that seems, it’s a concept I’ve applied to my everyday life.
Despite the bustling movement, this celebration is about finding tranquility in your spirit by reevaluating what matters most – family and friends.
Even if I didn’t have fancy celebrations or a full week off from school, at least I’ve had time off to write this before diving back into the sea of chaos.
Chuying Huo is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.