When people ask me where I’m from, I always have one simple answer: I’m from Cupertino, California.
That’s it. In the fifteen years I’ve been alive, I’ve only lived in this small city.
Hi, my name is Emily, and this year I will be exploring the lives of the students of MVHS and their origins. Everyone has their own origin, and I will express them with written word. The people who traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to be here. The people who drove across the country. The people who decided to pack their bags and join this community one way or another.
Or people like me, who have only seen these futuristic buildings, the bright tea shops sprouting on every corner. Everyone has their own story to tell, and all of them will be conveyed, starting with my own. Being someone of humble origins, mine seems a bit too simple.
But there’s more to the story than that.
There is a little girl. She lives in a small house on a small street. The garage door opens, and out comes the girl with her mother, both smiling. The little girl is on her scooter, and her mother is following closely behind, encouraging her with words of affirmation. The little girl scoots along faster and faster, beaming all the way.
Suddenly, the scooter hits a crack in the concrete. It clatters to the ground, and the girl goes with it, falling to the floor. Her mother is there in a second, soothing her, wiping her tears, and treating her wounds. Within minutes, she is beaming again. She picks up her scooter.
A year later, the girl sits in her fifth grade classroom. She learns about history from her teacher who stands up, and surprises the class with black tea and biscuits. The girl sips the cup of tea, and munches on her biscuit. She chats energetically, and laughs when her friends make disgusted faces as they drink their tea.
Before she knows it, a year has passed. She waves at her mother from outside of the car as she walks towards the gates of the middle school. Wearing her new sneakers, feeling the weight of the notebooks and binders in her backpack, she excitedly walks with her schedule in hand, finding her first class. She sits down at an empty seat and looks around the room. There are no familiar faces, yet she is not upset. A girl sits down next to her, and she immediately strikes up a conversation. They talk for the whole year, and soon become inseparable.
Fast forward another year, when the girl is sitting in her cooking class. She intently listens to her instructor, and calmly follows each step. She puts the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and milk into a bowl and whisks them together. She dips bread into the mix, and sets it on the frying pan. Soon, the whole room is filled with the sounds of sizzling toast, the smell of sweet cinnamon filling the air. She uses her spatula and places each piece of french toast on the plate. It’s definitely not perfect, and she feels disappointed. But when she places whipped cream and strawberries on top and digs in, she smiles and eats the whole slice.
Time flies by, and she is in a white and orange dress for her middle school graduation, grinning as she hears her name. She steps up carefully, and gingerly takes the paper from someone’s hands. As she turns back towards her seat, she looks at her paper. She watches the people she has grown up with, some she talked to everyday, and others she knew only by name.
A few months later, the girl stands on the driveway as she watches her brother put his luggage into the truck. He approaches her, then pulls her into a hug. For a second, it’s as if time stands still, and neither move. Then he is gone, closing the car door and driving off to college. She watches the street long after the car is out of sight.
Then high school begins. It hits her in the face like a truck. She sits in her bedroom, distraught as she looks at her math textbook. She flips and reads, her eyes darting across the page, and yet she still can’t understand. As the sun sets, her homework seems to grow and grow, and she continues to work late into the night.
Now she is in her second year of high school. She sits with her friends, talking excitedly and eating lunch. She takes an ugly selfie with her friend on Snapchat, and they laugh hysterically. She constantly feels pressure in the back of her mind, but she knows that it cannot consume her. She is happy.
She knows that it’s only going to get harder in the future, but she still walks with her back straight, because she lives for the present.
This girl who’s lived in one place her whole life, who has all of these memories stored in her mind, she’s me. There are countless memories I could have listed, but all of these memories are the pieces of who I am today. Cupertino is a small city, and yet none of these memories could have existed without these sidewalks, without these streets, without these buildings, without these trees, without these people. And during the next year, I will explore the memories of those who have their own stories to tell.
I’m from Cupertino, California. That’s it. In the fifteen years I’ve been alive, I’ve only lived in this small city.
And when people ask me where I’m from, I always have one very complicated answer.
Illustrations by Emily Xia