3:17 pm. I was late. I leapt from my friend’s mother’s car, scrambled into my bedroom, grabbed my books, and tumbled back into the garage. After snagging my bike lock off the wall and lifting my bike from its hooks, I took off from Albion then flew down 1st Avenue. As I turned to take the bike path exit, a huge orange sign stopped me: “Roadwork ahead. Follow detour signs.” Crap, I was going to be late again. The new route took me through downtown Denver an area with very few bike lanes, and spit me out in front of the Auraria Campus. 3:35. I high-tailed it into class, late for my test. My teacher was not very understanding. “Anzhun!” he barked. “Ni shi chi”! I apologized, “Dui bu qi,” and took my seat.
For a year and a half I was late to every Mandarin class that I took at the Community College of Denver. Why was I late everyday? There’s a simple answer and a complicated one. Because the simple one was hard for me to say out loud, I gave my teacher the complicated one. School gets out at 2:45; I get a ride home arriving at 3:10 and then bike to Mandarin. It takes 30 minutes to bike to campus on a good day. If I got dropped off on campus directly from school, I’d be stranded after class. The city buses don’t go to my neighborhood. He scowled; then he asked me to leave the classroom. The simple answer I couldn’t give him was that I was late because my mom had cancer. It wasn’t hard telling him in particular; it was hard telling anyone. You’d be surprised how hard it is to say, “My mom has cancer.” Once you tell someone, everything changes. He would’ve considered it an excuse, or worse he would have pitied me. By semester’s end, my grade had dropped one letter for tardiness. I very quickly learned that sometimes when it feels like the world should stop, it moves faster than you ever thought it could.
Had someone been looking at me through a lens, they might have said that I was really going through some stuff but how I was handling it all in a very grown up way. In reality, I had never felt more like a child. I felt lost, alone, and uncertain of everything. I picked up sound bites about my mom’s condition through my dad’s office door. I was kept in the dark; I was left behind. I missed her; I scared to lose her. I still am.
I wasn’t confident; definitely I wasn’t in control, but I did what I had to do to take care of myself. I handled my responsibilities despite all the uncertainties. See, the secret about growing up is that we all feel like children on the inside. We all have our insecurities, the things taking place behind the scene. Taking responsibility for yourself and your commitments, in spite of that fear and confusion, is what makes someone an adult. You persevere. So when the world is going too fast, and it feels like your grieving will never end, you have to keep moving. Keep moving so the world doesn’t pass you by.