Survivor.

I was one of the people running the Relay For Life in Menlo Park that is held every year by the American Cancer Society, where for 24 hours we walk in solidarity to honor those who survived and lost to cancer — cancer never sleeps, they say.

I woke up early at 6am, showered, called my mom, ate a little breakfast, and headed off over in a lyft. I arrived just in time as the supplies arrived. After coding a behemoth of an algorithm for an assignment for a class in Computer Science the previous night, and still couldn’t get it to work, with the deadline was approaching; I wasn’t in the best of moods. Stressed, but still put a smile on my face. Socialize. Be Humble. Be Happy. After all, faking a smile will better your mood doesn’t it?

Two of my initial goals when I decided to start volunteering was to make new friends, and to better myself. So I stuck to that and offered help to anyone I could, from the other event leaders, to literally anyone that looked like they needed help. From carrying boxes to propping up tents and signs. It certainly did make me happier. Yay!

Corvette Noses.

Then I struck gold. I was anticipating this part of the event since I saw the schedule — the car show. Oh did it take me off track. I think I spent more than an hour there looking at the cars and talking with the owners— sorry everyone!

When everyone tells you the Luminaria is a must-see, its a must see.

But overall, it was really empowering and a great honor to be able to participate in an event like this. Especially how some people even walk the whole night—wow.

But in the end, I learned that everyone there has a story, if not their own, their grandparent’s, parent’s, sibling’s, cousin’s, friend’s, but then, there was this one that stood out the most to me.

There, I met a woman, she was attending our event, walking a Shiba with her. Turns out, this was the woman’s second Shiba. Her first one, died of cancer a couple years back, and this one she had right now, she had adopted from the shelter after it was taken away from an abusive household. This was the only story from the whole event that affected me the most. Is it really just the pure innocence of dogs that make us more affected by their struggles and death? Take how we cry when a dog dies in a movie but we wouldn’t bat an eye when a person dies. Humans, have to individually earn our affection, while animals have it cut out for them — we freely give it to animals by default. This is the reason why lots of people love their pets more as much if not more than family, and why animal rights activists exist. My reason however, is that I just really really love Shibas.

Shiba!

Anyhow, I’d like to give a thank you to everyone there for an amazing experience — especially Alicia for opening the door for me to get past my awkwardness in meeting people, Amy for how similar your personality is to my mom’s, Sally for your crazy enthusiasm and how you empowered me, and Angie for always saying hi to me whenever you see me. If I missed you, don’t worry, you’re not forgotten. I’ll personally thank you will the next time I see you. 😉

It was a warm welcome to Silicon Valley.