Mending Great Mistakes

By Chung Kao

San Quentin State Prison

I ditched school for the very first time on the very first day of school. Here is an anecdote I wrote of the experience:

Mom was chasing while I zigzagged across the rice paddies running away from kindergarten.

Who would have known this school-hating child would later graduate from college summa cum laude?

It was early spring after I had turned four that Mom took me to a kindergarten nearby . It was my very first day of school, and very first time being in “custody” of strangers. We took a one-stop bus ride to the next village where the kindergarten was. I started breaking out in tears and screamed, refusing to let go of Mom’s skirt as she was about to leave me with a class of weird-looking kids and a tall scary woman.

Mom said she was only going to use the restroom and would be right back. She lied. But the tall scary woman threatened if I kept crying she would let the monster out of the stove to take me away.

I was scared and bit back my tears. However, at lunch time I told her I wanted to pee, and she let me go alone. A perfect chance.

I climbed over the little red back gate they had, jumped off, took a long breath, and started to run as if the monster would come out of the stove after me if the tall scary woman knew I had run away. I went straight for the vast rice paddies between me and home .

Just as I had relaxed a bit, sitting down on the dirt walk dipping my feet in the muddy water to cool them down, a vague figure looking like Mom showed up on the edge of the rice paddies.

Oh, no. She was going to take me back to the tall scary woman, and the stove monster was waiting.

No way! I took off running, leaving behind my boots on the dirt walk. Mom eventually caught up and dragged me out of the muddy paddy where I made my last stand.

I had a good whipping after Dad came home.

Though I had always had good grades, I had never liked school and dropped out at the eighth grade to experiment life as my naive self would like to. I paid a dear price for that after I realized the importance of education and managed to get in college at age 25. I ,.was drafted and served three years in the Taiwan Army.

To make up for the high school I missed, I worked and studied hard through the four years of college. No party, no fun, no break. I had the best grades among the 200 plus Economics students and received the highest recognition at graduation at the Takai University, Kanagawa, Japan. Though the president’s award was hard-earned, it was the sweetest thing I had ever experienced. I mended a great mistake in life.

With The Last Mile, I am confident I will mend the greatest mistake in my life.

Originally published at on December 15, 2014.

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