WP2: From Childhood to Adulthood

In this archive, you will see how I grew up from a child to a juvenile, an adolescent, and eventually an adult in chronological order. Based on my childhood hardship experience, I have gained a unique perspective to humbly respect people, then understand and appeal to them. However, I also discover uncertainty as I keep digging the changes in my identity, and I want to hear what You think.

Part 1: The Outsider Pupil

My parents and I in our hometown Lianyungang, 2003.

My family moved from our hometown to the provincial capital, Nanjing, and my parents spent a notable amount of effort to send me into one of the most reputed examination-oriented elementary schools in 2008. However, since my father was busily pursuing his PhD and my mother had no job in the unfamiliar city, we barely made ends meet. In school, my test scores were much below the average, and more importantly, I could not perceive my outsider identity equally to those local classmates since my hometown was the province’s least developed city and I was one of the so-called countrymen. In the meantime, as a child who desired to perform himself, I eagerly wanted to attract people’s attention and became the popular one among my peers. However, not having outstanding test scores nor characteristics to be a “good” student who “records, memorizes, and repeats” the “motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable” teaching contents, I chose to act up through grandstanding and ridiculous behaviors to prove I was funny and humorous to be recognized (Freire 1970: 71).

Over time, I made some friends and it seemed happy. However, deep inside, I was afraid of being discriminated against by my classmates because of my poor socioeconomic status and low scores. Through my ludicrous behaviors, I aroused others to laugh to disguise my discomposure and anxiety.

Time flew. My primary school ended while I kept grandstanding and heard my parents’ criticism of my behaviors from time to time.

Part 2: The Class Monitor in Middle School

Entering middle school, which was also test-dominant, the juvenile me became aware of the inappropriateness of claptraps and then determined to discover proper ways to perform myself. Meanwhile, although my family’s living situation was improving, I kept the humble way to talk and befriend others. Because my family once went through the hardship, I could understand the ordinary life of other people and I respected them as individuals with worldly practical experiences; in contrast, most of my classmates could not since they always lived a well-off life and were short of such unique perspectives. After some time, I became familiar with my school’s guards, cleaners, and salesman, as well as my teachers and classmates.

My father and I, the first day of 2017.

Later on, I won the class monitor election with an overwhelming advantage and my headteacher was also supportive because he trusted in my social skills, namely my ability to appeal to people and credibility in managing the class. At the moment, I gradually awakened to be capable of utilizing my unusual perspective to perform beyond the in-class learning, and be acknowledged as someone out of the common in an appreciable way. When I graduated from middle school, I believed the experience of being the monitor had cultivated leadership and organizational skills in me. However, new challenges emerged in high school, as well as the growth.

Part 3: The Club Leader in High School

My mother and I at Shanghai Pudong Airport before I flew to Montreal for my freshmen year, 2019.

Entering an international high school with a diverse and modern environment, where most students had already known each other from the affiliated middle school, the adolescent me had a difficult time adapting to the new atmosphere but eventually succeeded (See more from my WP1: The Education of Inclusiveness). At that time, I attempted to achieve higher goals: strengthening my special social abilities and contributing to the entire school rather than within my own class. To this end, not only did I make the campus more caring and inclusive, but also raised 60,000 RMB (approximately $9,000) funds to save the prom using merely one night.

Before graduation, one night my best friend called, frustrated, saying that they had been trying for a month to raise funds for the prom and only got 4,000 RMB. They still needed about 60,000 RMB before the end of that week. What could one say when his best friend asked? So I answered in an old-fashioned way, “Give me one night and I will see what I can do.” That night I nailed it. He was amazed, thrilled with a bit of jealousy saying that I was pulling one of my magic tricks with a couple of phone calls. I knew there was no magic at all. And there were way more than some phone calls at one night: the cumulation of my social networking.

In my first year as the president of the basketball club, I was just anxious about the funding for holding the teacher-student basketball game, an annual event with the initiative to involve more teachers and students to construct an inclusive campus. And at the same time, one test prep institution I went to before called me, hoping me to help them market in my high school since I knew them well and had already recommended several of my friends. Thinking it through, I found it was a three-win situation. I would help them in promotion, they provided me with the funding, and students got high-quality educational resources. Then we just clicked, and my endeavor on coordination between groups was indispensable for the final success. That was how I raised my first fund.

However, one year later, due to the resign of top teachers of that test prep school, I started to hold my opinions regarding recommendations. I went to take the free-trial courses of the new teachers, which disappointed me greatly. Sadly, I had to call a stop to our cooperation immediately, since I knew any long-term partnership built on honesty and mutual benefits. I carried the huge confidence of my friends and classmates therefore the match of their needs came absolutely first. I need to find a new partner. After countless research, long talks with students and parents, and assessing courses myself, indeed I found it, and later I found more. We had built great connections that passed on after I graduated.

Therefore it was never about some phone calls at one night. Achieving anything took effort. I enjoyed understanding and befriending people, making proper use of resources, and finding the right match as I performed my social abilities to win others’ recognition. As the prom successfully took place, I could not be more proud and finally felt satisfied with my contributions to where I belonged to.

Epilogue: The Adult, and then …?

My 20th Birthday, 2020.10.30.

After high school, I have studied at three colleges: McGill University in Montreal, Northeastern University in Boston, and University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Feeling different cultures from the very north, the east coast, and the west coast, I still respect every individual and genuinely treat them from my heart.

However, I am no longer a child, a juvenile, or an adolescent. I am an Adult.

Occasionally, I reflect if I value others’ attitudes too much. Before college, I eagerly tried to gain recognition and embracement from others presumably as a way to expel my deepest fear about being discriminated against and disliked as an outsider. Although “man is by nature a social animal”, I begin to believe that I should live for myself as a strong individual. (Aristotle, 2000: 27). A life depending upon other people’s judgments is eventually fragile and empty because if others do not exist, there is no “self”; if the environment changes and new others appear, there will be endless efforts to permanently satisfy them, so what is left to the self? Probably nothing.

Realistically, this is the reason why the current me, the adult, is pulling myself back from socialization and becoming more independent, and facing the uncertainty of my choice. I am still reconciling this struggle with myself, but I am growing as well.

And then what…? Just live.

Works cited

Freire, Paulo, Myra Bergman Ramos, and Donald Macedo. 2014. “Pedagogy of the Oppressed Thirtieth anniversary edition”. New York: Bloomsbury. 71.

Aristotle. 2000. “Politics”. Dover Publications. 27.

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Postscript: I want to thank my father and mother for their years’ diligent work and effort to make me who I am today. I just want to be better so that I can return your love one day.

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Class, this semester we will write. We will use language to cultivate real VALUABLE KNOWLEDGE. We will share that knowledge with each other to build a working learning COMMUNITY.

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Hou Zikang

Hou Zikang

A sociology-major, philosophy-minor senior at USC.

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