My family has a tradition of giving words instead of material gifts for special occasions.

This year I received three sets:

坚强, jianqiang. Which means to stay strong.
坚持, jianchi. Which means to persevere and to persist. 
坚信, jianxin. Which means to believe.

This past December, I made the choice to move away from my parents in Florida and back to my home state of Arizona so I could finish high school with my friends. My mother wanted to see me persist and work on my consistency. She wanted me to stay strong while I was living alone. At the same time, she wanted me to stay true to myself and to believe in myself.

When I graduated, she asked me which I felt I had succeeded most in. I answered “jianxin” because I felt I had disappointed her in my consistency and strength. The least I could do was to stay unapologetic and faithful to who I am.

She said, “Jianqiang, because you have proven yourself to be stronger than any of us ever hoped or expected.”

I got these words as a reminder to always be strong, always endure, and always remember who I am.


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