Fight or Flight
by Wenshi Chen
The engine kept running but there was dead silence in the car. Mr. H, one of my dad’s close friends, was driving me, my mom, and my dad to the airport. No one spoke a word, not even my dad, who used to be chatty. Moving my eyes away from the foggy window, I checked my phone, impatiently turning it on and off over and over again. as if waiting for some message to show. Nothing was there; just the same plain old black screen reflecting the tiny silver from the light, Deep behind the phone screen, staring me back down, was my own reflection. I put my phone carefully away and secured it in my purse. The disobedient phone case still bumped against my keychain, making a loud clicking sound. Mom shoots a sharp look in my direction. Although it shouldn’t be that disturbing, it still brought my mom back to reality with her shooting a sharp look toward my direction. Frowning, I returned to stare out the window and I let myself sink within my deep pool of thoughts.
It was a Friday. I continued to start blankly outside of the car window feeling lost. Nothing was extraordinary that day. The sky was turning twilight grey; birds were chirping on the nearest tree branch, kids were running down the street laughing. Everything felt normal that day, except for the uneasy feeling that started to settle in my chest.
“You’re going to America?” Asked my childhood best friend, Hong, her wide eyes blinking with childish naivety.
Hesitantly, I nodded, nervously picking at my nails to see how she’ll react.
It was a week before that Friday, and we were at school during recess, swinging on the monkey bars by the schoolyard. The autumn wind kissed our flushed cheeks as it gently flew by, leaving us a sense of calmness and peace. I looked up at the sky and saw a single golden leaf pirouetted down with an invisible spiral of breeze, spinning through the air as it let itself be carried down into the freedom of roaming. Reaching up, I caught it with my hands and let it sit inside the warmth of my palms. It was indeed the strangest autumn out of my mind, and I wondered how many years would I be able to feel the gracefulness of this autumn breeze again.
Silence draped over us. Just as my disappointment started to take over as my hope fades, Hong broke the silence, “For real?”
Although she was trying very hard to hide her emotions, her voice still cracked as she pronounced the last word. I looked at her, trying to figure out her thoughts. Her expression was unreadable, those tinted pink lips pressed tightly together into a thin line, and her bright eyes were threatening to tears.
I nodded again, this time more certainly. Hong carefully studied me for a while, and the silence was back, but this time is more comfortable.
Then the silence was broken once again by Hong: “Do you want to?” She said it so seriously that I thought she was pledging. I shrugged, avoiding her intense gaze and concentrating on the pattern of the golden leaf that lay inside my palm.
Do I? Her question buzzed in my head, causing my brain to hurt. No, I don’t have an answer. My parents wanted me to go because my dad’s family had already settled in America, and going there will fulfill his family’s unity. But do I really want to leave everything behind? Am I ready to go to a whole foreign country and start a new chapter? Fear began to burst inside me, swallowing my consciousness. I tried to push it out, but it took root inside my heart that was refused to be yanked up and tossed away. I felt like I’ve been dropped into a cold lake, where I’m about to be drowned and lose everything I loved: my home, my friends, my family, and everything I’m familiar with in this country where I was born and nourished. This is my home, my beloved country that I spent eleven years of my life with, and without it, I’m afraid.
“Trust me. It’ll be great!” Said Hong, as she tried to wrap herself up and cover her sadness.
Startled, I looked up as she pulled me back into the cruel reality. I searched her face, expecting to see the fake cheerfulness she tried to cover up with, but instead, her smile was all of honesty and sincerity, so pure like an angel that had fallen from heaven.
“Don’t you always want to go?” She continued, “You’ll learn more about the world and have more opportunities! Plus, you’ve always been a fan of those Ivy Leagues.”
“Yeah…but….” I mumbled as words died in my throat. For the first time in my life, I faced a decision that I was unable to make. Hong was right, I yearned for America’s education and hoped to see another part of the world, but that means I need to abandon everything I have and start fresh. The conflicting choices confused me, and the unclarity of the future terrified me.
I nodded, not quite sure what she meant, but I never get the chance to ask her.
Sensing my frustration, Hong suddenly took hold of my hands, looking straight into my eyes, and said, “Promise me you will follow your heart and choose what you won’t regret.”
Outside of the car, a large pillow of darkish clouds started coiling in the sky, blotting out the old-gold color of the sun. It began as a whispering in the air, then the soft, sodden, and swollen drops of moisture fell from the sky of grey velvet. Some steadily landed on the car window, joining the melody as the drops faded into a musical chime. But the inside of my heart ached, and my vision started to blur as the anxiety got more unbearable with every second that I could no longer deny. Half of me wanted badly to jump and take over the wheel to go back home. I clenched my purse, knuckles turning white as I tried not to scream at the top of my lungs. I squeezed my eyes tight, thinking about Hong’s words while trying to calm myself down. Follow your heart, I told myself, and don’t regret it.
I took a deep breath, searching for my answer in the darkness. Just as I was about to give up, the lightning struck, awakening every cell of my body. Suddenly, I realized what I truly want and what pulled me back. It was the challenge that I needed to face, and it was the consternation that I needed to fight. The path was already lying straight ahead of me, but I’ve been blinded by fear and uncertainty. Why? It is only a matter of fight or flight that entered through my brain, and the answer was clear. For once, I’m not going to let the worry take over my decision, and I’m going to decide the future that I want. Laughing softly, I mocked at my foolishness and dragged myself out of the incertitude.
Slowly, the silver-grey Volvo finally pulled into a stop at the airport, signaling our time for departure. It was time to say goodbye. I watched quietly as my parents bid goodbye to Mr.He; their eyes were wet with tears. Turning, we made our way into the airport.
It was eight in the morning, the rain had stopped, and the sun illuminated the blue sky to a radiant gold. Admiring the view, I was unequivocally confident that I have made the right choice.
“You ready?” Asked my dad before we stepped onto the plane.
“Of course!” I answered him undoubtedly.
Smiling to myself, I held my head high as I marched down the aisle.
Growing up, I was deeply attracted to writing, especially when it came to creative writing. My goal has always been to form inspiring ideas that can spread awareness and contribute to society. At school, as a junior, I actively participate as vice president of the Student Government Association and president of the Social Media Club. I enjoy Speech and Debate and French Honor Society, and I play the violin in the school’s Symphony Orchestra as well as serve as the representative of Tri-M. Outside of class, I explore my interest in various fields, including international relations, marketing and journalism.
What motivated you to write this piece?
Seven years ago, I wrote this piece in my diary, documenting my conflict before I arrived in the U.S. It was in a raw and authentic form, where the sense of anticipation was mixed with uncertainty and fear by a ten-year-old. Within the lines were my ambivalent feelings as I struggled to decide, choosing between a path that was laid down for me and a road that was not taken. At that time, the future seemed unclear to me, and it bears fear as I was anxious to take the next step. Seven years later, as I flipped through the yellow faded diary pages, I came across this chapter, and at that moment, memories flashed through my brain like a movie. The ink has gradually faded with time on paper, yet the emotions it conveyed were so strong and fresh as if it had just happened yesterday, bringing me back to the past. With the sudden surge of inspiration, I sat down at my desk, diary still gripped on my hand, and started flying my fingers across the keyboard—” Fight or Flight.”
Recalling what I remembered from the past and connecting it with the emotion in my diary, I was able to preserve this personal anecdote in the most well-rounded way that it perfectly represented me as a person and effectively communicated my feelings and experience with the readers. The seven-year gap didn’t stop me from writing this piece. Instead, it greatly motivated me to reflect on myself and better understand my standing. In the process of reviving the piece, I was able to reevaluate my actions and analyze the choices I made. Towards the end of the piece, the triumphant resolution ends on an optimistic note, signifying my personal breakthrough. And from what I believe, there’re never right or wrong choices, only those you’re following your heart with: those that leave no regrets.
How do you resonate with your piece? Why is it personal to you?
The piece “Fight or Flight” is about my breakthrough in making meaningful choices between familiarity and uncertainty on my life journey. It is significant to me personally as it was authentically made up of my personal experience, and it is part of the memories that I cherished.
What is your ideal writing environment?
For me, an ideal writing environment is any place where I’m present. Since different backgrounds can spark divergent writings, consistently staying at the exact location will only lose its meaning and freshness. As long as I have a pen and paper in hand, I believe miracles can happen anytime and anywhere.