"rubix cube"

creative nonfiction

Recognized by Scholastic with National Silver Medal

                                                                      I. Asian
                                                                 and American.
                                                       hamburgers, Starbucks lattes
                                                 longevity noodles, brush calligraphy.
                                        From a young age, I’ve led a double life, divided
                           by the languages and customs and mindsets that live inside me, 
            demarcated by the line between school and home, a stark contrast that held apart
   enthusiastic, valley-girl English and emphatic Chinese, rolling aggressively off tongues that 
II. curled around test scores and college, weaving fabrics of ancient Chinese axioms instead of III. 
Writer   jingling and rattling about pop songs and celebrity drama and who’s dating whom.  Adult
and scientist.           Too soon, however, the two worlds amalgamated, my stringy               and child.
the flutter of fingers            black hair and double-slit eyes becoming                 superhero movies, my
against a keyboard, the growth       features of my reputation in my all-         secret diaries about plans
of sentences like vines across a blank     white middle school.         to take over the world, teddy bears,
page, the emergence of worlds made of words.   Pain.                and Kiss and Hug, and birthday parties.
the robotic movement of a rubber-gloved hand,             Eight-hour workdays, resume writing, scheduling
the materialization of lines of logic-gate code,          every minute. Writing professional emails, analyzing
the fizz of chemicals reacting in glass beakers.          my life compared to the normal curve of others my
Writing was my first companion, by my side                 age, jumping through hoops to check off boxes, to
since elementary school, but science came into      meet societal expectations. Birthdays were no longer
the equation when I started doing research in a        cake fests, but rather milestones for becoming more
lab. Here, story gave way to statistic, instinct to       adult. My mind a battlefield, I hosted the clash of free
protocol. I split my time down the middle, trying          imagination and structured logic, of youth’s naivety
to compartmentalize research and writing so that    and old age’s caution. The line that separates mature
they would never infect each other with each of     from immature blurred in battle, and eventually melted
their respective sins: deficiency in creativity and      into a paradox of perception and objective definition.
       lack of quantitative analysis. At school, my       They tell us we need to know what we want to
               science teacher grilled the obscurity of      do with our lives, and yet they don’t let
                          the arts, and my english teacher      us vote on what our country needs
                                          scoffed at the stifling          to do with its policies. This
                                                    structure of the         is the conundrum of
                                                             scientific       the in-between, 
                                                                 method.   teenagehood.


There are 3 pairs of opposite sides on a rubix cube. When you see one color, you can never see the color opposite to it, unless the cube is scrambled.

  1. Here are algorithms to solve your cube with:

    1. Your parents tell you that you will always be Asian. Your friends tell you that you are white on the inside, a twinkie, a banana. Choose who you listen to.

    2. Your counselor tells that you science and writing are two different career paths, that you can only pursue one or the other. Make a decision.

    3. The law tells you before 18 years has passed since your birthday, you are a child, and after 18 years has passed, you are an adult. Run the calculations.

  2. Solve for YOU.

  3. Wonder about the sides you have decided to hide.

  4. Ask yourself why you must follow the conventional algorithms.


How a rubix cube is supposed to work: You start from a scrambled one, or you start from a solved one and scramble it up. You raise the stakes, set a timer. You’ve successfully created intrigue, pulled your reader into the world of problems and questions to be solved: questions about the meaning of life, of the nature of the universe, of humanity and humaneness and the human dilemma. And you solve them using the conventional algorithms: the villain dies, the protagonist grows into a better person, the story is folded neatly into a moral, and there is now a solid color on each side of the cube. 

But sometimes we don't follow conventional algorithms or forms. Sometimes we can’t, won’t, don’t solve the rubix cube. 

       5. Let it continue shuffling through different configurations forever, becuase that is YOU.