JEANNI HWANG, TD ’14
I thrive in solitude. I loved independence. I’d convinced myself I was a natural at serene self-assurance. Like a swan.
Often when I’m puzzled about where certain traits of mine come from, I just need to look back a bit. I grew up learning to handle most things myself. My parents never asked me if I had finished my homework before going to bed, if I had documents for them to sign that permitted me to watch PG-13 clips of films in class, which flight I booked online before I booked them.
But I’ve come to realize recently:
I love being taken care of. Is that a paradox? I’ve pinpointed my greatest joys in life: being my parents’ precious daughter. My burly brother’s protected sister. One man’s cherished girlfriend. The child of a sovereign God.
I felt so much joy one night this semester while I was vomiting from nausea and carrying a strange residue of loneliness in my throat all the while. I feel this way when I’m a sick undergraduate swiping out a diet Sierra Mist from Durfee’s when it used to be Mother beside me feeding me Coca-Cola without phenylketonurics. But this joy came when my old roommate came knocking on the door of my single room and I immediately assumed the role of child as I clung around her neck and weeped like a 5-year-old. When she asked me if I wanted her to lie with me in bed and I sheepishly nodded between my sniffles. When our friend came and stood over my bed forcing an ugly brown powerade–because he didn’t know if I’d preferred the blue or the red–down my throat. The two–tall, strong, healthy–ran out to bring me food and medicine and bickered over which to feed me first. She chastised him for having brought me processed carbohydrates.
“I feel lonely” I mumbled under the covers.
How I reveled in these words. And as she wrote her essay in DUH, my roommate brought up the point of how people automatically assume the role of patient for the doctor in the hospital. Yes…what joy did I find in bubbling simplistic symptoms–throwup, fever, stomachache–to the man in the white coat, revealing scientific ignorance in order to be taken care of? The joy of submission?
Submission. It is the word to shudder at, especially here, where we want to be durable, inextinguishable. There is complexity in the definition of submission that goes far, far beyond all-encompassing inferiority and repression of knowledge and ability. But here I reflect on what I observe in my strength…
Often what I see in my nature is cool dismissal of, and sometimes defensiveness against, dependence. What I see even more clearly in my nature now are the times when I want to–when I need to–rest peacefully in humility, in knowledge and power that doesn’t belong to me.