Letter of Things They Carried

Dear Cal,

After reading the novel, “Things They Carried,” by Tim O’brien, I began contemplating upon the things I’ve carried through my journey.

Though incomparable to the daring adventure during the Vietnam War of a sanguinary soldier narrated by O’brien, I would say that my story is as interesting with poise.

There are many things that I have carried throughout my life; the fear of surviving a 17-hour long surgery as a seven year old, the fear of the student strike that spread epidemically throughout Indonesia in 1997, the fear of being unloved by my parents, the fear of being rejected by an elite high school that I have dartingly willed to go, the burden of carrying the family’s secret, and so much more.

All of the mentioned were turning points of my life that has mold me into what I am right now, and all of the mentioned are worth depicting with pages and pages of writing. However, of all the fragilities and instabilities and pain I have carried in my book bag of life, it is the shame and regrets of my reactions to these incidents– it is that that encumbers me the most.

Happenings that have only touched me physically are trivial. The student strikes and the forever long surgery was indeed a pain in the ass and did provide me thrills, but I’m a strong girl Cal.

Rather it was the incidences that were provoked by me or made me feel loss of my basic necessities, of love of family and support, the reaction to such incidents that scared me then and still burdens me now. I would not like to mention the specific circumstances and I much rather not narrate the story to you again in this very letter, I take that you have heard enough; the bottom line is that it did do much harm to me. Rather, the harm the situation itself gave me was much less than the consequences and shame that my reaction have bestowed me. The unwillingness to accept failures, the stubbornness to deny, and to give up on everything else merely to maintain a little girl’s petty pride; blithely unknowing that one girls futile rebellion against the world will change anything but build up speculation and break down trust and opportunities.

It’s only now that I digest the quote, “changes are inevitable [whether for good or worse], but growth is optional.” Due to my stubbornness, and my will to sternly blame the system for my failure, I’ve paid the debt that may alter my life forever. But I will not allow this cycle to continue.

Though my immediate reactions to these events were naïve, I would like to believe that my naivety were stepping stones to my greater learning and epiphany. Now, I have replaced my pills with paint brushes and swayed the canvas as my great advocate.

I’ve found tranquility in painting, and I hope to spread this anodyne among others who may share my same burden. With this Cal, I share with you, my greatest burden, a burden that has been hard for me to accept, and my flaw that have led to it. With all generosity, I hope you can keep this confidential.

Your patient in healing,

Tina Hsu


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