Step 1: Collect the ingredients
On the Saturday before Chinese New Year, the kitchen counter is cleared of its usual cluttering of letters, cups, flowers, and brochures and replaced with flour, soy sauce, meat, celery, and spices. These are the telltale signs of dumpling making.
Step 2: Marinate the meat
The filling of the dumpling includes a mixture of different ingredients. I learned the importance of balance when I was in 7th grade. I had just transferred from a sixteen person private school to an 800 person public one, going from a school that was about 50% Asian to about 1%. I struggled with my identity, hiding my Chinese culture under a mask of normality. However, in my world history class, we started learning how each culture brings a particular perspective to the world. As I studied numerous different cultures, I slowly learned how to live as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and as an American citizen. I used my unique perspective, living at the edge of both cultures, to share my Chinese heritage with my peers. I opened myself to leading a balanced life—neither fully Chinese or American, but a little bit of both. Like the filling of a dumpling, balance is important in a fruitful life.
Step 3: Wrap the dumplings
The wrapper of the dumpling is the part that the world sees, but it is also the way a person sees the world. I have been privileged enough to travel around the globe, meeting people and learning about their cultures. I also have seen death and pain, and I recognize that they plague this world. When I traveled to New Mexico, I got to work with the Navajo and learn about their stories. I had the opportunity to talk to a lady in her late sixties. She had lost her son to a heart attack and her nephew to suicide a few months prior. Despite her struggles, she looked for the small blessings in life and remained hopeful. Her attitude encouraged me to do the same and look to the bright side of situations. Travel and knowledge have fueled a desire to help others around me. The wrapper of the dumpling is like the lenses someone wears when observing his surroundings. I have chosen to see others in a positive light.
Step 4: Boil or pan-fry?
Dumplings, like many Asian dishes, can be served different ways. The heated water necessary for boiling and the searing oil needed for frying represent the many different trials a person passes through. During my freshman year of high school, one of my closest friends started to shun me. I would pass every hurtful comment off as her response to puberty. I struggled alone for a long time, too ashamed of my weakness to cry for help. Cutting ties with her was hard; we had shared so many happy memories. The ordeal left me guarded. However, through taekwondo, I found my voice in teaching others, training them to respect and mentoring them through emotional trials that I could relate to. I also found strength in sharing my struggles, learning that weakness can be catalyzed into strength. Every trial and every triumph leave marks just like oil leaves a brownish burn on the dumplings and water leaves wrinkles.
Step 5: Share and enjoy!
Every dumpling is unique and so is every person. I am a dumpling that is still in the making. My experiences have added to my filling, fostering a heart for service and a mind open to new possibilities. They have shaped my wrapper, adjusting the lenses through which I see the world. My journey continues as I look down a new road, one that forks and turns with every decision. While the unknown may lead to fear, my previous struggles with balance and transition have taught me to embrace new challenges and allow them to shape me into a better, more flavorful dumpling.