Le Thuy Hang Dang, 1st Place
12th Grade

The Bay Bridge connects San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island to Oakland. It is an important aspect to the Bay Area, since it is the main route to get around. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake had a major toll on residents and the area around it. It caused major traffic jams, because now people had to find another way to get to where they needed to go. And now, since they are reconstructing it to make it safer, people are even more irritated because it’s become more of a hassle. In the Bay Area, the bridges are crucial to peoples’ lives, which is why they’re spending millions and millions of dollars on the eastern span. Without the bridge, it would be harder to commute to the places we want to go.

Just as physical bridges are important, so are emotional ones. I came to America from Hong Kong in 1996, but quickly assimilated to the culture of this country. As a consequence, I slowly started to forget mine. Coming from a family that was very Vietnamese-orientated, it was hard to communicate with my father. He would get so frustrated with me because I would often forget how to say the simplest words. The language barrier between us two felt like a broken bridge, one that was quickly deteriorating. It was hard for my father to adjust to the new country, especially with my mother leaving after just a couple months of arriving here.

As I was growing up, I didn’t have it as easy as people thought I did. My teenage years consisted of me crying in my room almost every day, and thinking to myself, “Why me?”. My mother left our family to find happiness in another man, and another family. For many years, I was taught to hate every aspect of her. And why wouldn’t I? She left us. She wasn’t there when I had “girl” problems, and I couldn’t confide in anyone else because I was the only girl in the family. But as I started to think about the idea of despising, I soon realized that I didn’t hate her at all, because in order to hate someone you’d know and love them first.

My dad abused alcohol as much as he abused me throughout my adolescence, and the scars he left in our relationship grew deeper as the years went by. My father was tormented by my mother’s absence, he couldn’t stand the fact she had left us for another family. He never realized what he was doing to his body, or what he was doing to his family. He was too drunk. My father was supposed to be the bridge of our family, the one that holds us when we’re struggling, but instead he was like the earthquake that broke everything. And now, I had to be my own bridge.

Realizing that I could no longer be a dependant on my dad really took a toll on me, like the fee that you have pay when you cross the bridge. My personality had changed, and so did my relationships towards my friends. In the midst of all things, one friend lent out their hand, as an act of kindness towards me. He guided me to a new bridge, and told me that I didn’t need anyone else to be responsible for my own happiness; I needed to make myself happy. That one conversation changed everything. Slowly, I started to piece everything that had broken in my life, and try to amend my friendships. When my friends started trusting me again, they leaned on my shoulder for advice when they were in trouble. I felt great that they trusted me with their problems and struggles, and wanted me to help them out. It felt even more great that they complimented my advice skills, and said that I was great at not over-sympathizing too much, but being blunt enough at the situation. After helping so many of my friends out, I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up, a psychologist. A person with the training and skill to help others through difficult emotional times. I love being the person who lends out their hand, and having people take it. Even though I don’t always understand their situation, given the relationship with my father, I can empathize with them. I can be the bridge to their pain, helping them cross over to the safe side. So when I enter college, I plan to take courses that will me achieve my career goal.

Coming from an Asian background, my father always expected me to do more with my life. He wanted me to come home with straight A’s and be the top student. When I wasn’t, he would yell and yell at me until I got it through my head to be the top of my game. I couldn’t always meet his expectations, and that would disappoint me. But after much thought, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing anything for myself, I did it all for him. After telling my dad I wanted to become a psychologist when I grew up, he kept asking me why, why didn’t I want to do more with my life than just work with “crazy” people. I told him I loved studying the mind, seeing how people think and giving reassurance to people who were uneasy and unstable with their life. He still didn’t understand, and disagreed with me telling me that I wouldn’t make a difference. But recently, during a boring car ride he told me, “You know, I’ll support you on what ever you want to do with your life. You don’t have to be a doctor or anything, I just want you to love your job.” This made me feel very enthusiastic about my future, knowing that I had my father’s support on my decision to do what I loved. I was starting to think that this disconnected bridge between us was starting to mend itself together again. And maybe not now, but in the future ahead, it will be healed completely. Maybe they’ll be a few cracks on the bridge, but no bridge is perfect, just like any relationship.