December 3, 2015
Back in the fall of 2004, I was 24 years old, living with my parents in a quiet apartment a few miles from the biggest downtown subway station. I had a job writing programs for a Japanese software company that was translating their original system for Chinese market and doing outsourcing services well known as cheap and high quality work. I remember getting off the crowded last train after working overtime and walking along a long underground passage. I stood there feeling the air fill my body little by little like clothes released from a vacuum storage bag as I waited for the crowd to move away from me. The passageway was dim and cold. Its only gift that early winter night was a heavy, freezing rain.
As I stood there in the empty underground tunnel, I slowly stepped towards the exit and as I did a soft crisp melody of guitar came into my ears. When I followed the sound, I found a skinny-tall young boy sitting on the concrete floor, crossing his legs loosely, back to the wall, holding a wooden guitar in his arms. The beautiful sound was flying out from his slim fingers. He bent his head and a long fringe of hair covered most of his face, flopping over his nose. From the curtain of hair, I could recognize that he had pale white skin and nice-shaped face with a pointy chin. Looking at his face, I guessed he might come from southern China which was far away from there, Beijing.
It was at midnight at the end of October; it was cold and I knew the street guitar players only worked in the crowded area during the daytime. I remember stopping before him and listening to his song – “Find Yourself” (by Brad Paisley). That was one of my favorites. His voice was low and deep, despite his young age. I stood there listening: “When you find yourself / In some far off place / And it causes you / To rethink some things . . .”
It was not a song for gaining a valuable award in a competition; and it was not the bright, dramatic song for showing off a singer’s vocal technique. This young boy singing this song here, at midnight, was not for money, or applause. He was singing for himself. Maybe he came to this big city alone tracing his dream, looking for more opportunities. Even though he looked younger, he might have experienced many more difficulties than me. He might not have a place for living; he might not have enough money for eating; but he looked calm and he looked satisfied. That was incredible. He was different from me, or most of us. I thought the reason was that he had found himself— he knew what he wanted to do and what he was doing.
After that day, I told myself, my family, my friends and colleagues that I would become a traveller, who would go to other countries and study something new from the outside world. And someday in the future, I would become a small ribbon connecting different parts of the world and help people to get to know each other more and more.
I was glad that I met that singer at a night when I was young; he turned on a lantern in my life. During these years, I’ve been on the way looking for myself and beauties in my life. Today, I can finally understand those words: “sometimes when you lose your way / It's really just as well (from “Find Yourself”).”