OBFF1(Who am I? + My Childhood)

Every autobiography starts in the same way. After the little introduction, you have to summarize who you are and what you’ve accomplished in your life before you go through and describe what your life was like growing up. The summary is always nice to read so you can get a quick tldr about whether or not you care enough to keep reading through an oftentimes lengthy work in order to get insights on the dude (or dudette) who wrote the stupid book. Like if you’re reading about an athlete, do you really care enough about them outside of whatever accomplishments they achieved in their sport? If not, you probably got assigned the book to read, or maybe you’re bored out of your mind and the wifi’s not working. Whatever the case, even someone that could do something worthwhile enough to be written about is unlikely to have their book read.

So as to not set you up for disappointment, as I mentioned in the introduction, I haven’t had too interesting a life, nor do I believe I will lead one in the future. I’m a Chinese American from San Francisco, and I spent the first 12ish years living in SF’s Chinatown, before moving to a different neighborhood in the same city. I speak English and Cantonese Chinese fluently, and can kind of speak Mandarin Chinese if you give me like 20 seconds to try and work around my pretty limited vocabulary. My parents are both immigrants from Guangdong Province in China, the area most of SF’s Chinese immigrants originated. I have a younger brother who was born a year after me. I’m a philosophy major and am passionate about Literature and Ethics. In my free time, I play video games or read.

My childhood wasn’t super traumatic nor was it super idyllic. Before attending middle school, which I’ll talk about later on, I went to an elementary school in the Marina district. The only thing that you need to know about this is that it had a good number of white people in it which sharply contrasted with being surrounded by Chinese culture in Chinatown. When I was at home I spoke Chinese, when I was at school I spoke English.

Like many Asian immigrants, my parents wanted me to develop skills in order to succeed in white people school. I remember having to recite the multiplication table until my dad fell asleep. Eventually, my brother and I were way more advanced than most of our peers in class. My mom took me to the public library every Saturday for story-time, to which I attribute my aptitude in reading and writing. This Chinese librarian would just read a picture book to a group of toddlers, before I would spend 4 or 5 hours reading other books or having my mom read them to me in somewhat broken English. I won the spelling bee at my school because of all the time I spent reading. I loved reading so much I remember I’d bring a book with me every time I took a shit on the toilet. That fact was encouraged by my parents, and proudly brought up to everyone they talked to. In hindsight, probably not the most hygienic way to consume literature, especially not with the same grubby fingers that would need to wipe poop after turning the pages.

As a kid, I was obsessed with Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I’d read fanfiction of both series until much later in life, up until almost 10th grade. That’s super embarrassing to mention, but I think that it taught me some pretty valuable lessons, like the fact that the average Harry Potter fanfiction writer lacks essential knowledge about the average size of the human penis (apparently 18 inch dragon cocks are pretty common at Hogwarts) and that EVERYONE thought Draco Malfoy was the most attractive fictional wizard that had ever lived.

I also watched anime. At the time, I didn’t know the difference between cartoons and anime, so anything animated was the same to me. Watching Pokemon on pirate sites at age 7 taught me that if I wanted to understand what they were saying, I should watch the one marked dubbed not subbed. Part of choosing to watch anime in the first place was out of my control regardless. My parents didn’t want to pay for cable, so Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon were out of the question. I watched PBS and CW4Kids. (public educational content and the sole licensee of the few anime that kids were able to watch in the US. )

Because of these factors, I was a pretty nerdy kid, who enjoyed playing with Bakugan and Yugioh cards. At that age though, people didn’t really care what you enjoyed. Most kids were still trying to stick it in their heads that digging into their snotty noses to look for buried booger treasure wasn’t socially acceptable to bully me for what tv shows I liked.

For my classmates, I was just a smart kid who they played kickball with. I made fast friends with others and had a lot of fun everyday, reading and enjoying the carefree schooldays of the typical child. Social constructs like race and the constraints that difficult financial situations brought didn’t even occur in our pea sized brains. What a time it was!




Philosophy Student at UCSB. I write about random things that interest me. Currently working on Other Birds Fly Further, a sort of autobiography.

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Steven Chow

Steven Chow

Philosophy Student at UCSB. I write about random things that interest me. Currently working on Other Birds Fly Further, a sort of autobiography.

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