You traveled 'cross an ocean
You flew across the sea
You left all that you knew
For a place you'd never seen
You saved your hopes and wishes
Postponed your wildest dreams
To give them to your children
And pass them on to me
But the sands of time keep moving
The world still carries on
And the things you took for granted
Might not last long at all
I'll remember all you taught me
And the stories that you've told
They're buried deep inside me
The soil from which I grow
But I am still a dreamer
I'm making my own way
Life was never meant
To be watched from a golden cage
I'll wander and I'll wonder
As I seek the unmarked road
And find the path that's calling
The road that takes me home

I can’t remember a time before expectations. I was always the one to carry on the legacy of my mother and grandmother – strong, courageous, and wise women who made their own paths. They each wrote their own story in a world that asked them to be daughters, wives, and mothers first.

I was supposed to go to an Ivy League medical school, become a successful dermatologist with easy work-life balance, and an excellent homemaker who also lived near my family. I was never supposed to do anything risky or dangerous.

Life was never meant // to be watched from a golden cage

Even today, half a decade and several interstate moves after my college graduation, I don’t tell my parents that I go running alone because it’s risky. Too much could happen.

I can’t help my inheritance, though. The women who raised me crossed borders and oceans, chasing a vision of what their (and their family’s) lives could eventually be. They taught me to ask critical questions, to feed my friends, and to gather community. It is their stories and strength that I draw on as I navigate Silicon Valley, often as the only woman in the room.

The questions haven’t gone away, though.

“為什麼你住這麼遠?” (Why do you live so far away?)

“你為什麼不去醫學院?” (Why aren’t you in medical school?)

“你為什麼不上博士?” (Why aren’t you getting a PhD?)

I wrote this song two years ago, hoping that by now, I would have some kind of resolution – that the questions would stop being hard to answer, and that the guilt tripping would go away.

A lot has changed. I’m more articulate about my decisions and the rationale behind them. I’m more confident in my ability to navigate whatever comes, and that I can respectfully disagree with my family. That is, I know how to disagree when I’m not face-to-face with them.

A lot has not changed. My boundaries are still constructed by geographic distance and carefully managed phone calls. Phone calls still end in tears, mostly mine, with hastily contrived endings to save face.

I’ve made peace with the tenuous understanding that we have. I’m scared of imagining a relationship with my family that’s not fraught with shame and misunderstandings. When I hope for a vision of family and home where I can relax and be fully myself, every veiled judgement and pointed question stings infinitely more. So, I cope in the world of revised expectations. I wait. I wait for the day when I am ready to hope again, and dream of bringing my family with me as I explore…

...the path that’s calling // The road that takes me home

A two lane road stretching into a forest
PC: Adrian on Unsplash


  • Violet Lee is part of the 2nd generation Chinese diaspora, and she is a massive nerd at heart. She can often be found drinking coffee, reading programming textbooks and liberation theology, and hosting dinner parties.