I come from a web: a complex expanse woven into one. I come from asphalt and concrete: durable yet downtrodden. I come from the onramps, underpasses, and carpool lanes that make southern California’s freeway system.
These highways are my constant companion, the site of my passages and pilgrimages. I was born in Los Angeles in the late nineties, near the Mel’s Diner where the 105 caresses the 1 and the highways all converge in Boyle Heights. These same highways whisked me one hour south as my family moved from our Woodland Hills home to a new one in Irvine, carried me to figure skating practice in Aliso Viejo at four AM every morning, transported me to volleyball games in Huntington Beach and Westminster, and now move me to debate tournament after debate tournament.
These highways are how I explore. They’re where I stare out the window into Little Saigon, the beach houses along Pacific Coast Highway, and the cookie cutter beige of Orange County suburbs. However, no matter how different the atmosphere is in each city or town or place, the shops and streets and sidewalks all blend together in a blur as engines, sirens, and brakes fade into the background.
The roads bind us together no matter where we come from, and it’s curious that we can each be unique and individual yet have universal unifying factors: not just the freeway system we utilize, but also our reliance on the Earth to provide sustenance, and our existence as life forms with cognition and emotion.
This makes me wonder: if the landscape changes as the freeway takes me south to Mexico, east to Palm Springs, and north to Sacramento, why haven’t I considered how different life would be if I’d grown up just a few hours away from where I did? How does location – social or geographic – affect a person’s perspective?
After all, it’s difficult and incorrect to come to conclusions on controversial issues or stand for certain viewpoints when we don’t know, or even make the effort to know, all sides of the story. We end up slandering others’ stories, misinterpreting their meaning, and belittling their beliefs.
Therefore, I aspire to be the freeways – a web, a convergence of intertwined narratives, dynamic, fluid, evolving, like contemporary diasporic movements and transnational traditions, gender and sexual identity, transformative social change, and activism, always questioning what we know and how we know it, always challenging and uncovering how universal truths that shaped our understanding of the world hundreds of years ago still live on in structures that shape our world today.
Originally written in response to UC prompt #1: “Describe the world you come from—for example, your family, community or school—and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.”