When I was eight years old, I fell in love.
It was not the typical kind of love confessed on the school playground, where partners were broken up and reunited constantly my love, at first sight, has accompanied me to this day. It was not even love between people. It was the love for calligraphy.
Having grown up in the 21st century, where life can be simplified to a collision of technological advances, I have been known for my inability to write an essay without using spellcheck and the autocorrect function like many other Millennials. All generations that came before us laugh at how infrequently we have held a pen. Yet all their laughter would subside with a few strokes of my brush pen on paper. Their transition from mockery to awe is one of my proudest achievements.
I had my first glance at western calligraphy on September 21st, 2010–my first day at a public elementary school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Having just moved to the United States with my parents from mainland China, I was completely lost during my English lesson. I understood nothing. I slouched on my desk, my chin resting on my folded arms, with my eyes darting from one corner of the classroom to another. I took in the French windows on the other side of the classroom, a map of all fifty states, before focusing in on a long strip of paper, encircling three sides of the wall.
Thin, slanted writing was printed on it, barely recognizable in their many loops, but I still managed to work out that it was the Latin alphabet. It looked foreign to me, like everything else in my surroundings yet I adored its thin upward strokes, barely visible, almost like a gentle kiss lightly brushed against the lips. They made up a love letter in my innocent eyes.
It was not until much later that I had found out the writing I had fallen in love with was the cursive font–later than I had learned to write cursive. I had picked up cursive faster than I had picked up the English language, for I would spend every spare moment practicing it ever since I had seen it. Sometimes I did not even have a pen or a notebook with me, so I would use my fingers to trace out their shapes on any surface I could find. During my first few months in the United States, the Latin alphabet written in cursive was the only comprehensible element in my otherwise confusing and unfamiliar new life. I clung to it as though it was my last straw of hope.
My parents were initially not very supportive of my devotion. They insisted that I should have spent more time on making new friends and less time huddling in corners, scribbling cursive letters away in my notebooks. Yet my scribbling away somehow brought attention to my lonesome lunch table one day. It started with one girl saying to me, “Your writing looks so nice. Can you write my name for me?” before no less than 10 kids formed a circle around me, all asking me to write their names for them. My passion had helped me navigate through barriers I thought impenetrable and brought a new light into my life–it helped me to reach people I didn’t even know how to approach.
Over the 10+ years since the first day I encountered my love and this, I have picked up many new hobbies and cherished many other delights. However, my love for calligraphy and especially cursive writing will always hold a unique spot in my heart. Over the years, calligraphy has continued to serve as my connection to the world. It has added cherries on top of countless birthday cards and gift parcels I have written. It has shown many grownups, who consider Millennials incapable of demonstrating any talents unrelated to technology, a different side of youngsters today. And, most importantly, it has served as a testament to the deepest and longest fondness I have ever formed with anything.