The Lake

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My mother is a refugee from Cambodia who witnessed the murder of her father by the Khmer Rouge at age 2. Her response to her trauma was to put pressure on her kids to be the best. Growing up I remember writing out the ABC’s hundreds of times a night until my mom was sure that they were perfect and reciting multiplication in the car while all my friends played in the school yard. I even moved a log up and down my backyard with my siblings on hot summer days, because my mom wanted us to be physically perfect too.

Then my brother started rebelling. The more he disappointed them, the more pressure to not disappoint was put on me. I was expected to take the role of the golden child and my fears of disappointing forced me to strive for perfection.

One summer while visiting Alta, Utah, I was on a hike to secret lake. As I climbed the rocky terrain with my mom, my mind was racing for reasons to stop climbing. Maybe, I could tell her that I was getting a migraine due to altitude sickness, but I ignored my pounding temples and lungs, pushing forward. Finally, we reached our destination. The lake was peaceful and still. Though people played in the water, it looked almost untouched. The incident was so surreal that I felt compelled to take...

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