If you asked me who or what I admired, or looked up to, or idolized, what would you picture my answer would be? Did you think it would be an animal?

I’m someone who admires a lot of things. I look up to my parents, for being successful people in this world, even though English is my mother’s second language and my father grew up in Hong Kong, far away from here.

There are my teachers, who breathe life into a boring curriculum. There are my friends, who have been by my side through ups and downs, rain and shine. They ignite my inner flame when it’s close to burning out. They are people I’ll protect no matter what.

But there’s something that I will always look to for guidance when I am standing at a fork in the road of my life.

It’s birds.

Birds are something that I’ve adored ever since I could remember. Chasing after those rock pigeons on the sidewalk of the city, to quietly observing that rare prothonotary warbler singing in the canopy, to providing a home for a house wren that was searching for somewhere to build his nest.

Birds have been underestimated, it can be found in our history. Something useless is “for the birds”. A bad politician is a “lame duck”. “Lay an egg” is to flunk a performance. “Bird brain” is a term for a stupid person. But if you watch them closely enough, birds are fascinating and magnificent creatures that we can learn a lot from.

Take the chickadee, for example, a charming black-and-white bird that’s very common throughout the Eastern United States. They’re not ferocious or a doormat. No, chickadees are respected birds. They settle conflicts using body language and communication. There are rarely fights among chickadees because these tiny songbirds have the humility and grace to surrender. Who welcomes the migrant warblers when they arrive in the spring? Chickadees. Even to humans, they are polite, letting us know that you are in their way with their chicka-dee-dee call. It’s not just them. There are other birds too.

Like the swallow, never going the direction you think it will in flight. It taught me that you don’t always have to follow the path people think you will. Cardinals, who engage in a feeding ritual with their mates, taught me how to be faithful to my loved ones. Hawks, whose success rate in a hunt is only 27%, taught me to not give up, even in the challenges of my life, like losing a loved one. I’ve learned that there is a lesson in everything, you just have to look for it.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about birds is their songs. How, when you step outside, you can hear a whole orchestra of trills and whistles and notes of all pitches. It’s the same in life. Universe means “one song”, uni meaning “one”, verse meaning “song”, and each of us has some part to play in this song, like each bird’s song to that chorus you hear outside.

So why stereotype people like me? Why the hate crimes?

Everyone has a lesson, a song to give. Birds have taught me to truly fly in this world. Time to start thinking like a bird, with the humility of the chickadee or perseverance of a hawk. To finally stop trying to find a reason to blame and start trying to find a solution to help.

If we could just take time to look into nature, maybe we can realize that…

We are one.

5 thoughts on “How The Bird Taught Me To Fly”
  1. Woah, Amber– your essay, while seemingly very loosely based off of the topic “Diverse Cultures, One Community – Life as an Asian American.”, its message packs a punch– not only does it describe your identity, but also about your inspirations and encouragements, your challenges and how you overcame them, and last but not least our community as a whole.

    “Universe means “one song”, uni meaning “one”, verse meaning “song”, and each of us has some part to play in this song, like each bird’s song to that chorus you hear outside.”

    Our community is important. “Everyone has a lesson, a song to give.” You’re right. We all have something to offer in this universe of ours, and that shouldn’t be overlooked nor denied.

    “We are one.”

    Your essay and writing are very beautiful with a strong message– thank you so much for writing it!

  2. Amber,

    When I was a teenage, I also dreamed to become a bird to fly high and free. When many Chinese immigrants lived on this land, they found out that their American dreams were neither high nor free. From 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to recent Asian hate crimes, AAPI have been discriminated over the US history. “All men are created equal.” But not all men are treated equal. How to face it, just as you wrote, not to blame but to solve.

    Xi

  3. “ Everyone has a lesson, a song to give. Birds have taught me to truly fly in this world. Time to start thinking like a bird, with the humility of the chickadee or perseverance of a hawk. To finally stop trying to find a reason to blame and start trying to find a solution to help.”. Love your poetic lines. 🌹

  4. You have great knowledge about birds and observed/wrote about them great details. Your writing is so powerful.

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