Abigail Setera講於2016年9月8日星期四晚 萬佛城大殿
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, VM, DM, all good knowing advisors and all dharma friends, good evening.
My name is Abigail Setera. As some of you may know, I’m going off to university soon, which means that I have to leave CTTB, my home, behind. My family and I moved here in 2010. Back then, I was a twelve year old girl with rabbit teeth and bangs right above my eyes and I remember being excited about moving and going to school here, starting a new life and leaving the old behind. And now, six years later, the same thing is happening again. As an old chapter comes to an end, a new one begins.
Even though I have experienced a big change in my life before, I’m not sure I’m ready to walk out of the mountain gate just yet. The biggest difference between then and now would be that back then I had my parents with me and soon they won’t be with me anymore. While I am excited about being on my own and being independent for the very first time, another part of me still wants to hold on to my parents’ hands, to hold on to my childhood.
I remember wishing that I could stay a kid forever and never grow up. That is probably my most memorable false thought. I didn’t want to deal with the endless responsibilities that the adults have like getting a job and paying the bills. Right now, those things don’t look too bad, but when I was younger, those things looked too difficult to handle. As a child, the things that adults do seem very daunting.
Even though I am legally an adult, I do not feel like one and moreover I don’t know how to be one. I grew up thinking that adults knew everything and that they had all the answers. But in reality, they don’t. How do I know that? Well, it’s because I know that I don’t know everything. If everyone knew everything, we all would be sages already.
The first time I realized I was an adult was several weeks ago when my father brought me to the bank to get my checking account opened. When the banker was explaining to me about the account, I realized that I had no idea what he was talking about. The only time I understood him was when he asked me what kind of picture I wanted on my card, I chose the beach one if you were wondering. Other than that I just nodded and smiled, just like what I do here when I can’t understand what someone are telling me. I could ask him to repeat again, but I doubt that I would have understood the second time anyway. This is probably the most mundane coming of age story ever.
Since CTTB became my home, I have become attached to it and now I have to let it go. Right now, it feels like I am trying to hold on to the past, like I am trying to grab hold of sand that is quickly slipping from my hands. How fast time flies in a blink of an eye! There are only three months left to the end of this year. I remember in the beginning of this year the only thing I could think of was graduation and becoming free! And now I wish that my stay here could last a little longer. Things change. Nothing lasts forever. In fact, this is what the Buddha taught us, that things are impermanent and becoming attached to something will only lead to suffering. I have recently come into terms with leaving and now I am more or less ready to start a new chapter in my life.
How did I come into terms with myself? I shifted my mindset. It doesn’t seem easy at first, but when I did it, I asked myself, “It’s so simple. Why didn’t I do this before?” Everything shifts from negative to positive, or positive to negative, whichever way one does it. For me it was from negative to positive. A few weeks ago, I was Facebook and seeing my classmates moving on in their lives made me sad and jealous of them. I assumed that they were having fun, since they only shared about the cool stuff they did. They were carrying on fine without me and I felt that they were leaving me behind while I was still here at home waiting for school to start. During those days, I was very lonely and sad and drowning in my own self-pity. Yes, I am a typical teenager.
Then I remembered a story I read back in Malaysia. It was about this student who was jealous of his neighbor because his neighbor always got higher scores than him. Then his grandmother told him that he shouldn’t be jealous but instead rejoice with his neighbor. I reflected on this story and realized that I should be happy that my friends doing well on their own. I should be happy that they are happy and healthy experiencing and exploring what life has to offer, because soon I will be just like them too, in university and making new friends. So many things can change with a single thought.
I always knew that I was going to leave CTTB for university. I had months and years to prepare. Two years ago, I was in Dr. Patterson’s English class and our theme was immigration. It was very fitting since most of the students were international anyway. She would make us write about our journey to America or just to CTTB, since there was one student from San Jose. Since I don’t know what else to say, I will share a poem I wrote for class about my feelings when I came to the United States. These feelings are quite similar to the ones I have now.
我一直都知道有一天我會離開聖城去上大學，我有成年累月的時間來做這個準備。兩年前我在Patterson’s 英文課上有一個主題關於移民。這個主題很對機因為大部分學生都是來自國外。她讓我們寫出來美國的旅程或者在聖城的歷程因為有一個學生來自San Jose。因為我不知道要說什麼，我打算分享當時在課堂上寫的一首詩，關於我來美國時的感受。那時感覺和現在很相似。
Saying farewell to the people I have known so long,
Was only the beginning of my new life.
My only hope was that nothing would go wrong,
As my future was about to take its flight.
As it was about to take off,
Questions flew into my mind,
When will I come back? Will this be the end?
The questions lingered as I slept.
When I flew across uncharted waters,
Did I leave something behind?
It was when I crossed the border, I realized,
That I had it with me all this time.
Leaving behind Malaysia wasn’t too difficult for me; my mother was with me every step of the way, so I knew it was going to be okay.
Back in Malaysia, I used to be a very shy and quiet girl. In fact, when my mother went to meet with my teacher in school for a meeting, the teacher told my mother that I was too quiet, and I wasn’t talking as much to my classmates as the other kids were. My mother was confused, what’s wrong with being quiet? I guess they were afraid that I won’t know the skills to properly communicate with people in the future? Or maybe they just thought I was weird. Anyway, soon after I did make friends and I talked to them.
Fast forward a several years later to my first day of school at the girls school. I mentally prepared myself saying that I was in America now and that Americans are really extroverted and friendly and I should try to be like that too. And so I ended up talking to the shyest girl in my class since I saw that she was all alone and we became friends. I have become more open throughout my years here rather than being the shy girl that I once was.
My first year here has been quite a transformation for me. The Junior High core teacher, Ms Mark had been very welcoming and encouraging to me. She gave me the confidence that I needed in order to take a step outside of my comfort zone. And it is thanks to her that I became interested in theatre and learn about my love for acting. Before coming here, I don’t think that I would have ever done something like this. I think it’s fun to be on stage and pretend that you are someone else and pretending that you are in a different reality, like in another time period or in another part of the world. Back in Malaysia, since I was the only child, I often played by myself. I would play my toys and make them talk to each other or I would talk to myself and respond back. So I have been practicing my acting skills since I was young, just without an audience.
The last time I did theatre was in ninth grade. My class performed a play called Cyrano de Bergerac, and I played the lead role. Cyrano de Bergerac is about a Frenchman who is a great poet and swordsman with a big nose and a big heart. The first time we performed it was just a few days after my mother had been discharged from the hospital. It was her first time seeing me perform, but I don’t think she really understood what the play was about.
In ninth grade, I also joined the mock trial club in another attempt to step out of my comfort zone. Mock trial is a pretend court trial where the students would take up the role of a lawyer or a witness and present a made up case. Believe it or not, it was the shy girl who wanted to join first and I tagged along with her. It didn’t interest me at first, because I didn’t like the idea of being lawyers and going to court. I thought it would be boring. How wrong I was. It was actually very interesting. It’s like doing theatre, but more serious and formal and as a lawyer trying to present an eye-witness testimony, asking the witnesses a lot of questions.
I have never been to court prior to joining mock trial and I knew very little about the legal system here. Being in court for the very first time was very scary and nerve-wracking, especially since we compete with the schools outside. The students outside are very intimidating when they are questioning you, and so you become afraid of saying something wrong, but in the end you become so wrapped up in fear that you forget what you were supposed to say, which is sometimes worse than saying the wrong thing.
The thing I learned from both mock trial and theatre is that sometimes people make mistakes. I make mistakes, like forgetting what I was supposed to say. When that happens, I have to make it up as I go until I remember. I have to improvise my lines. The show must go on, as they say, and so does life. Nothing is fixed.
I think that performing on stage is different than actually talking to a person one-on-one. On stage, you rehearse the same lines over and over again. But on the other hand, when you are talking to someone, you don’t know what they are going to say next, and depending on what they say, you might respond differently. So you never know what’s going to happen next. That is why I find talking to people more difficult and less fun than acting. But life isn’t all fun and games and there has to be a balance.
As I mentioned earlier, things change all the time whether we like it or not. Moving onto a different topic, I think one of my happiest moments in my life so far was making Buddha statues in the Avatamsaka Monastery in Calgary, Canada. Even though I was only there for two days, I cherished every single second. My parents and I went to Calgary together a few days after summer camp and I am so glad that I had an opportunity to be able to be a part of this project. It gave me a lot of dharma joy and I felt content. After my graduation, I felt very lost and I started to doubt the Buddhadharma. I didn’t like that feeling, but I didn’t know how to resolve it either.
Going to the temple in Calgary really helped me out. It renewed my faith in the Buddhadharma. I can’t help but feel that it was the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and the Venerable Master helping me. I am very grateful for their help. Making Buddha statues was very calming and I loved working with everyone and seeing how sincere and mindful they were while doing their work.
The Dharma Master in charge of the temple knew that my stay was short, so she let me try out every single step in the process. From papier mache -ing cardboard cut-outs that look like a water bottle to shaving off the rough edges of the mold and making the statue smooth and rounded. The process is very fascinating.
Making Buddha statues is such a rare opportunity and I feel so lucky and grateful to be able to partake in this big project. Opportunities like this don’t come by that easily, and when they do, it’s now or never.
I feel that my time in CTTB is like that. To be able to live here is not something anyone can do. Those who do must have great blessings and deep roots with the Buddhadharma and the Venerable Master. I am very grateful to have enough blessings to be able to live here for six whole years and be surrounded by this supportive community, by my teachers, and my parents, who helped guide me every step of the way. I will bring along the wisdom that you have shared with me. I have definitely learned a lot during my stay here. Thank you. Amitofo.