71750 The sages say that the past is not really real, that it is just all in the mind, thoughts, that have no reality in and of itself. From experience, I can say that I am more a product of my choices and my own personal history rather than my cultural heritage. I have always been my own person, distinct from another, in the same way, that even my closest friends are different from me, and defined by their own choices, even though we grew up together and share many things in common. Growing up, there was no question that I can be my own person and that I can even make decisions on who to befriend and what I did with my free time, within limits. I was even free to choose what I wanted to study and what career I would pursue. My tastes in clothes and in music have always been my own. Even my choice of friends is something that was, is up to me. All of these are encapsulated in my present, and my present circumstances alone shape all of these choices and decisions, unhampered by any past or cultural tradition or heritage. This seems so contrary to what Kingston’s family in China, and the young unmarried people in their community, were used to. Their restriction and bowing to tradition seemed to be the norm, and going against the dictates of the community meant becoming ostracized and forgotten. Yet in another sense, we human beings need some kind of grounding in the past. If there is no past then a man in a way is also a kind of ungrounded animal with no social dimension at all. The past roots us to social history, and cultural history as well. In this social aspect and cultural aspect of our lives, we relate to others, and others relate to us, in the categories that they also define themselves in. In the context of American society, this is clear.