hi, i'm chris.
I am an actor by accident. I tripped and fell into performance art. It’s a strange story. Let me rewind.
Throughout my life, I have continually played roles in order to meet others’ expectations, and for a desperate fear of boredom. Ever since my father died when I was young, and since my family drove me to succeed across academic and professional domains regardless of my personal interest, I developed an unexpected, secretive, creative passion for role-playing--of taking on each emotional, intellectual, and physiological trapping of any given identity to the persuasion of those around me.At the age of 5, my dad and primary role model passed away.I am directionless child, effeminate boy, fearful minority.At the age of 8, my mother remarried to a towering German American who would treat me as a corporate employee and financial investment for the twenty years of our relationship.I am hungry for affection, grateful for attention, performing for recognition.At the age of 10, I entered a premier youth symphony and began my touring career as principal violist, performing in a half-dozen countries at venues including Dvořák Hall in Prague, Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest, Musikverein in Vienna, Teatro dell'Opera in Florence.I am young musician, global traveler, bridge builder.At the age of 12, I took the SAT early and was invited by Johns Hopkins University to study accelerated physics and humanities to “enrich” my life.I am precocious but bored, ambitious but jaded, conscientious but impatient.At the age of 13, friends and I deduced algorithms used by the world’s first multinational smartphone company to issue serial numbers for their new palm pilots, and used them to steal thousands of dollars of merchandise from their affiliate cash-rebate program--which nearly got my family sued and our group expelled from one of the top prep schools in California.I am experimenter, pragmatist, delinquent.By the age of 18, I had become a regular street racer, started a fight club with buddies, ostracized myself from my student body for a marijuana scandal that did result in expulsion and suspension for many of my friends and me, won regional championships in badminton from training 20 hours a week with a former member of the Chinese national team, and built a 9-inch Newtonian reflecting telescope before graduating among the top of my high school class.
I am academic and athletic, autonomous and ostentatious, errant and exuberant.At the age of 20, studying neuroscience and anthropology and convinced that I would change the world through social medicine, I fundraised for several nonprofits involved with infectious disease prevention and disaster relief and flew to the epicenter of the 2010 Haiti megathrust earthquake to work with World Wide Village, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Partners In Health--handling a colorful array of responsibilities from running pharmaceuticals to hospital triage to administering anesthesia to suturing wounds to rubbling derelict homes to building field clinics to babysitting displaced orphans--in the midst of aftershocks and hurricanes.I am contrarian, proletarian, humanitarian.At the age of 21, I partnered with the Forest Foundation and a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Harvard Medical School to pilot a work-study program for a cohort of undergrads to gather epidemiological data, conduct sociocultural research, and teach public and personal health curricula as well as environmental awareness in the two neediest slums of Lusaka, Zambia, where there is one of the poorest formal economies and highest rates of HIV prevalence in the world.I am idealist, activist, social scientist.By the age of 25, disillusioned with a transnational biomedical institution that pathologized every human “abnormality” to eventually propagate itself on high-volume sales of expensive drugs treating late-stage illnesses, and hopeful that socioeconomic inequality could be effectively alleviated, and with it resources for good health and education distributed, through simultaneous deployment of capital, spread of free knowledge, and inspiration of altruism (i.e. love)--I wanted to take on everyone’s problems, and I had become manic. I operated the largest international angel investment group in China, helped launch 20 social enterprises between Asia and the US/UK, and founded two companies of my own. (The first a wellness content platform that localized writing from health specialists including doctors, nutritionists, and fitness instructors and pushed it out through China’s most popular social media platform WeChat. It failed. The second a foreign exchange fund that managed a hot flurry of small investments without following federal regulations. It took in a couple hundred thousand dollars in three months.)I am risk seeker. I am evangelist. I am entrepreneur.I lost myself to the allure of capital, and I balled out of control. I hurt, but I could no longer distinguish between pain and pleasure. My nerves were afire, and I had to extinguish them. So I shut myself in. I isolated, I lived alone for months, and I meditated for over 1000 hours. And suddenly there it was again, the need for exhilaration. So I ran. I ran my first marathon in Seoul. Then I ran 52 miles over the mountains of Turkey. A 7100-foot vertical climb. I nearly died descending in the pitch darkness. It wasn’t enough. I had to escalate. I had to levitate. I would never see the pit before falling in. This temperament, it wasn’t rational. It was artistic.Masochist. Optimist. Artist.
Only after realizing that I had spent my life aping convention, performing what was expected of me, and running from failure in those pursuits, only then could I hear my own curiosity.
These are some of the roles that I’ve played, from selfless clinician to self-interested currency trader, from emaciated ascetic to ultra-distance runner. I will be the frenetic prodigy CEO, the depressed addict, or the enlightened yogi depending on which foil the person nearest me demands. I’ve willfully occupied each, with reluctance. But I willingly act, with purpose. I electively, hungrily look for experiences and identities outside my own so that I can hold them for the few truthful moments that I am able to. However possible it is, and however naturally it comes to me, refuting another’s separate existence from my own--and then another, and then another--is what gives me faith in each day and peace in my sleep.
If we’re lucky, we discover endeavors that are worth our while. Here’s to the love I can shine on him such that you might see your own flaws and virtues in a stranger.