Portrait Project


Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Jodi Yang

Boston is where I come to die and be reborn.

At seventeen I came to mourn the death of my first love — music — and my grandfather, a hero who proudly led thousands into battle for his country, though he had little formal education. I found solace in Harvard Square jamming with a band of jazz brothers. An oft request was a song about Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and melted wings fashioned lovingly by his father, Daedalus. What our fans didn't know was the song really poked fun at my stubborn pursuit of music when everything pointed in the other direction.

Having just lost my grandmother, I'm bare-armed again. She left China at my age, taking only what she could carry, to start a new life in an unfamiliar place. I'm about to embark on her journey in reverse — with a sense of renewed responsibility — returning to the motherland and living the life my grandparents never did — so that I could.

With my one wild and precious life, I'll take the legacy fashioned lovingly by my family and fly upwards with wings I won for myself. It was my grandparents' dream to see China stand on its own two feet. With that inheritance, I will devote my life to serving as a bridge between China and the U.S. at a crucial time for these two nations in our history. My dream is to make an impact worthy of my grandparents' legacy — one that will improve the lives of thousands of my countrymen — both Chinese and American.

I will live by the words of a dear friend and section mate, Monica Chambers, which at their first utterance were painted within my skull: "May I have the swagger to feel I can change the world and the humility to know I have so much more to learn."

— Jodi Yang