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

My first job involved working onboard the trains between Shanghai and Zhengzhou, China, during the sweltering, sticky summer peak.

The train ecosystem was competitive: people fighting for a spot, daring passengers jumping through windows to get on and off, and thieves lurking in the crowds. I had to push a heavy trolley full of drinks, noodles, and meal boxes down an endless aisle full of hungry, angry, and frustrated passengers. Giant passengers, twice my size, would glare at me as I was coming down the tight aisle. Cunning thieves would try to distract me so they could steal my cash bag. Sickly passengers would confide in my innocence and complain about the steamy air quality. Desperate passengers would seek my assistance to help them get seats for their frail relatives. Famished and destitute passengers would resort to violence and aggression and try to take food.

It was a chaotic environment for a cheerful, naive teenager. This experience taught me courage and determination. I learned how to take control of the situation, fight against whatever challenge to fulfill my job, and advocate for those who need my help.

Fifteen years later, I find myself in many similar environments in life – giant obstacles, severe competitions, various distractions, people who want to take advantage of me, and people who truly need my help.

Life is a chaotic, crowded train.

But l am determined to do whatever it takes to fulfill my goals and help others fulfill theirs.

— Chao Zeng