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

The distant humming and bashing from the nearby factory floor kept me from falling asleep on the couch in my father’s makeshift office; I was only five years old. After my parents separated, I was being raised by my father, a humble guard in a lowly Chinese prison. He was a hard man—stern with words and quick with the belt. Being on the receiving end of that left enough marks on my body and in my soul. But maybe I can forgive him, one day. After all, he raised me when he could have just abandoned me.

When I became an adult, I wanted to do only one thing: to prove to my parents, but really to myself, that I was not a mistake. A random gamble of genetics somehow resulted in a disappointing hand: me. “I’m going to show them” became my mantra, my life’s objective, my obsession.

Then, everything changed. I became a dad to two beautiful girls. The drive to prove my parents wrong melted away as I gradually learned my true calling in life: Be a better father.

— Haoran Jiang