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

It was the 2012 presidential campaign season. I had been knocking on doors of apartment units and mobile homes, on metal screens, wooden boards, cracked glass, and picket fences. Women and men, students and the elderly, English-speaking or not—I needed them all to vote. Alone I was small, but together we could win big.

My first impression of America two decades ago was just how big everything was. I ordered Big Macs and Big Gulps, and soon I learned the phrase "go big or go home!" My dad, frustrated by the Chinese government's lack of progress, had just resigned from public office. My mom, a former banker, had started waiting tables to earn minimum wage. They believed that America embraces individuality and rewards effort, so they told me to study hard and dream big.

Our labor gradually bore fruit as my family bought a home and I was accepted into college. Meanwhile, my neighbors, who worked day in and day out, had started pawning their goods to pay medical bills. My high-school friends disappeared into rehab. My middle school was shut down due to insufficient funding, and my teachers were forced to leave. What was once a vibrant community became deserted; and our fates, once intertwined, drifted apart. While dreaming big motivated me to acquire new skills and solve new challenges, I felt rudderless.

I realized then that my dreams are anchored by the people and communities I love. I want to celebrate our interconnectedness. I want to connect my skills to passion and solutions to change, so that we can dream big together.

— Linda Li