Leaving the raft

William Liao
2 min readMay 24, 2024

There are a couple of recent film trailers that have really resonated with me:

The first, Crazy Broke Asian, a documentary showing the roller coaster journey of a Célin, a Vietnamese Canadian choosing to defy the expectations of her parents and pursue life as an artist.

The second, DiDi, a coming-of-age story featuring a 13-year-old Taiwanese American, Chris, who, according to the synopsis, “learns what his family can’t teach him.”

As a child of Taiwanese immigrants, there are facets of both these stories that resonate deeply.

In both films, the leads take a leap of some sort in order to discover who they are. Célin drops out of college; Chris can be seen in the trailer throwing himself into all kinds of new and uncomfortable social situations.

Alan Watts has a great analogy for why these leaps are necessary: he likens the sources that guide us — parents, mentors, peers — as rafts that get us from one point in life to another. Once you get to the other side, the raft has done its job. And, at some point, the only way to fully move forward is to exit the raft.

These stories and this analogy strike me as a good way of thinking about the sometimes uncomfortable steps we must take in our own growth journey.

As a professional, we can only learn to think independently when we accept that our views may differ from the perspectives of those we trust greatly.

Similarly, as a human trying to figure out what it means to “grow up” or be to be an “adult”, we can only hope to figure out what that means for us by embracing the possibility that our goals and values may diverge from those who shaped us early on.

Part of figuring out life is realizing that no one else can figure it out for you.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)