The new house we moved to during my junior year in high school had two stories. The upstairs had a kitchen, a living area, a master bedroom, and two small bedrooms. Downstairs, next to our garage, was basically a little in-law apartment. It had its own entry, bathroom, and living area. It was closed off from our house upstairs by a staircase and a door. My parents initially wanted my brother and I to take the two bedrooms upstairs, leaving the downstairs suite as a guest room.
I asked my parents for permission to live downstairs. I rarely asked my parents for things. The thought of having my own little space, away from everyone else, was just too appealing for me to resist. My parents thought it was a little odd that I wanted to be alone downstairs. They didn't see any harm in it, so they obliged. They bought a bedroom set for me and gave me a lot of freedom.
My parents were very lenient about the activities downstairs. My
friends were able to sleep over without an issue. It didn't happen very
often, even though my mom encouraged it. She wanted me to have
friends. I wanted to have friends but I did not want to share my room
with them. I liked the feeling of living alone, I didn't have to say
"hi" to anyone when I woke up. I did not have to put on a face. I could reserve my time and energy for studying.
were times when I grabbed a dinner plate and then came downstairs to my
little world to study and eat. My parents were so focused on academia,
they were totally supportive of it. In fact, they often reminded me of a distant relative, who came to the States as an adult. He made a habit of memorizing words in a dictionary while eating dinner so he could learn English. He did nothing but shoved food into his mouth and flipped through his dictionary during supper time. He eventually graduated with a doctorate degree. My parents told me that he should be my role model, his persistence should be my inspiration.
By late high school, especially after I started working at the bakery, my abilities to read people and interact with them improved a lot. But there was a price for it. The act of interaction took a lot of concentration from me. Anytime I interacted a person, a lot of background analysis had to go on simultaneously in my brain to tell me what I had to do to look "natural." From my choice of words, body movements, facial expressions, observing the other person's body language, to understanding their words, it was a lot of work!
I was known to be cheery and bubbly at work, I had to be, my mom said no one wanted an employee with a "long face." I enjoyed work because it made me feel useful. I wasn't making much but I was contributing. After a long day though, it was great to come back home into my little world. In my little area downstairs, I did not have to interact with anyone. I could be myself again, I did not have to act. I did not have to constantly process information anymore. My brain could finally take a break.