Note: This piece comes from my participation in the Fireweed Collective’s “Narrative Medicine” supportive writing group back in Fall 2021. I later shared the piece on my personal Facebook account in Spring 2022.

The writing prompt surrounded exploring what we have been born into. The following short piece is what I wrote. It came out easily, because it was something that I thought about often as a Hmong American.

Lub ntuj txo ib daim ntawv rau yus los ua neeg hauv ntiaj teb. There is this idea among Hmong people, that each person on earth is given one paper by the heavens before they come down to earth. The paper tells everything that happens in that person’s life. And when we face hardship in this life, elders will tell us, “Ntshe yus yug los yus daim ntawv twb hais li thiaj li zoo li no.” It must have been on the paper you were born with, and that’s why things happened this way.

I always imagined that somewhere up in the heavens, before we come down to earth, we’d each get some time to look over the paper we get. After all, it literally seals our fate. And maybe we actually had a choice in the paper we got. Maybe we had some time to peruse the papers available before settling with one. I sometimes wonder if we had a better perspective of the world when we were heavenly beings preparing to be born. Were we all-knowing? Did we choose and accept our fates willingly, with knowledge of our fates’ higher purpose?

I want to ask the previous, heavenly Nancy what they were thinking when they were reading my paper before coming down. Not that I dislike the paper I was given. I’m just curious what made them pack their bags and go, “Yep, this is the life for me!”

But maybe I should cut heavenly Nancy some slack. It could also be that our papers are written specifically for us and we aren’t given the chance to look over anything before leaving heaven. The papers could have also been written in a language we couldn’t understand. Or we could’ve also been illiterate. If anything, maybe heavenly Nancy was pining for any way to leave heaven and become an earthly being. And this paper thing was their only shot at doing so.