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On Love, On Psychedelics

CAS for Database

Tina Zeng

Andover, MA, USA

Phillips Academy


On Love, On Psychedelics

The other day I made an unprotected left turn while practicing for my last chance at a license—and my Dad looked over from the passenger seat and said he and Mom tried psychedelics. Shrooms, and they both loved it. Mom told me later that she saw me glowing white, as if light was radiating from within me. Cool, Mother!

Tried is the wrong word. They are trying—drugs. Getting high. Hallucinating me with 白光 (1). They’re trying to do better. They’re trying to try.

A couple of months ago, Dad sent me photos through WeChat. Photos of a letter he wrote on three pages from a composition notebook. He explained he’s “soul searching,” on a “journey.” That he’s learning how to love, that he regrets the past—hurting Mom, hurting me. Now, he’s looking forward.

Mom is, too. She said she’s sorry. That she knows I’m “sick” because of her. That she loves me, that I am the 结晶 of love (2). I wondered if that metaphor came from a trip.

I’m not surprised my parents’ words mean something to me. This is part of my inheritance—a reverence for Language, their house on Waverley, some light trauma. Maybe it’s fucked up but that’s the way we are.

I know they love me more than their saying even really means. I think I love them just as much (3).

So I’m also trying to try. But it’s hard when I’m not really sure what love is? I know what it feels like to eat sesame porridge with my computer about to fall off the table. I know what it feels like to 你们不觉得丢脸嘛. I know what it feels like to hold a single-scoop ice-cream cone in both my hands (4).

That doesn’t feel right, like what love is supposed to be. Maybe it’s fucked up that I can’t tell.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s fucked up that we have to try.

I guess either way, we’re not ready to give up. We’re trying 蘑菇 and driving poorly and writing poetry (5). We’ll fight the wrongness and fight the trauma and fight each other to get someplace where I don’t have to say so many maybe’s. Maybe.

For the record, I got my license.


1 白光: When your mom does shrooms and says that on her trip you were really, really shiny.

2 结晶: The crystallization. I am a gem, a gift, a flower, as whole and beautiful as can be.

3 爱: Love, but for us with all its complexity.

4 你们不觉得丢脸嘛: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?”

5 蘑菇: Shrooms, dude.


With quirky, playful parents trying psychedelic shrooms, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing the first time I read this. Zeng is a writer with swagger and empathy, delivering a refreshing reflection on love between children and parents.


Tina Zeng writes from various plots of land, including—but not limited to—Beijing, the SF Bay, Shanghai, and New York. Recognized by her mother as “the best” and her father as “the best”—Zeng will graduate from Phillips Academy in the spring of 2024. (She has siblings.)

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