On the other side of the world as Craig DeMartino was reckoning with his new post-accident reality, a 10 year old boy was growing up, one of six million people in the small industrial city of Fuzhou, China, a manufacturing hub for Nike, Adidas, and Fila.
Kai Lin loved to draw. He’d lock himself in his bedroom and pretend he was doing his homework, sitting on a secret passion that was not seen as a viable career in an exploding industrial economy. “My family wanted me to be studious. Drawing was my way of expressing myself, without having to think about constraints or limitations. It was my way of escaping the reality.”
When his family emigrated to the United States when he was 15, the constraints fell away. Suddenly, he could be an artist – but he’d have to adapt to life as an American high-schooler in Queens, first.
“Growing up in China, I was just like everyone else,” says Lin. “Part of the majority. I didn’t think too much about other people. When we moved to the States, I was exposed to so many different people from so many different places. Witnessing their daily problems and struggles made me a lot more empathetic.”
Adapting to a new culture meant watching carefully, a habit that became engrained over the next 12 years. “It’s almost second nature for me to ask, ‘What is that person thinking?’ Or ‘What does that person need? How can I make it better?’”