When was the last time when you shared your personal stories with others? Friends, families, strangers? I ask because it is one powerful superpower we have within each of us, no matter how different we might look and feel on the outside. And I believe we ought to be using the superpower every day, probably more than ever.
Yes. Speaking up can be incredibly uncomfortable, depending on the cultural background we have inherited. I can speak for myself that it is VERY uncomfortable for me to share my personal feelings and challenges openly. Speaking up is truly not in alignment with how I was raised. I still vividly remember that my first-grade teacher told me in front of my entire class that my name, written in Chinese characters as "高木和可子," had too many "mouth" symbols in the characters (Those squares you see in my name. That's the symbol for "mouth" and I have four of them in total!!!). Therefore, I spoke too loudly and too often without being asked. A lesson learned. I needed to choose the moment to speak. Despite the childhood experience and an understanding that "quietness" was one of the celebrated virtues in the culture, I always believed that the strength was expressed differently... through inner discipline and quieter resilience.
I use my notebook to have a dialogue with myself and to find my voice. Open pages in my notebook are always my first and the most intimate dialogue companion. Reflecting on my culture and upbringing, it makes sense that the process of inner reflection is comfortable for me. Yet as I grow older, I realize how important it is to speak beyond the cover of my notebook. Some stories will be light-hearted and joyful, and others will be painful and perhaps uncomfortable. But if we kept the story only to ourselves or only on our journal pages, they will not make it into the collective narrative, limiting the way we see others and, more so, the way others see our world.
So let me step forward to share my personal experience of being Asian American. Let us embrace Trina's story and her personal quest to uncover how our culture around sexuality can impact one's belief about oneself. We can all relate to Eunice's story about how vulnerable we might feel when we share our creative projects with others and A.C.'s article about letting the predictable analogue routine go to embrace the moments. I am so thankful that we get to birth the love letter with wonderful story contributors who openly share each month.
So I gently invite you to start the dialogue in any capacity you are comfortable with. We can find and understand each other more through our stories and push the boundary to cultivate a better world for everyone every day.
always a work in progress...
Orange County, California // April 2nd, 2021
**This is from our BK Love Letter for March 2021. If you would like to see the entire love letter we sent to our community, you can browse it via this link.
Growing up, I was the only Asian American in my class. I knew of one or two other Asian kids in my grade. I remember a boy running up to me and stretching his eyes into a slant with his fingers chanting Chinese while pushing the corners of his eyes up, and Japanese while pushing the corners down. He didn’t know Korea existed. Most of the kids in my school knew little of Asian countries.
As an adult, the discrimination has been more upsetting, like the time I was trying to mail a package to Chicago and the post office employee replied with China? Or when eBay deleted my review when I had been verbally assaulted by a seller and barraged me with accusations of being Chinese based on my Asian last name and how they didn’t “deal with Chinese”. As if there is something bad or inferior about being Chinese.
Yet, if I were given a choice, I would choose again to be Asian American. When I was young, I struggled with learning languages, culture, and the inevitable identity crisis, but once that passed, I realized I could enjoy both cultures in a way that not everyone could, and I became deeply thankful for that blessing. There is something beautiful about being able to access and fully understand literature, films, tv shows, music, and art on both the surface level and a cultural level. It also fuels my desire to travel and experience other cultures.
But perhaps more importantly, it has allowed me to understand a great truth a teacher once told me: We are all the same.
When my Asian friends complain about loud Americans, I know Asians can be just as loud if not louder. When Americans assume Asians are all quiet and docile,I wish they could see that there are equally quiet and meek Americans and equally loud, and stubborn Asians. I’ve even had American friends complain about how some people in Asia would not walk on the Right side of the sidewalk or stairs (or left side in certain Asian countries I believe), when this is usually a complaint Asians have towards foreigners during rush hour. And let’s be honest, nobody in America seems to stick to one side or the other- they just walk.
So I hope someday, people will recognize that we are all people and deserve to be treated with respect a kindness, regardless of what ethnic background we may have.