Asian invasion, takin’ over your nation…
I think that growing up in a Christian private school, the way for me to most feel singled out is not by gender, since I had half of the students there to back me up. It was not by sexual orientation, because I am among the majority and because these sort of issues had not surfaced entirely. It was not by class, although that was certainly a pressing issue that I felt most junior high students could not handle responsibly. In middle school, my race was definitely the issue that I felt was most contested, albeit indirectly, by the students around me.
Ah yes, the issue of race. An aspect of ourselves that we cannot hide, that blatantly displays itself on the very pigments of our skin. Even if not directly contested, it comes up subtly in conversations. It manifests in our very interactions with others, as if mere interactions are tinged with the acknowledgement of one’s race.
This destabilizing form of stereotype, considered with the irrational tendency of adolescents to want to fit into society, is a rather disturbing combination. Kids might go to extremes to avoid the generalizations inherent in junior high kids, as they pertain to broad issues, not just race.
…and then I realized I was rejecting my everything.
My personal response was to literally cast away my culture, my race, the one that I had grown up with since day one. Characterized by Chinese food, Chinese holidays, and Chinese language, my very life was molded by these influences, and I didn’t think twice when I left it all behind as I struggled to fit in.
Mind you, I didn’t dye my skin. I didn’t change my black hair, and I couldn’t control my Asian eyes, but I had no desire to change those things. I was as content as a middle school student could be with my looks, and other concerns were irrelevant to race.
Rather, I started regretting everything. I regretted that my parents had come all the way from China, had learned a completely foreign language, but still somehow had thick accents. I abhorred the accents. Every mispronounced word, every stutter, every pause as my mom or dad read English, made me cringe internally.
I questioned why some kids ate mashed potatoes and green beans everyday, where I had those maybe once a month, at a restaurant. I wanted to leave my culture behind, everything that seemed foreign or made people scrunch their eyebrows.
I didn’t want to be known as another Asian girl, and I didn’t want to have only Asian friends.
That was basically me and my struggles all through middle school.
But somewhere between the transition from middle to high school, I let the resentment dissolve. Somewhere along the way, I stopped wincing at Chinese accents, I started enjoying my family meals, and I stopped alienating my Asian friends. No more shame…
I haven’t forgiven myself for the way I regarded my race. I don’t understand the significance of abandoning good things for people who aren’t willing to accept you with all of your racial quirks. Why can’t the raised eyebrows signify interest? Why aren’t people more willing to accept people of a certain race as individuals, instead of people of one personality?
I promise to never let myself forget the past. Why leave behind traditions and memories that are utterly invaluable to your personal development?
If I ever hated my appearance because of my race, then shame on me. There’s something unique about it.
Uhm, high school hasn’t just magically erased these social discomforts. I still face really awkward discrimination, but it definitely occurs behind my back. People stereotyping and grouping, making assumptions about my ambitions and goals in complete relevance to other people of my race (you know what I’m talking about; I don’t have to say it).
That being said, I think it’s me that’s changed. My response to this and the way that I no longer let these sort of problems bother me, that’s what’s significant. These problems don’t just disappear once I graduate high school, either. They still exist in the halls of universities, in the offices of wherever I get a job, but I think the most important thing is to in general, never let people’s assumptions and opinions shape the way you act.
Merp, I’ve got yellow fever.
We can’t always go to school completely prepared, with a pretty backpack and fancy hat.
A service has been invented through which you can send messages to people in the future. To whom would you send something, and what would you write? – Daily Prompt
You are going to start high school next year. You will make the huge transition from middle school to high school. While the jump is not as drastic as it is to leave high school for college, you won’t be prepared. No one ever is. We all have this ideal of high school in our minds that we find is woefully distorted. It is too optimistic. It is too much influenced by the parties and fun that you see on TV. And yet, it’s not as dramatic as the media portrays it. But this is only for me personally, a major introvert.
So I hope I can help you just a little bit.
You need to find friends but don’t cling on for dear life. Your social group is inevitably going to shift every couple of months. You just need to know that it will happen, and it is not the end of the world if it does. People you thought would be by your side for the rest of your life will desert you in a few months. You will make friends with people you never imagined you would. High school will surprise you.
You need to keep your grades up. There’s this evil thing called GPA which measures your grades from day one of year one. The higher it is, the more likely you’re going to go to a good school. Don’t be anal, but don’t take your knowledge for granted. In high school, everything gets a lot harder. You must apply yourself and start reviewing for tests early. You have to find motivation to do your work. You don’t HAVE to learn about the French Revolution, you GET to.
You need to find teachers that will like you. Yes, it’s nice to have them write recs for you, but it’s just nice to have friends that are in positions of authority. It doesn’t look lame. It’s the coolest thing ever. Find one that teaches a subject that interests you and do not be like everyone else in the class. Smile and say hi in the halls. Go to extra help not just to review for a test. Visit them even if they are no longer your teacher. I regret so much not doing so, and I have certainly alienated a good number of teachers that could be very meaningful to me.
You don’t have to find out your passion. You don’t need to decide what you’re going to be. High school is just the very beginning (a very painful and miserable beginning) of a path of stones that will lead you through life. Step completely and heavily and confidently onto the first stone. Explore many options and join clubs. If you find one that you like, you should stick with it. If your friends want you to quit it, disregard their opinion (in this instance). High school is not for your friend group, it is for YOU. It is YOUR experience. You are your own independent person.
Before year 9 you won’t take this advice very seriously because you won’t really know what I’m talking about. Every year you’ll read this letter again and understand it a little better than you did before. And you’ll find out that what I’m saying is true (in some respects, at least). And you will look back when you graduate and regret a little bit but we’re not all perfect, are we?