My Struggle with Identity
Student A is an overachieving, straight A grabbing student that was born and raised in a middle class community and went to schools in a ne’er-do-well environment. Traveling around from suburb to suburb because of his parent’s occupation, he loves to play badminton and lacrosse and is a percussionist in classical, marching, and jazz ensembles. He dreams of becoming a doctor, not only for his personal interest, but also to have a stable lifestyle with a solid paycheck that can not only provide for himself and his future family, but for his parents when they are inevitably shoved into retirement and old age. He dreams of becoming a family man and settling down with a successful career, marriage, and a beautiful wife and children. He wants to fall into the doldrums and difficulties of a midlife crisis. This student wants to pay it forward, spur new innovations in the medical and technology industry and push for a greater standard of living. This student wants to inspire others to never be complacent and to help those push their own potential into something unrecognizable yet achievable. This student loves his family and devotes his own time for the greater good of others, thriving with a strong social circle of friends and those who support him.
Student B is the confused and bitter student that was born in raised in a community where nothing ever seemed right nor was there any sort of social convention. Student B was the outlier, the black sheep, the one who felt that they didn’t have a bright future. This student struggled internally, despite the ease he displayed in his outer appearances, academically, physically, and mentally. This student wants to do the right thing, and he wants to do what people need, but he doesn’t understand the fine line about people’s expectations of what they want or what they need from him. This student listens to progressive metal and the occasional metal core and isn’t afraid of being in the middle of the mosh pit swinging arms left and right. This student wants independence and freedom, without the chains of responsibility cast upon him by his friends and family. He simply wants to spend a weekend socialising with his friends, without a care in the world especially for any school work due on that upcoming Monday. He’s not what you would expect, good and kind-hearted, having danced on the fine line called the law before.
Reading this, picture the kind of student that you think I am. Take your time and think about what I have written and feel free to reread the descriptions for each student. Which student do you think that I am? Are we all so transparent and clear that PDFs can define our entire self? That grades, test scores, and our GPA can truly represent who we are as a whole? Am I the stereotypical, first generation American Born Chinese? Or am I that unknown? The unknown that people spend their lives trying to decipher and understand, I’m not sure and quite frankly, I don’t think I even want to know for the sake of my own sanity. I’ve had times where people would see me hard at work in the morning, hard at work in the afternoon, and then hard at work in the evening and all of a sudden from their observations of my that day, I must be that goody two shoes kind of guy that studies all the time. Other times, I’ll be taking a day off and playing video games while listening to bands like “August Burns Red” or “Animals as Leaders” and then all of a sudden, I’m some lazy and struggling hipster who can’t seem to prioritize my time right. Especially as an American Born Chinese, sometimes you’re too “white washed” to be accepted by the more traditional Chinese side of your family, and sometimes you’re too “Asian” to fit into the American crowd. It’s not an exclusive issue by any means, and I believe that anyone ethnically different that was born in America faces that situation at some point in their life, it’s just that some are more pronounced then others. Heck, there is even a tv show about the struggles of being an ABC called “Fresh Off The Boat”. I think I could go on a lot longer than I would like about my past identity crises about being an American Born Chinese, but it’s not longer an issue I constantly have to struggle with and I really have to owe that “closure” to the movie, “Moana”. I don’t know why, because it’s not the first time there was a movie about “being the different one and struggling to fit in”, but maybe it was the combination of the sound track, the animation, and the characters that at some points I found myself more than just tearing up empathizing with the feelings of isolation that Moana was feeling. There were times that I felt out of place and I just didn’t understand why I was so different, despite identifying as an American myself, I didn’t know why I was being treated differently growing up. And even though that movie only came out a few months ago, it helped to provide some sense of resolution and closure to me and for that I am eternally grateful.
My whole life, I’ve struggled with falling into certain categories for people to judge me. People have taken time to try and define me in just a few words, trying to shove me into how people perceive me instead of trying to take the time to truly understand who I am. I am the center of the venn diagram, I consist of traits from both students and although the intersection of data sets are typically desired, not in the case of people. I don’t fit in and I don’t fit into the perceived mould of who I should be. People would pick and choose the desirable aspects about me and force the desired 20 percent to become my entire 100 percent. Ever since then, I’ve struggled and fought to change people’s perceptions of me. But maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, as cliche as that sounds. But when you don’t fit into the stereotypical mould, you’re forced to look in from the outside and it gives you the opportunity to really look at the situation from all kinds of angles and perspectives. You gain knowledge and life lessons from a variety of disparate places and people, knowledge and lessons that have shaped me, for better or worse. When people don’t know how to see you, or when people are at a lost on how to “group” you or to place you into a “social role”, it gives you the time to step back yourself and to really examine yourself and who you are and what you want to be.