January 10, 2020

"Do You Feel Chinese?"

Despite looking physically different from the majority of people I’m surrounded by; most of the time, I don’t even realize that I’m Chinese. Even when I’m looking directly in a mirror, the fact that I’m Chinese is more of a second thought. I mean, I’m not American, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t look at themselves and think, “I’m feeling quite American today.” 

Which is why I’m always baffled when people ask, “Do you feel Chinese?”

Sometimes, I want to answer, “No, I feel like a Canadian,” just to see their faces. But in all seriousness, I don’t really see a need for this question because it’s almost, in some sort of weird way, like making me choose between my American upbringing or my Chinese heritage. I can’t choose because both have and will continue to influence my life, my choices, and shape who I am. 

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where I just feel Chinese. Those moments happen when I huddle in with my volleyball team and notice that I’m significantly tanner than everyone else. I also feel it when I put my contacts in, and my eyes are refusing to stretch anymore, thanks to my almond-shaped eyes. Additionally, I feel it when I have nothing to share with a group about the first three years of my life. 

To answer the question in the most honest way I can, I do feel Chinese: I feel it every once in awhile--like a gentle voice telling me I am not in the same place I started. And sometimes, that thought makes me feel anything from angry to sad. These thoughts can make me feel out of place, momentarily awkward, or will make me question who I am and why God placed me here of all places.  

But then, I stop and reflect . . . I take a look at what I’ve been able to do because of my Chinese heritage. My rich history was what kindled me to write The Newest Flower. It’s because of this history that I can go into classrooms and encourage kids to embrace their differences. Every book event I’ve ever done was because of my Chinese heritage. This entire blog is dedicated to the fact that I’m Chinese. But perhaps the most telling is when I can look in the face of a little girl named Nadine and say that my Chinese background helped her get home. 

And all of this has happened, not in spite of being Chinese, but because I am Chinese. So if you ask me today if I feel Chinese, my answer would sound a little like this, “Yes, because some of my greatest moments have been because of my Chinese heritage, and it’s part of who I am.”

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