In my last newsletter, I announced that this month would be all about finding identity. I usually write more instructive/how-to style posts with suggestions for your self-love journey. But I wanted to change things up today with a bit of a personal narrative about my own.
I was adopted from China when I was nine-months old. I never knew my birth parents and probably never will. My adoptive (“real”) parents are both Americans—my mother is white; my father of Japanese descent. Growing up, I attended Chinese school as a little kid. I learned a bit of Chinese throughout high school and my early years of college. My parents made an effort to include Chinese culture in my life. But I never found too much interest in it throughout the years. I just wanted to be a “normal” (i.e. American) kid.
Now that I’m older, I regret not incorporating Chinese culture (especially language) in my life growing up. But now that I’m carving my own path in the world, I’m also trying the straddle the rift between cultural identities. One on hand, I was born in China, look Chinese, but barely know or understand anything about the culture. On the other hand, I live my life as a full-blooded American (blatantly telling everyone I’m right all the time and overindulging in junk food; just kidding on one of those 😉 ) and absolutely loathe people singling me out as “Asian.”
This is a common struggle for trans-racial adoptees and first-generation Americans. We physically resemble one culture, but personally identify with and/or live out another. Or even perhaps live as half one culture and half another—as if the two cannot be reconciled and live in one.
My young adult life began my journey of identity as a transracial adoptee as well as that of self-love. I’ve developed an interest in Chinese cooking and even craved congee like crazy the other week. At the same time, I feel insulted when people point me out as Asian and ask where I’m from (ohhh, I have an assortment of stories there). Ultimately, I want to be the person who defines my racial identity—not having the random lady in Starbucks to do it for me.
As I said last week, knowing yourself is the first step towards self-love. At this stage in my journey of identity and self-love, I’ve learned that knowing who you are goes far beyond identifying with a niche. It’s not enough to say that I’m Chinese, American, adopted, a college student, love cats, and eat all the time in order to understand who I am. More importantly, it’s misleading and inaccurate to let myself think that other people can define my identity in such a manner. Anyone who knows me can say the previous things about me. But only a few understand me without needing words.
That’s my ultimate goal for my relationship with myself. I want my familiarity, understanding, and love for myself to transcend words, labels, and pre-packaged identities. That’s what I would want out of any relationship, so I should hold myself to the same standard. I want to know myself wholesomely so that I can love myself wholesomely. In the end, it doesn’t matter if I “identify” with Chinese culture or American culture. I’m simply me. And if I can understand and love myself deeply, it won’t matter what other labels people try to assign to me.