Although Asian Pacific American Heritage month is technically over...that doesn't mean that we can't still celebrate. If you had the chance to read the first post of my series #OwnYourAsian, then you already know what this one is about. But if you haven't, what are you waiting for, get on reading here!
Ahead are three more bad-ass women who have struggled and faced challenges through their childhood to get to where they are today.
Shristi, 24, Podcaster, Recovering Banker and soon to be Business Developer- Nepalese American
I came to the United States at the age of 15 from Nepal. To say that I had a hard time making friends and figuring out myself would be an understatement. As an immigrant, I was expected to excel and appreciate the opportunity that was given to me by my parents and I would even feel guilty to mention it to my family that I was having a hard time in school because their hardships were way worse than mine.
One thing I struggled with was language. I felt that I had a hard time making friends in high school because I was so different and didn’t really know how to communicate well. Eventually, I joined the debate team, started watching and listening to American movies and music and slowly but surely improved my vocabulary.
Fortunately, I came to New York City as an immigrant and I think this city is one of the most accepting and loving place for people like myself. I don’t think I was ever mistreated and looked down upon for being different; if anything people were curious about my heritage and wanted to know more about me which was amazing. My favorite thing about being a Nepali Immigrant is that I get to experience my culture, spirituality, and food while have the opportunity to live and hustle in one of the greatest cities in the world and be friends with people from all over the globe.
Alanna, 26, Performer- Chinese-American
I remember being seven years old and asking my parents why my hair wasn’t “yellow.” My friends all had yellow hair, my barbie had yellow hair, so why didn’t I have yellow hair?
“Do Mommy and Daddy have yellow hair?” they responded.
“No.” I said.
“Right, so why would you have yellow hair?”
Of course, I thought, I am just like Mom and Dad. I am just like my family.
Seemingly silly and insignificant, this brief interaction with my parents had a profound effect on me. I knew from then on that no matter how different I ever felt that I looked, no matter how different my culture was from what I saw on TV, I would never be different from my family. I would always have my family, and that made being “different” okay.
Of course, as you grow up, your social network branches out a bit past your Mom and Dad, and I came to realize that the people you surround yourself with have a similar effect on how it feels to be an Asian-American in a predominantly white society. Because of this, whether intentionally or not, I have always surrounded myself with people who are comfortable being themselves. When everyone is comfortable being themselves, you quickly realize that everyone is different no matter what culture they have come from, and that those differences are what makes life great. I am proud and love being an Asian-American, and I appreciate anyone who can love their culture and themselves just for the fact that it makes them different.
Hilary, 26, Finance- Chinese-American
With the exception of my high school best friend, it often comes as a surprise to many that I was born and raised outside of this country – they say it’s my lack of accent or that little bit of southern twang. I didn’t grow up an Asian American in the US. I say that because I spent the first 10 years of my childhood in Hong Kong before my parents decided to follow their siblings and uprooted our family to the U.S. Perhaps my perspective better aligns with that of a Chinese immigrant growing up in North Carolina and Tennessee. The Americanization didn’t kick in until much later in high school and really amped up when I moved away to college but really, it was only an hour away.
I never knew that the English language could be so different in the US versus the UK. First day of elementary school in the US, I asked to use the “toilet” after lunch. The teacher giggled and asked if I wanted to use the restrooms – a word that I had never heard of and confused it with “restaurant.” I shook my head in confusion; it was even more frustrating because the whole class was cracking up at my choice of word for the occasion – “toilet.” Til this day, I still can’t be confident that I am using proper grammar but at least I know that I can find my way to the restrooms.
The Americanization process started almost a decade ago but even today, I am still learning/struggling to find that balance for my American ways without losing touch of my Asian roots. I have accepted that I will never be able to carry out every Asian tradition that is expected of me but I am hanging on to the most important one – the unwavering love and care for my parents and siblings. For the longest time, I saw those things as an obligation but as I am getting older, love and care are 2 things that I have made a choice to provide. My closest friends may not understand the length that I have gone for my family being that they were brought up with different cultural background and expectations. However, they have always shown their support especially during the toughest times when I am struggling with that balance. I think their support stems from an understanding that my background is one of the vital parts that makes me whole. I can only hope that if I have children one day, they will be open to accepting more than what the society expects of them because of the color of their skin and their racial background.
Now that you've read about these three inspiring women, I'd love to know your story! Tell me about your own journey in the comments below or feel free to email your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I'd love to know!
Be sure to check back for more stories in the #OwnYourAsian series. And if you haven't yet be sure to check out the Part I of the #OwnYourAsian series.