My Reflection | TeenInk

My Reflection MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

Itis impossible to know all the thoughts and experiences that merge together tomake a person. Countless images flash through my mind when I think how I havecome to find myself. These images are like the shards of a broken mirror, eachpiece reflecting a part, each piece connecting with the others to make a whole.As I gaze into the angular pieces of glass searching for their meanings, severalsimilar scenes, each played out by different people, catch my eye. Placing themside-by-side, I find that these images are the same, and they reveal an essentialpart of my being.

The scenes begin with someone asking a young girlwhether she is Chinese, Japanese or Korean.

"My parents are fromHong Kong, but I was born here in the United States," is her reply.

It seems automatic for people to follow with, "Do you speakChinese?"

"I speak very little Cantonese," she replies. Atthis point, one of two things happens: the person with whom she is speakingbecomes either indignant or fascinated.

If the person she is speaking tois Chinese, he or she often reacts with disappointment and hurt pride; she hasjoined the ranks of young Asians who "seek to annihilate Chinese culture andits values." This person turns away from her and starts speaking to herparents. They say that she is not worthy of possessing her shiny black hair anddark almond eyes. Hurtful whispers crystallize into a rod of pain that is thrustinto her chest, and the tears that appear are difficult to hide. She knows at hercore that she is not worthless, disrespectful or selfish, even if she is not theidyllic Asian daughter, but the agony renews itself every time she hears thewhispers.

In a conversation with someone who is not Asian, he asks if shecan teach him to say something in Cantonese. She obliges, but cannot helpthinking he is probably assuming: She's smart; she must play the violin or piano;she's good at math; she's always respectful of her parents; she's submissive; shedoesn't get into trouble; she's only interested in school ... It is human natureto create a picture of someone's life from initial appearances, but it should bejust that: a first impression. There are people who think they can know herfuture before talking to her, and presume that she wants to become a doctor or alawyer. The notion that she aspires to be an independent filmmaker is alien totheir minds. She is trapped in a cage of others' expectations. Even though thisanguish is, in part, self-inflicted, it is frustrating for her to see people'sfascination with Chinese culture but their disinterest in her because they thinkthey already know the details of her life.

Although I nearly drowned inthe reflections of pain and frustration, they ultimately saved me. My soul,longing to stay alive, incited my mind to develop a strong sense of self. If Iwas not secure in my identity, it would be lost to what others imagined it to be.I was resolute. I was not going to let anyone who thought I should be moreconventional make me feel guilty for my lack of conformity. Some will always seeme as a "twinkie," yellow on the outside and white on the inside, orthe "Asian girl," submissive and removed.

The people who takethe time to get to know me see a person who is a lover of literature, music,film, theater and art; an open-minded environmentalist; human rights advocate;Francophile; Anglophile; embracer of Chinese traditions; and hater ofintolerance, superiority complexes and self-righteousness. The fragments of glassthat initially wounded me became part of a fusion that has created my completereflection.

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