Asian but not asian enough

I don’t honestly know why I feel the need to actually write this but here it is.

Preface.

I am 100% asian, but I don’t feel like I’m asian enough.

I am half Filipino and half Chinese.

I grew up in San Francisco and have been around mostly asian people my entire life. The Bay Area is full of asian people so it was never hard to find a group of fellow asians to hang around. However, I never felt like I quite fit in anywhere.

In elementary school I was one of three Filipino girls in my class but one of many Chinese kids. What differs me from all of the asian kids at school was the fact that not only was I a halfie, but I am also very American. Third generation on my mom’s side and first on my dad’s — but considering that my dad came to the states when he was seven and grew up in San Francisco his entire life, I would almost consider myself second generation.

me at 6 or 7 years old

Throughout elementary school and high school, I met all kinds of parents and very little were like mine. My parents didn’t have accents and didn’t cook asian food everyday nor did I have rice going on 24/7. In fact, my family was so Americanized that our Thanksgivings and Christmases consisted of very “traditional” American holiday dishes like turkey, mashed potatoes, and steak. It wasn’t until much later in life when people questioned where the lumpia or rice was that I realized that it was very rare for an Asian household to not have these things on their holiday menus.

I love my parents, where I grew up and how I grew up, but something always loomed over my head that told me that I’m not quite Asian enough to claim my cultures.

For starters, I don’t know any Cantonese or Tagalog, nor did my family speak anything but English in our household. When I was younger, I barely knew stories behind the traditions I had been celebrating, the names of the foods I had been eating, or specifically where my families even immigrated from. But because my only defining factor of me being Asian at all was my black hair and brown eyes, the way I looked has always been the one thing that I’ve also been the most insecure about.

Since I was young, my heritage has always been questioned simply because my face looks as it does. I don’t look traditionally Chinese or Filipino and to top it all off, I have freckles all over my face. People knew I was asian, but they always questioned what I was mixed with.

“I know you’re mixed with some sort of asian buuuuut….”

Words.

I was about 7 or 8 years old, hanging out in a store in Chinatown with my mom and sisters. As most kids did, I wandered into random section to look at toys or whatever else might be of interest. As I was rounding an aisle, a caucasian woman, likely a tourist, came up to me and said, “I have never seen an Oriental with freckles before!”

I tell this story so much but it’s one that has resonated me for my entire life and has made me so insecure about my freckles. I know she didn’t mean it and she honestly probably hadn’t seen many Asian people before, but what she didn’t know is the lasting impression it would have on me. The constant questioning I had as to why I was the only asian person she’s ever seen with freckles created this fake insecurity that I was different for having them.

Imagining my 7 year old self going through a crisis and crying to herself because she looked different is truly heartbreaking.

Fast forward — the freckle questioning came so often in my life that my answers are now on auto-pilot.

Are you white? Maybe but probably not.

Are you the only one in your family with freckles? Kind of but mine are very prominent.

Would you ever consider removing them? No but I do wish I never had them in the first place.

But enough about my freckles. I know damn well now that I am definitely not the only Asian girl with freckles. Look at Lucy Liu!

probably around 12 years old

Going back on not looking Asian enough — it stems from many places.

One being that in high school I was never Chinese enough to hang out with the Chinese kids nor was I Filipino enough to hang out with the Filipino kids. Instead I found myself floating around various groups, feeling like I truly did not belong anywhere. To this day, I am not super close to any group of people from high school. I was always a lone wolf who made a lot of acquaintances but ultimately kept her circle extremely small.

Another place this stems from is past relationships.

When you’re 14 and someone tells you they love you for the first time, you’ll probably believe it, but when you’re 14 you also have a lot of growing to do. At the time I was dating my first boyfriend, a handsome Filipino boy (lol) from a different school. OoOOOoOooo! We dated for quite some time in high school but it wasn’t until we were rounding about i don’t know 16 years old where he mentioned “hey… why don’t you hang out with more Filipino people?” Up until he said that, I honestly wasn’t aware that it was an issue? I mean in reality it should have never been, but wow was it hurtful. I didn’t know how to answer it and just went about my business. Unfortunately, that question did stick to me for years after, obviously.

I would have a few more relationships after this one and before a very significant one. In those years, I started to become more confident and aware of myself. I’d start learning about my own cultures on my own time, I would have friends from many cultures come and go in my life, and before I knew it, I had entered my early 20s coming in hot with that fuck you type of confidence you only get then. During that time I would bump into an old high school friend and ultimately become his girlfriend.

early 20s confidence is real lol

At first, things were always fun and exciting. He was tall, talented, and of course, Filipino. At the time that we started dating, Instagram was just lifting off, and we became very much a cool Instagram couple, you know #couplegoals or whatever. Instagram became a big focus for the both of us because I was just starting my photography career and he was doing all things dance. He’d later become interested in photography which I was so excited about, but like a lot of things, Instagram ruined a whole lot. Influencer culture became a thing and we both began reaching out and looking for models to shoot on our time off.

What I didn’t realize is how badly this would change things.

I started to see him like so many photos of all these asian girls. The ones with long black hair, beautiful complexion, very skinny, and very prominent asian features. All the features I didn’t have. I am not that tall, my hair is always a different color AND frizzy, and I have a very muscular build.

This would tear me a part and I would constantly have to tell myself that “he’s just looking for people to shoot with.” But in all honesty, was he? It would take him days or even weeks to like one of my own photos, even ones I’d even tag him in.

Being that this was during my mid-20s and toxic Instagram culture was at an all time high, I was completely broken. I had never wanted to be so naturally thin, fair skinned, or rip my whole face off for a new one more than I had wanted to at that time. I had all these feelings and horrible thoughts about myself that I would hide because I always thought my problems were way less significant than the next person. I especially didn’t want to bring it up to my boyfriend at the time because I knew he would take it the wrong way, then completely dismiss it in the end.

Once it became unbearable, I slowly started weening myself off of Instagram. It helped, but only to a certain point. I do believe this insecurity caused a huge strain even after getting off Instagram because after a couple more years, I ultimately ended a six year relationship, not for that reason alone, but it was definitely a factor.

Thus began my journey to self healing.

Slowly but surely, I am coming to terms with all that has happened to me in the past to make me think that I’m not Asian enough. The way I look has absolutely nothing to do with being Asian enough because well, I am enough. At the end of the day, this body and face will remain as is and I am thankful for it to have carried me through 30 years of life. I am proud of who I am and thankful for the people came before me. Without them I would not be here, nor would I be lucky enough to carry two cultures with me.

There is so much more work to do in America to see someone who looks a lot like me represented, but I am ready to put in that work to one day help my children feel beautiful and accepted.

Conclusion.

It is Asian Pacific Islander Pride Month and I couldn’t be more excited to see tons of representation coming forward, but with it came forth my own insecurities.

You always hear that you should be careful what you say to people because you never know what they’re going through or what’s going to have a lasting impression on them, but you rarely do hear people practice this.

In conclusion, I am enough. I am Asian and damn proud of it.

Be kind to one another.

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