A Picture of Stereotypes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 31, 2014
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I remember sitting by myself, cross-legged on my floral patterned bedspread, surrounded by an array of different volumes of yearbooks that I had collected over my life. I would crack open the spine of each, to peer at the glossy polished pictures depicting everything I wanted to be- pretty, confident, and …white.

In the July of 1995 I came to the United States, a squirming 5 month-old bundle of fat Asian baby, completely unaware that I had been given a new life, new identity, and a family. This realization was a taxing process and did not strike me with its full force until I reached middle school. I do not know if it was the overwhelming rush of teenage angst, or plethora of imbalanced hormones, but I remember becoming acutely aware that I was adopted- and not white. In class I would feel the stereotypical stares and hear the comments about how I should be good at math, and eat rice. I wanted to scream to my peers, “That’s not me! In fact, you probably have more knowledge of Asian cultures than me!”

Yet, I never did.

However, I did decide that if everyone only sees me Asian, then I would become the most stereotypical Asian girl that I could possibly be. Henceforth, during my first two years in high school I began to focus heavily on both math and science courses. I took accelerated science and skipped ahead into an honors math class a grade above me. However, I quickly realized that these subjects were not for me. Though I was quick to push these feelings out of my head and tried to persist down a more technical field- a more “Asian” field, or so I believed. In accordance with my heavy technical schedule I also took up band and joined the robotics team for a year. However, when it came down to the truth, deep down I did not enjoy anything that I was involved in other then my band class and my previously established community service clubs such as 4-H club and Key club. My grades began to suffer from my lack of interest in the subjects of my class and I began to become depressed by trying to fit into the mold that I had created for myself.

I was confused. I was conflicted. The only things that I felt passion towards were my limited time in band and few community service clubs. Yet, those things were not classified as fitting the “Asian” mold though. In fact, these things would segregate me from my peers all over again. I would not be accepted by other Asian peers because I did not have the same cultural experiences as they did, and I would continued to be bullied back into this mold by everyone else. I felt as though I was living a life in which I did not fit into any role.

However, as time begin to pass and my angst began to slowly lessen, I was struck with a startling realization. My peers that would bully me with their racial slurs, and stereotypical remarks did not define me. That when the bullies would tell me that I was a “fake Asian” or that I “needed to go back to where I came from,” they were all making me choose between two options- an Asian women or a Non-Asian women. And, realistically, I was not either. I was merely only me. A student that has passion for leadership and community engagement, an individual that feels an overwhelming sense of duty to give back to the world in any way she can. An unique women that had an overwhelming love for the humanities, writing, and social sciences.

With newfound confidence in both my passions and myself, I entered my junior year of high school with a newfound zeal. I quickly adjusted my schedule to reflect my desired interests with a heavy focus on English classes and quickly took up leadership positions in band and 4-H. And, for the first time in my life, I found that I was exceeding all expectations, I quickly rose to the tops of my classes and turned my grades around- eventually leading to a 4.0 in my senior year classes. Likewise, I discovered that one must first decide what her passions are before she can truly succeed in school and life. That when passion and genuine interest are combined, a sense of self-worth develops very quickly afterwards, leading towards recognition in all fields (merit, professional world, and leadership opportunities).

By the end of my high school career I had been given enormous opportunities, both in and outside of school. I had been given an elite role as a section leader in my marching band for two years, been voted a band council member and mentor, and founded and led a clarinet choir that placed 1st at a state competition. Likewise, I had devoted numerous hours to my 4-H group in both elected officer roles, community engagement at a food shelter, and was awarded the name of 4-H All Star as recognition for my dedication and work. Consequently, because of my newfound passion for the humanities in school, I was able to raise my G.P.A. up to graduate Magna Cum Laude and be accepted into Michigan State University’s Honor College. I had found my path in life and school. Though at first a struggle, I had overcome peer bullying, social expectations, and my worst enemy- my own personal identity crisis being an Asian adoptee.

My path to success was never easy. I had to face many years of peer discrimination, though I have learned that social and personal molds need to be broken and people should not be confined to the stereotypes that exist in this world today. Thus, I have decided to devote my life to others that are feeling the confines of stereotypes or others expectations. This summer I will be doing a study abroad in Mali, working with dialogue reconciliation to help the people of the country rise up and defeat the stereotypes that have followed them because they are a third world country. Likewise, due to extra work and a heavy freshmen schedule; I have received enough credits to move to junior standing, my first year in college, where I know that I am one step closer to fulfilling my dream- becoming a human rights lawyer. I want to fight for those that are being bullied by the restrictions of an unjust world. To perhaps give children a chance to be adopted, like myself, so they too can follow their passions and exceed all stereotypes, restrictions, or people trying to hold them back.

I no longer stare at my old yearbooks, wishing that I was someone else- pretty, confidant, and white. No. Now I know that there is no one better, more beautiful, more inspiring and passionate, more unique, or successful then being yourself. I am no longer a picture of stereotypes or of a confused adoptee. I am no longer a picture, no longer a flat one-dimension fake smile. I am a well-rounded, successful, passionate individual that now knows that nothing can stop her.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

UnicornUnice This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 5, 2014 at 10:12 am
As an Asian girl living in many different foreign countries, I have had many moments like these, too. I never liked (and I still don't) the stares that people gave whenever I walked by the streets. I never liked how people made fun of my eyes. I never liked how people expected me to be excellent in every single subject.  I'm still going through that phase, to be honest. I still don't feel confidence in myself and I often look in the mirror only to frown. It's amazing how y... (more »)
4everSilent replied...
Feb. 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm
It's really a tragedy that society doesn't give a wide variety of role models, but what I have found from this "lack of role models" that more clearly represent me is that I have to be my own role model, and hopefully will be someone else’s.  I hope/know that you will find a passion that drives you and know that every positive thing you do is not only for yourself but also for others searching for their own role model.   (: If you ever need any advice or just ... (more »)
UnicornUnice This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm
I agree. Especially when it comes to things like Hollywood or the media, there seems to be fewer Asians. I'm not saying that there aren't any at all or that the star world is the most important, but it would've been nice to have more role models. I mean, I had role models, but they were just known in my home country, nowhere else. That made me feel a bit ...restricted in a way, and made me feel like I couldn't make it far. It would be amazing if I could eventually become a role m... (more »)
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