I have such a weird relationship with my heritage country. I love China. It’s my heart-country, I like to call it. I’m dying for the chance to go back. Yet it’s also the place I least wanted to visit when I was younger, because that’s where everyone expected me to go, and it was where my dad went all the time. I always responded, “California,” to the query of where I was from, even when I knew “No, where are you really from?” was sure to follow. Some of my friends would “stick up” for me, responding to curious questioners that I was American, gotta problem with that? I went through a long phase (ended, interestingly enough, by a friendship with my “first Asian friend not related to me” Jedi and a trip to Beijing) of not feeling Chinese at all. China’s also the country of my first language, which is also the language that caused me the most frustration growing up. My dad always wanted me to learn more Chinese, and it drove me crazy because it was hard (the no-alphabet part always frustrated me) and because I felt like I was expected to already know it. It was and is, for me at least, a language with an identity crisis attached. To learn it is to succumb (put cynically) to surrounding white culture that tells me I’m not quite like the rest of them, that I need to learn my heritage language to prove I know and completely accept myself. To learn Chinese is also to accept the jesting/rebuking words of all those aunties growing up, “You’re like a banana -yellow on the outside but white on the inside,” having to learn because I don’t know my “mother tongue” already. And yet it’s the language I keep coming back to. The one I resort to when certain English phrases just won’t come to me, the language I chose to study intensively in college, spending hours upon hours forming little black strokes over and over and over. God surely has a sense of humor.
Perhaps it’s not as big a conflict as I just painted it. I just wrote an application essay for a study abroad program in Beijing this summer; it took me only half an hour because when it comes to talking about China, the words spill out. I have so much to say. I love studying Chinese at UVa, it’s the class I have the most fun in at the moment. Sometimes I’m the one that drops the most Chinese during CCF meetings. I wouldn’t normally describe myself as a conflicted soul torn between two countries. But those words in the previous paragraph were, are also true, then and sometimes now. The fact that I just devoted two paragraphs to the topic indicates that it’s still a struggle (and I feel like I posted on this a few months ago). It’s a journey. It’s a strange cultural/heritage/language/identity/future calling thing, all mixed up. But it reminds me that I don’t lead a segmented life, where school and God and family are all separate, clean-cut and apart from each other. Chineseness swirls all around. Because it’s part of who I am. And it’s what reminds me that who I am isn’t Chinese. Or whitewashed ABC. Or even Chinese American. I’m a child of God. I belong first and foremost not to a race but to my Creator, the source of identity transcending all that confusing stuff.
(I’ll probably need to come re-read this a few weeks later to remind myself of that. ^_^)