Heritage, what an odd word to think of. This mere noun has given my family much pride as it defines who we are and the way we live. Through this word, my parents molded who I am through a type of cross-identity with not only American ideals but Chinese as well. The duality of my mixed heritage perfectly embodies my life in America; one filled with cheeseburgers and the other dumplings. Though it seems this coexistence of both Chinese and American was fine from the outside, I was solely living as a shallow husk of the expectations from my parents and peers. To them, I was living the perfect life; good grades, played sports, and had numerous friends. However, behind my disguise, I truly was at odds with myself. Who was I? Why wasn’t I like the rest of the children in my classes? Why was my mom the only one who spoke Mandarin to me and not the rest of the moms?
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My heritage anchored me to my identity by bringing me back to reality. I felt that I had to break free from this unknowing persona otherwise I’ll go down in history as just being a plain, boring person like everyone else. Eventually, I became appreciative of what my heritage had to offer. Through my mother’s helping and caring work ethic, I began to reach out to the community around me. This began from my time teaching friends and relatives Mandarin in attempt to show the world around me who I was. And eventually I became one of the few students chosen to serve as a tour guide to a new Chinese student in my town. I supported him with companionship and formed a bond through language that was completely unique compared to my previous experiences with friends from America. Thus, ultimately realizing that my heritage won’t be a burden but rather a tool for me to critique and fix my development as a person in service to others.
This servitude to my community and appreciation of my heritage stem from an incident many years ago. It began with two unknown people sitting in my living room, each calling out to me something foreign in Mandarin. I just ignored them, causing my mother to look at me in disbelief, her eyes fluttering from me to the pair of people sitting in our living room. Her forehead creasing in several different spots, eyebrows furrowing to the point where I knew that she felt a blend of anger, disbelief, and even astonishment. These two random people weren’t strangers at all but rather my Aunt and Uncle who traveled 7000 miles just to see me. I became sweaty with embarrassment and shame, a pain that no one should ever feel. Not recognizing your own family, feeling your heart plummet to the bottom of your stomach, and watching your relatives and parents gawk at you in amazement drove me to find a passion about learning about my history, my heritage. From that point on, I will never shy away from the opportunity of something foreign as each day I have to prove myself and others wrong. Distinct uniqueness is a trait that should be embraced not thrown under the bus for you to conform to societal norms.
Heritage isn’t just a plain label to your ethnicity. It is something that should drive you to compete in bettering yourself for the sake of your family and peers. This inheritance from your parents exemplifies the integrity of one’s self as well as the determination to not only enhance the qualities of yourself, but also the society around you.
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