My Life as an Asian Woman in America - is it Really 2020?
To say that 2020 has been a rough year would be a good start. In late January (I don't know to be honest, maybe early Feb), I split up with Joe, or let's just call him Joe since I'm not even using my real name. He was my on and off again boyfriend since November and that's probably the longest amount of time I have ever dated anyone. To make matters worse, my anxiety about school got worse around the same time. Like certain parental restrictions in this world that I'm sure some people could relate to, I was studying to go to med school only to find out that I didn't want to go to med school. The I is important here because at this point I could sound like just about any other woman in her 20s (or rather attempting to live out her 20s) while being stuck in America. I mean I had even applied for a study abroad program in Japan to try and escape, but things didn't quite go in that direction. In fact, a lot of things didn't go in the right direction.
Somewhere around the time that Joe and I split, I began to realize that this year was really going to be bad. People began talking about some kind of new problem that I had little interest in, but would soon realize that said thing would have a huge impact on my identity. Should I even bother mentioning it? Co... viiiiii... no - this would make me feel more like I'm giving a criminal more exposure than the victim(s). And to be honest, that's exactly what I feel like right now – a victim. To be more precise, I'm a scapegoat of scapegoats, and this is not what I thought 2020 would be about. I had wanted to focus on me, and becoming the best me that I could. That's why I had left a small town to be in a big and beautiful city.
New York - is it a big city full of dreams, or is it just what I've created with my dreams?
I was raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. Both of my parents are hard-working and run a local store. We are Chinese by ethnicity, and we are American by heritage. I thought it was all quite cute in a unique way. We would do really American barbecues in July because my dad loved his meat, and we would enjoy hot pot during winters because my mom is the one who really wears the pants in our family. I still don't know how people survive in this world without scrumptious Sichuan cuisine.
I was always encouraged to try new things, and I don't think my parents ever tried to prevent me from "fitting in" with other kids. So when it became time to apply for colleges, I decided to tell my parents that I wanted to move to New York. The neighborhood I grew up in wasn't that diverse in terms of having people with different ethnicities. In my teenage mind, I imagined that New York would have not only the hustle and the bustle that I saw in TV series and movies, but also the diversity that I perpetually dreamed about. My parents were a bit timid about such a move, but I got into a decent school and that sealed the deal for them.
I went from a suburban house to a cramped and dingy apartment, and I loved it. I was so excited when I first moved to the city that I would sometimes just ride the subway for longer than needed to people-watch because I just LOVED the people of New York. I still do. Every weekend would be a new adventure for me. I met so many wonderful people, many of whom are people that will be my friends for life. It was just so amazing to be able to go from seeing an awesome local artist to having a little too much wine with good company to ending a night out at Joe's Pizza (can you see why I called Joe Joe?). I never wanted to leave this place because this city helped me find myself, and love myself for who I am.
Bad vibes make for bad times
Good things don't last forever. I know this from science. Actually, I take that back - I know this from life. Outside of my Joe situation, the place I had called home began to change. It was super low-key, and super unwelcome by me as well as I'm sure the other millions of people who feel like me right now.
Wikipedia fact check breaktime - there are about 5.5 million Asian Americans in California. There are 1.1 million of us in Texas. And there are nearly 1.6 million Asian Americans living in New York. And there is an "American" after Asian for a reason because I believe all of us are. My parents love and would die for this country. And no matter what people tell me, I will always identify as American because I was born here just like everyone else I grew up with.
Some of the things that I have heard people say in the past few months have been disgusting. I don't even read the news, and some of this stuff just creeps up on my feed from friends and family. I want to use this to ask you, the person who is okay with awful behavior and those who just stare - what is wrong with you and the people like you? Like seriously, is it really 2020? Is it okay to spit on me, and inflict unnecessary violence on the elderly and kids? Why are there over 1,700 reports of discrimination? Do you feel better after you do stuff like this? I thought that we were neighbors. I thought that we were friends.
There's room for positive change
The saddest part about everything is that a number of reported incidents happened in New York City. This is the place where I thought discrimination would end. Now, it's the kind of place that sometimes makes me feel like I'm in a horror film. When I hear hurtful things, I close my eyes and tell myself to count from 1 to 10 slowly mostly so that I don't cause a scene with my internalized anger. Thankfully, New York is tough and strong. I tell myself that the haters are not from here, but from an extraterrestrial planet because nobody has time nor room for bad vibes here. New York City's $100,000 effort is a good sign of hope. I give myself hope.
If it's a war that ignorance wants then I will give it my best. I have exercised my well-being for the past few months, and I will continue to do so. That's the way I win, and that's the way I hope all the others like me win. Nothing competes with how hard I laugh with one particular comment that I've heard one too many times now. There are these xenophobic people who tell me and others like me to "go home." It's funny to me because I am a strong and intelligent Asian American woman, and I know exactly where my home is. My home is here, and it will always be here like for my family and the many other people who came to this country. The words will never make me go away, and I can only think that that is what is fueling all their anger.