As people, we naturally yearn to just “fit in”. It’s a concept that never seems to escape us adoptees, no matter how much time and effort we put in to building, reinforcing, and reminding ourselves of our self worth and identity.

For years, growing up in worlds that seem so our own, we are reminded time and time again that we don’t hold all the attributes – barring our complete assimilation. We wake up, day in and day out, many – even most – of us completely unaware nor caring of our inherent difference to the enculturation that we endured being raised in the respective environments we were adopted into. It’s rude awakenings, jolting shocks, near-slaps in the face moments which never let us forget – we are not totally our parents’ children, our siblings’ sibling, nor our community’s community.

Of course, during our younger ages, we are more directly affected by our difference. We’re hyper-sensitive to it, and as nurtured, learned survivors, have created mental/emotional defenses to defeat our inner feelings of incompatible failings. A near universal theme amongst the adoptees that I have come to know, has been the phase through which we birthed into our enculturized existence. For me this consisted of a near elimination of my Asian identity – forget welcoming it, I shunned it, shut it out of my life with an almost outrageous passion.

Obviously, much has changed in my adolescent and adult life. I’ve recreated “who” I am in an effort to embrace – “who” I am. This process has been long, arduous, painful, and most importantly, on-going. I am not, nor will I ever fully subject myself to accept the fact that I am not fully assimilated, but it’s a fact that during my stronger moments in life, I have come to accept.

It’s easy for me to verbalize, to bring some existential wisdom to, to express in the intellectual language of liberal erudition, what it means to be “proud of who I am”. I am a proud “Asian American”, I am empowered by the multicultural movement, the idea of ethnic studies, and the hopes for a nation of a quilted pattern. But…

Why then am I ashamed of sitting next to the Asian family I see at the beach during those weekends at home, ashamed of ordering Chinese food in the middle of my small, yuppy, suburban town, ashamed of seeing my people speak in their native languages at the local mall? Where is the pride in that? Where is the empowerment that I can so clearly define and project with such vigor? Where is the fairness of having to “feel” a shame that I can only know by knowing one culture, but being objectified as, and objectifying another…

This is the irony of MY existence. This is the dichotomy of who I am, and no matter what, I will always be reminded…and always, deep down during those hidden moments, feel that shame…and it hurts…

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