Running Around in Circles
Dear Parents Who Will Probably Never Acquire Enough Proficiency in English to Understand This,
I am not sure which social circle I represent or speak for. I could never draw a decent circle without using an old Backstreet Boys CD to trace one. The circles I dare drew freehand came out lopsided – scared and nervous at the instability that came with walking a path without guidance.
You came to America without guidance. Yet, you also came with many other things: a house, decent amount of money, some friends, me and my sister – things that many immigrants were not fortunate enough to start off with in America. Sometimes, I feel a disconnect with the immigrant families that have had to struggle financially, many of which still do and never achieve the goals that have driven them here. You have struggled too, but the struggle I witness in you is different. It begs me to ask a common immigrant question of myself: Have you achieved what you wanted in coming to America?
In flying over to Southern California from Taipei, you (as do most immigrants) brought along a lot of baggage – suitcases full of expectations, hopes, and dreams never considered by the immigration officers at LAX. In hindsight, I can list out things that I wish you had brought, mostly things you would never thought of needing in America.
In bringing me here, did you realize that I’d be exposed to people of all backgrounds, that the person I come to love may not be of Taiwanese background, speak Mandarin, hold conservative values, or even be of opposite sex? Did you think about identity struggles, racial discrimination, the model minority myth, losing our ethnic language, and ultimately, assimilation to mainstream American culture? Though I do not expect you to have known such knowledge, (for it can only be gained by living in America, or essentially, being [ethnic] American), many times I wish you did.
Yet, here I am, writing my stories, aspiring to be a writer and publish someday, drawing my circles with straight angles and intersecting lines until you take a step back, after almost 20 years, and try to find the circle you thought you had traced but can no longer recognize. I often wonder whether you stare at me as people do a piece of abstract museum art, wondering what my purpose is, what the meaning behind the curves and angles are, and why I turned out the way I did. Will you ever see me with pride, a circle that defied all forces of geometry and tried its best to assert that even though it didn’t look like the ones in math textbooks, that it was just as perfect and beautiful as any circle they’d ever seen?
I’m still trying to figure you out. I only recently figured out that in order for me to expect you to understand me, that I must also understand you. I guess in the end the circle I represent can be those API/A (or any ethnic immigrants) who seek their own path, who choose to respond to SAT multiple choice questions by circling none of the above, writing in their own answers, and doodling on the side. We struggle internally for balance between two (or more) cultures, fight externally for tolerance and understanding, and in the end, if all goes according to plan (or maybe if it doesn’t), then we will have drawn the boundaries of our own social circles, continuous with no beginning or end, bound together by our commonalities, differences, and love.
Eric K. Ku