Today I am who I am because my understanding of myself never changed.
When you’re new in a place and don’t have any friends you can find support in the most unexpected of places. I was inspired by of an article I read about an Indian woman, Kangana.
"Perhaps the only expectation is that you grow up as a presentable young woman and get a decent spouse.” Kangana, said. “I was a pain, not the kind of child an Indian parent would like to have.” Kangana felt she was worth just as much as her brothers, she decided to run away on a “quest to understand her own self, to be allowed to be more than people thought she was.” She was dismissed as a nobody, “a village woman with a weird accent,” but Kangana stuck to her guns, her sense of self worth carrying her through.
The quotes above deeply resonated with me and my experience growing up Vietnamese-American and as I was living in Vietnam, right down to the weird accent people detected from me. I had probably my first distraught moment in Saigon yesterday. These moments usually consist of some kind of questioning and crying. It was after speaking to my Mom about staying here indefinitely. I guess as I get older I hope for my Mom to better understand or see who I truly am. The beauty, the strength, the determination that I possess to do anything, yet she still hasn’t.
Throughout my life, my mother was never encouraging – this doesn’t mean she was discouraging, but the absence of encouragement might as well be that for a child who needs people to believe in them. She was never the tiger mom so many asian parents are expected to be. She allowed me to explore on my own, and it could’ve been because she was working hard and could not be involved to know what kinds of trouble I could get myself into. She allowed me to quit things that no longer suited my interests at the time (like piano and guitar), it could’ve been because she did not have the capacity to discipline me otherwise. At a very young age, I’ve always had to lean on myself to believe I can do anything. The biggest example was when I went to study abroad in Brazil at the age of 16 – my family didn’t support me at all; they blatantly discouraged me and said it was too much work. Had I listened to them and acquiesced, my life wouldn’t be the way it is today, I probably wouldn’t be in Vietnam. I know for certain I wouldn’t be who I am.
So usually it may seem that I am rebellious, always doing the contrary to what my parents tell me but in fact I recognize no limits for myself. “We are only limited by our own convictions” as I've heard someone once said. However, I also empathize and see the limitations life, Vietnam, the US have placed on my immigrant parents, and understand why they caution me from pushing those limits. But they don’t know how powerful I am and what I can contribute to this world (I don’t, myself)–and its bigger than just them. It’s what I can contribute to people like them; who they represent. Those whose limits have been pre-drawn for them. Their fates predestined.
What I wish for my mom to understand one day is that I am not just Vietnamese, that my identity bleeds beyond my homeland’s borders, not just in the US but to the many countries and peoples whose lives have touched mine and mine of theirs. I’ve had the privilege to travel and I want to do something with the perspectives I’ve gained.
Loan is a Philly-based writer and researcher. Visit https://dragontell.wordpress.com to explore her writing.