Self-Identity Essay, Research Paper
Essay #5: Self-Identity
Throughout most of my childhood, I have been predominantly exposed to nothing
but the Chinese culture. When my parents first immigrated to the United States from
Canton, China, they rented a small apartment located right in the heart of Chinatown.
Chinatown was my home, the place where I met all my friends, and the place where I’d
thought I’d never leave. I spoke only Cantonese, both to my friends and to my parents.
Everyone I was around spoke fluent Cantonese, and I never spoke anything other than
Cantonese. I was pretty much secluded from the outside world because I never left
Chinatown, for I felt this was my home. However, my parents felt differently. They
wanted me to adapt the “American” culture. By being more “Americanized”, they felt
that life would be better and that my sister and I would be more accepted. For that reason,
my family and I made the big move to the Sunset District ten years ago; a move my
parents hope would be a quick assimilation into the mainstream – the “American”
culture- an assimilation that would ultimately change my values and my perceptions of
my cultural background.
When I moved from Chinatown to the Sunset District, I was completely amazed
at how different it was compared to where I grew up. There was considerably less
traffic and noise on the streets. I remember, I would have to push my way to get through
streets when I was in Chinatown. One major difference that I noticed was that all the
children were Caucasian. This was completely different for me because when living in
Chinatown, I only associated with predominantly Asian. Sunset definitely had more
Caucasians than Chinatown.
When I arrived at my new home, I was quickly plunged into the “process of
assimilation.” My parents enrolled me into St. Anne’s, a Catholic school that consisted
mostly of Caucasian. Although I am a quick learner, it was especially hard for me
because I had to learn English. I did whatever I could to blend in. I bought cafeteria food
and ate American lunches like bologna sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly. Most of
my friends were Caucasian, and I joined clubs associated with Caucasians. I tried so hard
to fit in so that I would be accepted. I did whatever my friends did. I begged my parents
to buy me trendy clothing and designer labels. The haircut I had was also very similar to
that of my friends. I spoke like them and adopted their ways. I wanted no longer to be
Asian. I hated that part of me. I just wanted to be “American.” I hoped that by doing
everything they did and following their ways, I would be accepted despite the fact that I
In fifth grade, a new student was enrolled into my class. His name was Bradford
Chin. Bradford reminded me of myself when I first came- conservative, traditional,
and very studious. Not knowing any better, I felt somewhat embarrassed around him. I
believed that his appearance would be a reminder to everyone of the person I was before.
Because of this I ignored and avoided him as often as I could. One day, I was eating
lunch with my friends and I glanced over towards Brad. I noticed he was eating one of
my favorite Chinese pastries, “Dan-Tat.” Just the thought of a nibble of that sweet,
delicious pastry conjured up a childhood memory of me when I sat in a bakery in
Chinatown, enjoying the delicious aroma of fresh buns and eating a “Dan-Tat” of my
own. This reminiscence summoned enough courage for me to go visit him. I approached
him slowly, and asked him for a piece of the sweet treasure and he happily offered me
some. I spent the rest of lunch hour chatting with him. I found out that we have much in
common and that he was a wonderful person, both inside and outside. We found
our parents to be very similar in both their values and beliefs. We soon became
great friends and as our friendship became stronger, I felt I was rediscovering
During my childhood, I focused so hard on changing my ways and being accepted
that for a time I felt that I also lost myself in the process. I felt as if I didn’t know who I
was any more. By trying to adopt my friends’ values, I abandoned my own. My behavior
changed completely. Once I let go of that superficial self, I no longer had to pretend to be
someone I was not and just be who I am. I no longer hated the fact that I was Chinese. I
accepted who I was. More importantly, I was happy with myself.
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