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Not "Asian" Enough

Updated: Mar 28

Dear Asian Youth,

When I was growing up, I had always known I was Asian. It sounds silly, but being Asian seemed like an integral part of my life; I ate the foods, followed our traditions and customs, was involved with Filipino organizations, and had many Filipino friends. Being Asian was, and is, a very important part of my life.

Throughout the fourteen years I have lived, I’ve been involved in many career-based clubs, for my parents are always suggesting that I join organizations like FBLA, HOSA, and many others. Many Asians encourage getting involved in STEM and other “academic” clubs and activities, but I’ve never found a complete interest in that area. I’ve always known that being Asian was a significant aspect of my life, but because of this, I’ve never been sure if I’m worthy of calling it mine.

In elementary school, I thought of myself as an amazing student; I got astounding grades (even though they didn’t really matter), rarely got in trouble, and had a lot of friends. At the time, I was extremely proud because doing well felt like a part of my identity as a Filipino. Every now and then, I would get a comment like, “You’re only smart because you're Asian,” and I would think to myself, “Wow, I’m living up to my Filipino heritage!” At the time, being Filipino, and being Asian in general, meant absolutely nothing but good grades.

In elementary school, many things about yourself go unnoticed. I was entirely aware of the fact that I was Asian, yet I didn’t understand the weight behind it; I couldn’t have told you what it’s like to be an immigrant or what it’s like to come from poverty. I wasn’t able to comprehend what being Asian meant to my parents, or why we’re always so proud of our heritage.

Along came middle school.

In middle school, my self-esteem skyrocketed. I had moved to a new county, and it was an entirely new experience. I played the trumpet in band and genuinely believed that I was the most talented person in the room because I was able to get high grades and be amazing at playing an instrument at the same time. I believed I had the organizational skills and capabilities to manage both, and thought of myself as the most responsible person ever, the model student.

My parents always told me how proud of me they were: “Study hard,” they would always say, “get a job that makes a lot of money.” I had always told people that I wanted to be a doctor even though I had no idea what they did. I just wanted money and to make my parents happy.

But things changed when I discovered my love for theatre.

The summer before eighth grade, I auditioned for a musical at a nearby community theater. It wasn’t my first, but I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to get involved with other theatrical opportunities in my area.

Throughout the rehearsal process, I had thought to myself, “This is so