We like to think we have everyone pegged: the white jock the girls love and who seems to have it all, the Asian boy that aces all the tests effortlessly, the black “thug” who walks with a pimp in his step, spitting rap lyrics. But we don’t. We have no idea. In fact, the more we rely on stereotypes like the ones listed above, the further we are from the truth. And why does this reality suck? Because as Franklin shows us, by leaning on shallow, inaccurate stereotypes and generalizations, we strip those around us, especially minorities, of their right to simply be, on their own terms.
I grew up in a mostly white suburb in Long Island. But even though my parents both had good jobs, I was very confused as a kid; I didn’t know where I fit or belonged. I always felt torn between cultures as an Asian American from Taiwan. I was born and raised in America but there were also times where it felt like the Taiwanese way didn’t always fit, which is why I always felt like I was stuck in the middle and didn’t fully belong to either side.
As a kid, I was very introverted and quiet. For example, when I was about 12/13, I was on a bus, and these girls approached me and said they thought I was cute. I froze, my face turned red, and I couldn’t even get one word out without stuttering. To a degree, I was shocked that girls even took interest in me, but I was frustrated because I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. Being raised in Asian culture, my dad never taught me about that–how to talk to girls. It was mostly about schools, getting the best job, and the expectation that if you got your life together, the girl would come.
We all deal with feeling like we don’t fit in, but that doesn’t mean you should feel uncomfortable. You are your own culture, your own person. And that’s more than enough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
In middle and high school, things began to change as puberty hit and all the kids my age began trying to figure themselves out. I still didn’t date, but I tried to break out of my shell and have a bit more fun. When I was 16/17, I got more comfortable with myself. I realized that confidence was something that women liked.
So, whenever I had the chance to step out of my comfort zone, I did. The more I did that the more my mentality changed: I realized there were things in life you just couldn’t be passive about and I no longer wanted to feel like I was always waiting for things to happen. This kick-started a change in how I saw myself and the world around me.
Freshman year, life was simple. I had a checklist of what I was supposed to do and what was expected me: get good grades and get into a good school. But by my senior year—partially because of dance—that checklist got more complicated. I started to stare at each thing on the list and question it.
Instead of just one way and reasoning, I saw different paths behind each potential check. And sometimes, I realized I didn’t even want to check something off. I think that’s when I began to see what adulthood—and manhood—was all about: being brave enough to make your own choices.
For so long, I was constantly trying to find myself in everything around me without ever looking within. Now, I realize that I am who I am—and that’s more than enough.
Being in between two cultures, I was raised to believe that you’re supposed to do things a certain way for school and life. I was conditioned to think that my parents were always right, and in their own way, they were. But I also realized that I was right, too, when it came to needing to discover my own truth and path.
For so long, I was constantly trying to find myself in everything around me without ever looking within. Now, I realize that I am who I am—and that’s more than enough. And if I could share anything with the world, it would be that we all deal with feeling like we don’t fit in, but that doesn’t mean you should feel uncomfortable. You are your own culture and you are your own person. And that’s more than enough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.