Most of my life, I have struggled with wanting to belong. To the group of cool kids. To the group of smart kids. To the group of athletic kids. To the group of Christians. To the group of cool, smart, preppy, white Christians.
My parents were the stereotypical Korean American Christian parents. Growing up, we hardly watched TV. My first music video was Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” my senior year in high school at a friend’s house. We weren’t allowed to do any sports because they would take away from our studies (although, eventually in late high school we would convince them to let us run cross country). We weren’t allowed to go to sleepovers, parties, or anything generally fun. We weren’t allowed to listen to a certain kind of music.We were at church all day on Sundays. And Wednesday nights. And Friday nights. Sometimes Saturdays. We had dinner together at a set time every night until my parents’ businesses required them to be out later. We had to practice the piano for hours on end each day.
And every time, I would complain and protest.
“Everyone else gets to…!!!”
“This is America! We should be allowed to…!!!”
“It’s normal to…!!!”
To which my parents – mostly my father – would respond, “Be different.”
I hated hearing that phrase. I already felt different enough. I was one of 3 Asian American students in my class. I was the only one in my class with a different sounding name that was easily caricatured and ridiculed. Mee-hoo. Yoo-hoo. (Actually, they are kind of funny now.) I was the only one who was with my family at church from dawn to dusk on Sundays, and the only one who didn’t have cable TV, and the only one who didn’t go to football games. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be the same. I wanted to be like everyone else.
Read the rest here.