My Identity Essay Example
When I was in high school, my parents never taught me my identity as Yang's parents to her. When I looked into a mirror, I saw a reflection of myself without realizing who I was. Once I finished all four years of going to White Bear Lake Area High Schools that I realized what it was like to be me. It felt so similar to Yang's identity loss during her stay at Phanat Nikhom. My experiences with classmates with whom I felt were attempting to forcefully assimilate into their culture represent a parallel between me and Yang.
Assimilation in a temporary refugee camp in Thailand is not the same as assimilation in young millennial culture in America. For one thing, Yang's identity loss ties into her parents telling her of her Hmong heritage. Her parents would ask her what she is, and she replied she was Hmong, allowing her to always remember who she was at heart. This would make her identity loss feel personal to her, as when she studies English and gets used to American customs, it makes her realize her losing her heritage feels like she has no feeling of who she is. In my case, my parents never constantly reminded me of being Minnesotan, or that my culture would tie into who I was inside.
When I went to White Bear, I was "assimilated" rather differently. Classmates told me how to look, act, dress, and speak, and like Yang, it was for fitting into their culture believing it would lead to a better life. But unlike the personal feeling of Yang's heritage loss, that was not my reason for feeling I didn't know who I was. Where my unhappiness arose was the bullying I endured, because at the same time I was told how to act, I was pushed around by those same people, just to make themselves feel better. I felt my classmates acted like a double-edged sword when it came to their culture; they would "show me" how to act like them, but pick on me because they wanted to remind me that they were still more powerful. I lost sense of who I was because I didn't know how people wanted me to act, not because my identity tied to what my parents said it did.
Yang describes more how miserable she feels when she transferred from 'regular" school to being in a daycare center, as her teacher determines she isn't ready for regular school yet; mainly this is due to her falling asleep in class. Yang of course does not take the transfer well; she longs to be in Ban Vinai again where she can be surrounded by the people she loves, rather than in a classroom with faces she can't recognize. She also wishes for her Grandma to still be with her. While I can't relate in terms of wanting my family rather than school, I know the feeling of being put in a separate study 'class' away from regular school. As a mild autistic child, I was often sent to a separate classroom during lunch hour, where other teachers would help me work on my social skills. My mind lacked the same amount of desperation that went through Yang’s mind, as I didn't so much long to see people I loved as I did want to be part of normal class I lost my sense of who I was further, because I didn't know how to balance being what the cool kids taught me to be and being a somewhat mentally challenged student. How was I supposed to seem like a popular kid without being bullied by other students, as well as prevent my social awkwardness from shining through? I feel like I would risk being picked on more because of this. I wanted to be in a normal classroom with normal students studying normal subjects I could relate with, not separate from them, instead studying social interactions amongst other autistic teenagers.
As she is departing Phanat Nikhom for America, Yang says that she has no memory of ever leaving there. She surmises that because as children, they aren't able to remember places that taught them fears that didn't help contribute to the state of how fearful the world was. After all, she is departing from a country that doesn't want to welcome Hmong residents anymore into a country where she is unsure of how she will be treated by other Americans. As I graduated from White Bear and transitioned towards Century College, I found that I too didn't have any memory graduating, let alone ever attending high school. I feel as though high school taught me more about being afraid of fitting in with crowds then doing actual schoolwork, and this didn't help contribute to what I think are more 'rational fears' in the world of education: "How will you pay for your tuition?" "What is the job market going to be for your dream career?" Perhaps they aren't so much fears in this case as they are more rational questions. Yang's fears of America had become my fears of high school, and neither of us knew who we were or were supposed to be during our time at our respected locations. Thankfully, as older, wiser humans, we are more aware of who we are on the inside, and how are identities have changed over time for the better, and not for the worse.
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