February 22, 2021

2021 ENGAGE | WITH MY ROOTS.



In January, I declared 2021 the year of ENGAGEMENT. Not the proposal or wedding ring (still single as a Pringle over here) but more ENGAGEMENT in myself, in my community, and in the world around me. 

And boy, has 2021 challenged me to do just that. I spent much of last month rediscovering who I am as I entered into a new year and new decade of my life. I had a brief mid-life crisis, so to speak, and worried that I didn't even know what I enjoyed, liked, or wanted from my own life. After some prayer and journaling, I realized that I've known all along, I just haven't always dedicated time and attention to what was hidden deep down in my heart. 

This month, I've felt more and more challenged to own my story and to dig deeper into my roots. When news of increased violence rooted in racism against Asian Americans took social media by storm, I was instantly crushed, angered, and afraid. Born in the Bay Area myself, hearing about random attacks against the elderly hit way too close to home, especially with family living in that area right now. 

I've seen more and more Asian American celebrities speaking up and speaking out against the racism we've faced for years and yet I've felt frozen and conflicted and just unsure about what to do myself. 

To be honest, much of my life has been spent unconsciously and consciously trying to conceal (and thus deny) my heritage and cultural roots. After moving from California, I grew up and have since lived in a predominantly White area. I remember the teasing and insensitive questions from peers and teachers as a kid. Peers used to ask me if I had eyelashes. They'd pull their eyelids to make their eyes more like me. They would ask to cheat off my work because they thought I knew all the answers. And teachers would automatically assume I would act or achieve certain academic goals because of my skin and appearance. They'd pair me with exchange students from Asian countries because they likely assumed we'd all get along and speak the same language. 

So I tried to hide that part of me. I wanted so badly to fit in and to not stand out that I assimilated and denied my own culture and roots to fit in with what I thought was cool or normal.  And I quickly became proud to be a Twinkie or banana, yellow on the outside, white on the inside. 

But I never truly fit in.

I never felt good enough for either part of me - the yellow or the white. I wasn't  skinny enough, smart enough, or impressive enough to be fully accepted by my Asian counterparts and their families (comparison is realllll amongst Asians). And I wasn't cool enough, pretty enough, or white enough to be fully accepted by my white peers, either. 

I've lived with this internal tug of war for my entire life and just buried it deep within. But when I saw more and more of my Asian friends and peers posting to social media about their own stories of growing up with racism, I felt convicted to confront and engage in my own story and share it with others, too.

My platform isn't huge. My story isn't, either. But in this day and age, I believe we have to be better at listening and learning from the lives of others. And we have to be courageous to step up to the plate and voice our own stories as well. 

© IN ITS TIMEMaira Gall