I grew up in Harker Heights, TX and never felt out of place. About half of the kids at my school were Korean mixed with something. I always heard about how rare my mix was, but when I moved to Dallas I heard it more. It was only then that I realized that as diverse as the world is, it isn’t as obvious to most people as it is to me.
I never noticed race growing up, I just saw people. I never saw Steven as the Korean and White boy who lived down the street, I saw him as the boy who lived down the street and was way cooler than I was. But the Korean kids did stick together a bit. It was almost like we had our own little community, where our mothers knew each other and gossiped while our fathers sat around and talked about politics and news. And within that community was a smaller community of their children who all went to school together.
Growing up, I never really knew the Indian kids or their families. Mostly because there were only two in our school and I don’t think they knew I was Indian. However, even after I moved to Dallas, Indian men never really talked to me. Now that I think about it, I never knew any Indian women, either.
I never denied my Indian heritage, but I think I might have identified with it less, since I was around Koreans more. Also, my father and mother divorced when I was very young. My father had custody of me until I was 13 and then I went to live with my mother until I graduated. So I never really knew much about my Indian culture.
After I moved, I had a clearer view of the world. To Koreans, I was Indian. To Indians, I was Korean. To Americans, I was exotic. I felt a bit like I fit in less. Then, I started to realize that I didn’t care if I fit in. I was ready to blaze my own trail. Even if I had fit in, I was going to separate myself, anyway.
At a very young age, I learned how to be socially adept, though on the inside I was shy and nervous. Recently, I’ve broken that shell. I’m not afraid for people to see my neurosis or the real me. I don’t care if they know what a geeky tomboy I am. I even tell them what a huge geek I am.
I think that being of mixed heritage has made me more confident and wiser. I’m fortunate to have two AMAZING cultures!! They both have given me strength and insight that has pulled me through so many hard times. I often look to our traditions when I am making a hard decision. I think about what my Halmoni would tell me to do. Or what would be culturally acceptable to the Indian community I’ve grown to love and learn about. I’m SOO proud to be Hapa! A little less proud to say I suck at math.