Updated: Jan 25
*Please enjoy this super fun, reflective piece from our guest blogger, Serena Young*
The first thing that’s noticeable, let’s be honest, is probably that I’m Asian. Especially going to a mostly white school, being Asian sticks out. For half of my life, I was known as the shy, smart, artistic Asian girl.
In truth, I was very shy. Before kindergarten, my mom would sign me up for modeling on the runway to help me break out of my shell. I worried about it for hours, having to make sure everything was perfect and I wasn’t going to trip and fall and embarrass myself. When visitors came to our house, I would rush to hide behind my mom’s skirt, peeking out from behind. My big transformation came unexpectedly and totally not of my own choice. I was elected to be student council representative along with another student and she was crazy outgoing. Linking her arm through mine, I was stunned when she started talking to me like we were best friends despite never really talking before. As I warmed up to her, eventually, she rubbed off on me.
I’m a completely different person now, curious and interested in people and stories. I may not be loud, but no one would ever have guessed I used to be shy.
I wouldn’t say I was the smartest in my class, but I was definitely thought of as the smartest. And when people all around you always say you’re smart and they always come to you for answers, you start making sure you actually know those answers. My entire life was based on the fact I was part of the smart kid group.
Slowly, I started to learn I wasn’t really the smartest. Other kids would know answers I didn’t, but either no one else trusted them or they didn’t want the responsibility of helping others through a problem. I began struggling to pretend I knew everything. Finally, in middle school, I dropped it.
“Hmmm, I don’t know,” was suddenly an okay thing to say. I became open to asking others for help. I learned someone I had never expected was really good at math. Someone else excelled at history. For all of lower school, being in the highest math class was the symbol of how smart you were. But now I know that isn’t the case.
I used to go to art classes and submitted to art competitions. Once, in lower school, I won a competition and got awarded $500 as a prize. Whenever the class needed to decorate a poster someone would point to me, “Serena’s good at art!”
But I would never volunteer myself, knowing I wasn’t really that talented, I just had a good teacher behind me and patience to fix and erase and fix and erase. Slowly, my interest in drawing didn't take off and I found happiness in reading instead. I would transport myself into new stories and different people, relaxing and discovering the worlds I chose to fall into.
Well, being Asian, I can never change. But I’ve changed the way I view myself. I used to envy those girls with blonde hair and blue or hazel eyes. They were tall and athletic and outgoing. They always seemed so sure of themselves and how others treated them, like they didn’t already have a label planted on their heads. I told my mom about this one day, and she looked me in my eyes, “Serena, you are so unique! How many other Asian girls are there in your grade?”
I could count them in my one hand. "No matter where you go, you will always make an impression. They’ll never forget you!” At that time I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. But now, it’s a kind of blessing.
Going into a restaurant, “Hi, is my family here?”
One look at me and the waitress would smile and lead me to the only Asian family in the room.
I'm the Asian who wears cool boots. Or the one who wears different earrings. For when I was the only Asian on the lacrosse team. Then the only Asian in the drama show. Then not far off from now, the only Asian teen with her own amazing, bestselling published book.
I know I’m super blessed to be in an environment where I barely even notice I’m Asian, instead it’s my personality and skills are that define me. And now, with the rise of Asians in pop culture, there is a certain pride in being consulted or gushed with about anime, Kpop, Chinese New Year, new shows, idols, songs, movies and fashion.
“Oh yeah, being Asian is cool now.” Norden, my brother, stated. He barely looked up from his screen, it was like a fact.
I’m not the shy, smart, artistic Asian girl anymore. But I am smart, I am artistic and I am proud to be Asian.
~ Serena Young email@example.com Follow her on Instagram: @loveserenayoung