As someone who was adopted into a white family that raised them as one of their own, I struggled as a young adult when it came to terms with my “identity.”
When it came time to fill out forms for many applications, one common question always asked was “What ethnicity do you identify with?” to which I would always choose Asian/Pacific Islander. Yet, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I started to evaluate and research more about my original heritage.
Growing up, I was taught the heritage of my parents due to the lack of knowledge of my birth parents. This resulted in many confused third graders when I would share for show and tell and express my strong German and Norwegian ancestors, with no mention of the fact I looked 100% Chinese.
Fast forward to my early 20s, I am starting to envy those who grew up with parents who were able to educate them on their culture. I remember going to my best friend Capprieottie’s house all throughout high school and learning about her family and beauty culture. She came from a big Hmong family and they would share their culture and traditional dishes with me every chance they could. Even though it wasn’t my own, it was the closest thing I had.
As a result of my curiosity, I started to research Chinese culture and its culinary significance. This led me to love Asian culture and cuisine and continue my fascination with their holidays. This idea of Chinese culture, although new, is something I believe is worth learning more about. Understanding where you come from and seeing people who look like you and celebrate holidays that are meaningful to you is a luxury many overlook.
Do I dwell on my upbringing by my two white parents, of course not, they gave me the best childhood a kid could ask for. Living in a nice house in white suburbia I had many privileges that others did not and I am very thankful for them. However, I do wish that the fact I was Asian was touched on a bit more. Since coming to college that is all I have experienced, being looked at as Asian, talked to as an Asian person, and labeled as an Asian person. Especially ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, my Asianess has been more apparent than ever.
I think many adoptees who were not educated about their birthplace or culture encounter this feeling at one point in their lives. One day I hope to pass down to my children traditions that I continue to learn and become educated on.
Write to Julia Lin at email@example.com