Confessions of a Non-Stereotypical Asian

So here’s a joke you may or may not have heard of … A pediatrician, an obstetrician, and a scientist walk into an Asian restaurant …

To meet a romance author (me!).

Actually, to be honest, they were already seated and I was the one walking in (because hello, Asian time!). 😉

As soon as I sat down that evening, Sesame Street’s song, “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” began playing in my mind. I glanced at the faces of my friends, all of whom I’ve known since junior high, and immediately started thinking … They have real full-time jobs. They went to school for years and years to earn their Ph.D.’s in order to have these well-established careers. They actually have a title that you can check off on forms that’s more fancy than Mr. or Mrs.

And there was lil ‘ol me, a stay at home mom, with my lil ‘ol Masters degree working in a profession totally unrelated to said degree, who just wants to make enough money to support my boba tea addiction.

Yup. You can tell who’s the non-stereotypical Asian here. 😉

I wasn’t comparing myself with my friends because they think less of me—they are all very down-to-earth gals. I was comparing myself to them because I’ve been conditioned to believe all my life that Asians are supposed to be high-achieving, hard-working smarty pants in school who later on become high-achieving, hard-working adults in the working world.

But I’ve never been “one of those Asians”. Sure, I’m high-achieving and hard-working, but I’ve always been below the Asian standard for nerdiness. I only took one AP/Honors class in high school because anyone and everyone could get in (and I only passed, thanks to the help of some brilliant friends). I got accepted into UC Berkeley, but only for the extension program because I didn’t have the transcript or the SAT scores I needed to officially get in. I have never even taken a Calculus class (I dropped out the first week when I saw the syllabus!).

How’s that for being non-conforming? 😉

Instead, I ventured into the counseling field for a couple of years, even though many Asians shy away from anything having to do with mental health, and am now an author who often times feels like the “token Asian” among my author friends.

It’s taken me a few good years to feel more like a “real” author, someone who actually knows what she’s doing and has a job that is more than a hobby. And because I’m still a true Asian at my core (high-achieving and hard-working!), I want to do well as an author. I want to show people—Asians and non-Asians—that people who look like me and are from a similar background and upbringing can be successful without a Ph.D. behind their name. I’d like to pave the way for and inspire other Asians who don’t excel at math or science to do what they’re good at and what they love. I hope to see more Asians take a chance on being creative and to know it’s okay to not be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Asians can hold a variety of other professions as writers, directors, actors, artists, and dancers—and much more!

It always makes my heart happy to see people being creative, but it makes my Asian heart happy to see other Asians breaking out of the mold to be creative. Which is why I HAD to go support the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, on opening day. I even dragged an Asian friend to go with me. 😉 We are neither crazy nor rich, but we are Asians who express ourselves creatively, and we both truly enjoyed the film. I for one was blown away by the beauty of it all—from the soundtrack (which features Chinese covers of English songs) and the amazing set designs to the gorgeous costumes and jewelry. I also felt a bit nostalgic as I recognized some of the Chinese songs from the movie as ones my parents used to listen to when I was a kid.

The movie truly made my heart–both the creative part and the Asian part—happy, thankful, and proud. Happy because I love a good rom-com and the movie was well-done with just enough conflict, angst, drama, and laughs. Thankful because the older I get, the more I appreciate being Asian and all the craziness that comes with the culture. And proud because even though it’s hard to feel validated—by your family, other people, but most of all, yourself—as someone who is Asian and creative, this movie is living proof that it’s possible.

So, this is definitely a plug from me to go see the movie! If you’re Asian, and even if you’re not, Crazy Rich Asians is good entertainment. You won’t regret it!

In the meantime, enjoy this song from the soundtrack, Katherine Ho’s (no relation, haha) Chinese cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”.

How does your cultural background influence your creativity?

Appreciating the Value of Art

The family and I went to a nearby mall last weekend to window shop. This is one of the fancier malls around here, and when I say fancy, I mean expensive. 😉 You won’t find a Target here, although they do have my other favorite (aka. affordable) store, Old Navy. Walking around this mall is like entering a shopping haven; it’s beautiful, clean and somewhat glamorous (for this part of town at least, hehe). Even the decor is fancy. While we were sipping our Jamba Juices in the food court, my eyes were drawn to these lights hanging from the ceiling. Apologies for the fuzzy picture, but these lights are really cool in person. They are like huge tear drops with cut outs on the lower halves that form an intricate latticework. Hubby said they would look even better at night, and I agree.

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I pointed the lights out to the munchkins and commented on how neat they were. After taking a quick look, E promptly replied, “What a waste.”

WHAT! I picked my jaw off the ground and fired back, “But it’s art!”

He gave a half-hearted shrug and remained unmoved.

Aiya. 😉 I think what bothered me the most about E’s lackluster response was how familiar is was to me. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had the exact same reaction before. Sometimes it’s been in response to what I think are extravagant party decorations or fancy food. For example, why would a chef spend his time, money and effort on making something that will just get gobbled up and “disposed of” a day later? 😛

Image courtesy of piyato/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of piyato/freedigitalphotos.net

Well, the reason is the one I gave E: it’s for the sake of art. It’s for the purpose of taking an idea and bringing it to life. To see beyond the ordinary and boring and mundane. To express the hopes and dreams that exist in our hearts. To create beauty where there was no beauty before.

You’d think a writer would understand the value of art. I do, but there’s also the cheap, square, not to mention, Asian(!) side of me that is a little too practical for my own good (and has obviously been passed down to E!). But this is a good reminder for myself to appreciate all forms of art. The ones that I may squint at and scratch my head over to the ones that resonate more naturally in my heart. The amazing thing is that there is so much art in this world. That’s one of the things I really thank God for—the ability to create and the ability to appreciate creativity. Plus, the ability to inspire creativity in others, which is something I obviously need to do more of with my munchkins.

Because …

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Don’t you agree? 🙂

Take a listen to this absolutely beautiful “Disney Love Medley”, featuring Kirstin Maldonado and Jeremy Michael Lewis, with Voctave.

What kind of art do you appreciate the most? What kind do you enjoy creating?