By Adelle Xiao
A piece about my relationship to my cultural identity that explores my feelings about being Chinese and raised in America.
As a little girl, I used to envision seeds within myself: tiny kernels that I could create something with. I imagined these seeds drifting in from a familiar but unknown motherland stretching miles and oceans away. My origins were formed by scattered fragments of my mother’s looks, my father’s expectations and my potential. They became embedded in my identity, something that I could never separate myself from.
Seeds are nothing without nurturing and a place to grow. This is the reason for my parents’ immigration: their choice to embrace dreams of the unknown and chase a life that would never truly belong to them. America will never be a place for people like my parents who stumble and trip over the English language. It will never be a place where their daughter will grow and truly belong. Even if I was born here, planted with a purpose, this place is foreign ground.
I was watered with my parents’ expectations for a perfect daughter, raised hearing strung-together syllables of broken English and rapid Mandarin, spending hours studying, striving for faraway perfection. A perfect daughter willingly holds her chopsticks high and keeps her head bowed down low, mouth shut and face devoid of emotion.
But in the end, Chinese bedrock was tainted by American soil. My identity grew into twisted roots that branched out into overwhelming possibilities. As I walked these unsteady paths, I found escape from endless expectations and a world where I could dream of becoming anything. But I was lost at sea between an American dream and my alleged motherland, both of which I could not live without.
Now I look within myself and find tangling, gnarled roots that have raveled into a thick tree trunk. Spindly arms slowly pierce skin and paint my flesh brilliant shades of red, spiraling out of control, strangling and suffocating me until I have lost myself. No longer rooted in American soil or a Chinese motherland, I am tethered to nothingness, reduced to crumpled, faded red calendars and forgotten dreams that drift like dead leaves, leaving my collapsing being behind.
I started with a paragraph about my cultural roots where I compared my identity to a tree. I then separated the ideas in this paragraph and built on them with related personal experiences and thoughts I had growing up.
Born and raised in New York City, Adelle Xiao is currently a sophomore in high school in Manhattan. She most often writes personal essays, memoirs and poetry about experiences that are important to her. When she is not writing, Adelle spends most of her time making art, playing the violin and doing various forms of volunteer work.