When I was younger, my parents would make me eat a bowl of cereal every morning. "长高“, they say. Grow tall.
And I did. And these mornings, I would always tell them about how my friends all had the new Xbox, or that I wanted them to get me a GoPro. They would smile back and tell me that I was just like the cereal: a small bit of yellow, soaking in the white that surrounded me.
For as long as I could remember, I wanted to fit in.
I grew up wearing PacSun and Converse, however the white boys dressed.
I grew up playing lacrosse and watching football, hoping that I'd finally be seen as more than "just Asian".
And yet, I would look in a mirror and see nothing but a stranger called shame.
Shame is changing your name from Hongxiang to Robert so it can roll off the tongues of substitutes easier.
Shame is wanting to buy lunch because the white kids thought mom's food smelled weird.
Shame is speaking to your family in English, having turned your back on your own language years ago.
Shame is a soggy bowl of cereal.
Because like a forgotten bowl of cheerios left sitting in milk, I lost my character, became weak and slowly dissolved into this white lie, unrecognizable.
But mom and dad told me one other thing.
No matter what it goes through, no matter how smothered its character became, no matter how much of my own identity I threw away thinking I was moving on to better things, I would always still be a cheerio.