In the first grade, I got my first lesson in what it means to be Asian in this country. One of my classmates was doing his best impression of a Chinese waiter, and everybody laughed. Including me.
I figured the only way I could fit in was by making people laugh.
By middle school, I had created witty comebacks to defend myself against endless comparisons to Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. I would tell over-exaggerated stories, do stereotypical accents, and pretend to sleep in class.
But every fake accent, every kid doing Asian eyes, every boy who patronized me and made fun of my size made me feel less proud of who I was.
I had become the type of person I was trying to escape – a one-dimensional caricature of myself, providing entertainment, but never garnering my classmates’ respect.
Something had to change, but 10 years of fronting doesn’t go away overnight. I still have to remind myself to be honest about who I am and proud of the culture that shaped me. I won’t let anybody take that away from me.