American Born Chinese, become anything you wish, being left out, blog, christian, clones, fitting in, fruits of the spirit, learning, Life, looks, malayalee, middle schoolers, self esteem, social acceptance, standing out, vanity, virtue
In the age of perfectly chiseled bodies, bleached relaxed ombres and reconstructed noses on celebrities as a norm- I am constantly reminded of the scene above in the graphic novel American Born Chinese. The protagonist told a woman that he wanted to become a transformer, to which she replied, with words that have haunted me since I first read it more than two years ago, “It’s easy to become anything you wish […] so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.” On my blog, my social platform, I bear my heart out as I admit to constantly struggling with valuing vanity more than virtue- with unknowingly sacrificing important values in trying to become someone or something that I realize I never wanted to become.
I think back to being in middle school, aka as the worst time of my life. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and as a chubby Indian girl, it’s needless to say that I stood out and hated it. Man, I couldn’t even cut gym class in high school without the gym teachers noticing; all I wanted was to blend in. There was an unwritten social code for fitting in. The uniform was Juicy Couture jumpsuits with chestnut uggs or a tank top with so low pants. The cool look was sleek straight hair and dark eyeliner. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I was one of maybe 10 Indians in the school, I had such a terrible sense of style and the fact that $13 for jeans was a lot for me while other girls spent $100+ dollars on a pair of sweatpants left me longing to be like everyone else without much of a means to become like everyone else.
Back then my mom used to remind me that I wasn’t like “them”- so why try? I wasn’t ever going to be white. But deep down I wanted to be like the other girls in my grade so I entered into 9th grade with Japanese straightened hair that my mother somehow complied to. We were in India the summer before and were able to get a treatment for around $150, a steal at the time. And do you know what happened? People like it. That’s what’s so confusing about doing whatever you can in order to fit in for the wrong motives. You might be rewarded for it. I’m not saying straight hair is bad. The motive behind my decision was the problem. I swear to you, straight hair, getting eyebrows done and growing a few inches can do wonders- but every part of who I was, was motivated by an insatiable and unachievable goal of blending in.
A decade later and I sense traces of my middle school self dictating how I live my life. As I scroll through my Instagram feed it’s easy to value things that are fleeting. During my residency year of teaching, nearly 2.5 years ago when my journey to become a teacher first began, I was asked to create an “image” of the kind of educator I wanted to be. And I’d like to take that exercise a bit further and ask you as a reader of this blog to imagine who it is you would like to be. Who is it that God created you to be? Who is your very best self? Are you making steps towards being that person?
I don’t know who exactly I imagine my best self to be but I imagine someone who is prepared for the obstacles in front of her- confident and strong. I am reminded of the fruits of the spirit and wish to become someone who is slow to anger. I long to be disciplined and kind. Creative and comforting to others, I want to be an advocate and someone who lives a life that encourages others. There are a million traits and ideas to meditate and pray about and as I think of who it is God wants me to be I am reminded of the smaller actions I take that draw me further from that person- forfeiting my soul in the process.
It’s easy to look like everyone else. This blog post is really to anyone else who feels that struggle to sacrifice themselves to bend in. The world doesn’t need another person who dresses and looks like everyone else. The world needs you- whoever it is you were created to be.