The light is different in the countryside. I can’t describe the feeling when you wake up before dawn to sit between hills waiting for the first glimpse of light to peak over them and through the trees. All of that patience to feel the first bit of warmth in the morning on your skin holds a promise for the rest of the day. It provides this passage to be happy in that moment and every moment that follows until it says goodnight.
I’m a fan of waking up early because of this. Not just the light, but also the silence that comes with it. I have learned to fall in love with this instance that takes over my body without making a single noise. It is nothing short of extraordinary, especially, when you are in a place that feels like home. I really haven’t felt this until I spent time in Girona, Spain. It was a familiar feeling that I haven’t had since I moved out of my small town Castle Rock, Colorado. Early in the morning before anyone was awake, I would creep downstairs to go onto my deck that overlooked the hills behind my home to watch sunrise. This was at a dark time in my life, and this first hour of sun is what gave me hope that I would make it through each day – there were definitely days that I almost didn’t make it to the end. I try my best to not think about those anymore. The idea that I associate with this instance is a personal one I’ve held onto since I was twelve. It serves as a daily reminder of how I want to live my life. As of right now:
Happy, kind, ambitious, and disciplined.
In Girona, I sat down with a cup of tea before Angels took me to visit the beach provinces. I thought about the book that I’m currently reading, American Like Me: Reflection on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera, provided by Caroline Ingalls in London who thought I would resonate with it. America Ferrera reached out to dozens of immigrants and first generation people who have redefined what being American means and what the American Dream entails. Each of these successful people wrote short stories that are featured in the book and there are definitely a few that hit close to home.
As a biracial kid, I grew up looking very ambiguous. No one could ever guess what I was. In Europe, I feel that now more than ever when people assume I know their language. Which is huge ego boost that I get to experience before I start to stumble over my broken Spanish, slow Sign Language, imperfect French, or a nervous laugh (I’m working on it). This is definitely something that children struggle with because we spend so much time defining ourselves from something other than American in classroom settings. I was constantly invalidated of my ethnicity because of the way I look, which was confusing for a long time.
Actually, it’s funny story, in first grade I had my very first identity crisis. I was denied from both of my ethnicities so I chose a new one for myself – Chinese. I told everyone I was Chinese and it got to a point where my teacher requested a conference with my mom. I was devastated to learn that I am not Chinese whatsoever, but that I was the things that other people told me I wasn’t. There were a lot of tears that day. My mom didn’t understand where Chinese came from seeing as I had absolutely zero Asian friends at this time. Also what’s more funny is that I’m always asked if I’m part Japanese, yet I identify the most with Vietnamese culture.
I believe that being split between multiple cultures opens a lot of new doors to explore what being American means. For me, I still really don’t know what it means. All I know is that I get to be whoever I want to be and I find a lot of comfort in that. I think Americans are very busy defining each other, which is not a bad thing, but in Europe I feel more at ease about my status. It’s fun to be fluid here and makes me feel like I kind of belong, well, everywhere.
I love that I get to coexist with this world of people who will never be able to guess what I am. On the rare occasion I will get that one lucky person who says Mexican and German in a super questionable tone. Even better, sometimes I get American.