by Jackie Wang
I don't think there is just one word that I can use to define myself as an individual. I am Chinese-American, born and raised in New York City. Back home, I tell people that I grew up in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn, but not too many people outside of New York really know what that means. Coney Island is a tourist attraction, known for having a really old amusement park and booths along the boardwalk, although most of these attractions have recently been torn down to create room for new developments. In reality, however, it is a really dilapidated area, and was even more so when I was growing up. I grew up around a lot of crime and poverty, which caused my to parents constant worry about me, often unreasonably. My parents are both from mainland China, and therefore have a very different culture from the one that I grew up with in America. They're a lot more conservative and strict than most American parents, which always made me feel like the odd-man out as I was growing up. I was torn between believing what my parents believed and acting the way my fellow peers deemed "cool" and "normal." I was taught by the media and my peers that "beautiful" was Caucasian and green-eyed and that normal families sat around at the dinner table and said things like "Pass the peas, please" and "May I please be excused?" I, on the other hand, was neither of these things, and my family sat around the dinner table eating white rice and sharing dishes of meats and vegetables. I never really acknowledged it, but I knew that I was different from all of my friends in school.
As I grew up, however, I learned to accept both sides of my identity, rather than fight one or the other. I learned that my parents would act a different way and have some different beliefs than I would, and that's because I am very Westernized. I grew up eating dim sum and loving all sorts of Chinese food, but at the same time, love all other sorts of foods that my parents would never even touch.
I am the middle child in my family--my sister is turning 25 this year, and my brother is turning 11. I am turning 21 in November. Looking at myself, my siblings, and my parents, there are very obvious generational differences. My siblings and I are a lot more free-spirited and liberal than my parents are, and are learning different things in school than what my parents learned. We are also much more technologically advanced. Like I said in my last blog post, this is obvious in the ways that we interact with media. My parents are used to using print media, while my sister and I depend almost solely on the Internet and television. My brother is an even more extreme example -- he is glued to his computer/television/ipod/video games. My brother, at age 11, owns: a cell phone, an iPod touch, a netbook, a Nintendo Wii, and many other sorts of devices. It's not even that he is very particularly privileged or spoiled, such as I suggested to my mother -- my mother told me that all of his friends had all of these things as well, and he felt left out. The generations are getting more and more dependent on technology, and learning to do everything much quicker and efficiently.
I don't really know what exactly my dream in life is yet, which is a little nerve wracking since I'm about to be a senior in college and should be figuring out what I want to do with my life very, very soon. My parents are a lot more practical than I am -- they wanted me to study either business or medicine, because those are areas in which people make a lot of money and do well for themselves. My sister followed this path, and is currently an investment banker. I, on the other hand, decided to go in a very different direction. I am a double major in Media Studies and Psychology with a minor in Spanish. I enjoy having new experiences, and I guess my dream in life would just be to have a lot of adventures. That's part of the reason why I am studying in Hong Kong right now -- it's a brand new experience. I've also studied the Spanish language in Argentina and Spain before, two countries that I had never been to before, with cultures that I had never experienced before. I want to do something in life that I can look back on when I'm older and say that I enjoyed doing it. My parents expect me to be 100% focused on finding a good job and settling down when I finish school--which is not what I have in mind. I want to travel while I still can and have interesting experiences that I can talk about later in life, and hopefully grow a lot while doing so. I guess I can say that my generation, at least in my experience, has become a lot more adventurous, and a lot more open/accepting to a lot of things.