May 21, 2021

I used to spend a lot of my life thinking about parallel universes.
Alternate realities, where the thousands of possibilities of my life unfold. Universes where I could be anything, and everything.
I spent hours at night building these universes, losing myself in their alluring charm and waking up in the morning with saggy eyebags from staying up so late. I threw myself into these worlds, until I was almost convinced that they existed. That if I tried hard enough, I could find them.
The truth was that I couldn’t find it in me to face my reality. The reality where I wake up every morning to my mom calling me to breakfast in her broken English, where I stare into my mirror and see tanned skin, black hair and brown eyes.
So instead, I built myself another reality, another universe. In this universe, I had golden curls, sky blue eyes and pale, white skin. I switched my Asian last name, Wang, to an American one: Smith. I changed myself completely until I was finally satisfied with who I was.
Teresa Smith. I buried my true identity under this beautiful illusion.
I couldn’t fall out of this cycle of longing to be someone I wasn’t. And maybe I’d still be stuck in this cycle, had it not have been for one morning.
It was not an exceptionally special morning. Just another morning full of tentative rays of sunshine filtering through the windows of my house and the familiar scent of bread crisping into a golden-brown inside the toaster. My dad turned on the news, and I only half listened as I picked at my breakfast. Then, just when I was about to finish my yogurt and continue with my day, I heard something that caught my attention.
An 89-year old, set on fire. A family, assailed with racial slurs. An old woman, slashed across the face with a box cutter.
And right then, with my yogurt spoon still on its way to my mouth,
and my hair tangled from tossing and turning in bed last night,
and my heart tired from running away from my identity,
I felt angry.
Angry that there are Asians who are being strangled by the stifling hatred they face. Angry that there are people with my yellow-hued skintone who are afraid to step out of their houses for fear of being hurt. Angry that I have spent so long feeling ashamed of my reality as an Asian American.
Because then, I realized that I was not ashamed. I was proud of the way my black hair glinted when the sunlight hit it at just the right angle. I loved my mom’s accented, broken English. I liked the fragrant smell of the fried rice that my dad cooked on Sunday afternoons.
I loved it all, I loved my reality.
My name is Teresa Wang.
I used to hate my identity. I used to dream of worlds where I was Teresa Smith, with blonde hair, blue eyes and white skin.
I used to hide from my reality.
But now, I embrace it. I look into the mirror and I love the reflection that stares back at me. I no longer dream of parallel universes where I am someone with blonde hair and blue eyes. I finally stopped running, and turned around to face the reality of my life. And when I finally did so, I realized how beautiful it was. My reality might not always be perfect. It is full of flaws and bruises. Sometimes, it falls apart.
But maybe it’s the flaws that make it beautiful.


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