Who I Am

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May 31, 2021

When I was young, I was “famous” in my class. Everyone knows THAT strange Chinese kid, who always brought a bottle of warm water instead of using the water fountain, always had fried dumplings for field trips instead of sandwiches, and always had one more layer of clothes than other kids.

I recall wondering why it was forbidden for me to drink from the water fountain and why I needed to drink warm water. Why did I have to be special? One day, I couldn’t stop myself from drinking from the water fountain because that is what other kids did. I dumped all the water in my water bottle to avoid being lectured. I thought I was clever and my little scheme would succeed. Ironically, my mother was cleverer. She found that the leak prevention ring from the bottle lid was missing and later fingered out the truth. She was not mad at me but explained that Chinese people separated foods and drinks into two categories: warm-natured and cool-natured. Warm-natured foods and drinks, such as warm water, are good for you, and cool-natured foods and drinks would cause diarrhea and stomach aches.

Another time, when we were introducing ourselves in third grade, I chose to be called by my nickname: Leo. I did this because my real name was too hard for most Americans to pronounce. Even so, they still could not pronounce my last name: Xi. The teacher made me abbreviate it to X. My mother told me that the surname is a very important part of one’s name in China. It represents which family you belong to. In my case, I belong to the Xi family, a very old family which can be traced back 4000 years to the Zhou Dynasty.

Now that I look back to these instances, I realize that my mother was trying her best to make me understand that it was okay to have my roots in China and still be in America. She wanted me to be strong and healthy by the Chinese medical theory. She wanted me to understand the Chinese food, culture, family history, and the special bond with relatives in China.

Later, my life had some changes and I started to live with my mom and my step-father. My step-father is Jewish, from New York. Two totally different sides of one world clamped together. It’s like two pieces of clay, one red, one yellow. Combined to make a ball that is both red and yellow at the same time. Able to switch from one to another. I realized that different cultures had different perspectives about life. For my Chinese Culture, I have a lot of after-school classes, watching the Chinese New Year Gala and eating dumplings. However, I also have Jewish cultural things, such as celebrating Hanukkah and Passover and singing a dreidel song.

I learned that in real life, there isn’t just one correct answer unlike in math, there isn’t just one standard culture everyone has to obey. Some people understand this so they are understanding. Some people don’t understand this or refuse to admit this, so there is no peace on their land. I hope in the future, we will not be limited because of where we were born, or what our skin color is. I hope that we can learn to accept the differences instead of judging their difference. All roads lead to Rome.

On the first day of middle school, I started introducing myself as Yamu Xi instead of Leo, and when other people pronounced it wrong, I kindly fixed their pronunciation. I wouldn’t care as much as I used to. I knew that what mattered was if I knew who I was. Now, whenever I look in the mirror, I don’t see the scared, new kid from China anymore, I see a boy who embraces his heritage and is confidently living a great life in middle school. I someone else. Someone called Yamu Xi.

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2 thoughts on “Who I Am”
  1. I am moved by this brave boy! Great job, Yamu! You were a kitty, but you will be a lion!

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