He asked me, “Why does your nose look like that?”
He asked me, “How do you see out of those slits for eyes?”
He asked, “Why would you be with someone as ugly as her?”
And before I went to bed every night, the screaming lights in my bathroom reminded me that I wasn’t the same as any of the people surrounding me. I looked in the mirror and my solemn, brown eyes begged for change.
I perfected my nightly routine after some time. I poked and prodded at the acne on my face. I pulled in all directions to make my monolid disappear. I pinched my nose in hopes that it would become as sharp as their words.
“Mom, pick the prettiest girl in this photo. And don’t just pick me because I know I”m not.”
It is only 10 years later that I realize that growing up Asian in a swelling white town fostered irreversible effects on how I see my worth in today’s society.
As I reflect on these experiences, it is heartbreaking to think that my 13-year-old self thought that there was something wrong with the way I entered this world.
There were moments when I asked my parents why I was chosen to be born Korean. I questioned why I was dealt this hand and if I could exchange it for something new, easier, better.
When I cried, my mom comforted me with her slightly broken English.
“One day, Jamie, you’ll be the most beautiful and smartest of them all.”
Now, my young self couldn’t imagine that in any universe, someone like me would be considered beautiful. Because I was different. I was the outlier. I was merely an electron envying beauty from afar.
As the years pass, I grow sober about the ignorance that shadowed my childhood. For over a decade, not a minute passed where I didn’t wish I was someone else. Now, how does a child question his or her value in society solely by the color of their skin or how big his or her eyes may be?
At times, I feel shameful. Shameful that I allowed those words to permeate into my psyche. Terminally, I have been left porous.
Every day, I fight for my confidence. I fight for my sister and mother’s confidence. I fight for my future daughter’s confidence.
I fight so there are fewer souls who question their place here.
Race ignorance still pervades today’s society, but I wake up every morning hoping to make both myself and my culture proud. So this is my story. This is your story. This is our story.