Trained Mind of the Inadequate
Growing up as an Asian American in the United States has taken a large mental strain on my life while first growing up in the not so affluent area of Long Beach, California and then relocating to the suburbs of Lakewood. I remembered I was constantly babied. My brother has always had things better because he was the boy of the family. Everything was already set for him as they were very lenient with him; my parents didn’t mind that he wasn’t doing super well in school, as long as he was still able to go to college, they allowed him to go out all the time, and constantly play video games.
For me, the only thing in my path that my parents were excited about was my strong urge to do well in academia. They expected me to be a doctor of some sort, and to be the successful one with a career by thirty, and to have the perfect family. I always grew up trying to impress my parents because everything I did was not considered good enough for them. If I got an A in one class, they wouldn’t say “congratulations, we’re proud of you,” instead they would direct the topic to another class and ask why I didn’t get in A in that class. I constantly volunteered, did after school tutoring, and did well in school but nothing ever felt enough. Rather than falling in with loving academics like I originally started, I ended up strongly resenting it.
Growing up as Asian American woman was a minority within itself because Asian culture is very strict to its women and children. Women are always expected to cater to the family, but once you are the daughter of an immigrant, you are the one expected to support your parents in this new country. Asians always kept to themselves and did not involve in other people’s business and politics as they thought that if it didn’t affect us personally, then it was none of our business. My mind had been trained to always care for my parents. No matter how strict, mean, and insulting they were to me, I did not have the courage to continue fighting and say hurtful things to my parents because I know that they have sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am today.
Growing up in America where the culture is different, I had to fight my parents a lot on how they were raising me because things are different here than in Vietnam. I tried to make it seem to them that I mattered, but they tried to make me feel like a puppet and do what they wanted. According to Judith Butler, “matter is potentiality, for actuality.” That’s all I tried to be to my parents, potential. Someone that they know has tried to make a better life for herself and her future family. Unfortunately for my parents, their strict lifestyle that they tried to impose on me made me feel so inadequate for such a long period of my life, I decided to rebel the year before I went to college. My parents thought that a strict life would tame me into something that I was completely unhappy with and did not realize that it was unhealthy to do that to a child for so long.
As cliché as most child rebellion stories go, they did what they thought was right. They did what their parents did to them, but even worse because they wanted better. The Asian culture is all about raising your children into thinking family is the most important. It was all about sacrifices and knowing your place. And since I was the child, I had to know that I was the child and that my parents were much higher than me. I was made into thinking that I was nothing and that I can only survive with my parents’ upbringing. I am the docile mind with the docile body that Michel Foucault explains when he discusses discipline. Many Americans do not understand why I choose to have this docile mind and body because they will never understand the pressure of what it is like to be a first generation Asian American to prove that my parents’ sacrifice was worth it. I have lived and breathed the experience and perpeptual feeling of feeling inadequate.