"Are you half white?" she asked.
I laughed uncomfortably and squinted my "unusual" wide eyes. I blushed. I swung my arms that refused to tan and covered my freckled face with the hair that, or so I've been told, I "must have dyed because it was too light to be the hair of an Asian." It wasn't the notion that I was perceived to be white, but rather, I was not seen for the part of me in which a good amount of my pride resided. I was not seen as Chinese. I was only American.
I walked into class on the first day of middle school eager to prove to myself and to others that I was entirely Chinese. Little did I know that I would be the only Asian American. Over time, my pride grew and I was noticed for my dark brown hair and Asian complexion.
One day, I was waiting to meet my "study buddy." The teacher called my name and I found myself face to face with a 4-year-old Chinese American girl. Her name was Madison. "What did you do last summer, Madison?" I asked her. "I went to Switzerland to visit my cousins," she said. I looked at her, eyes wider than they had ever been. "Switzerland?" Her parents came in and I saw that they were European American: she was adopted. She was as American as everyone else, but her image remained solely Chinese. I looked at her and I saw a face like my own, a reflection of who I was at this school: a single Asian American lost in the sea of whiteness. I was not seen as American. I was only Chinese.
I could never meet the expectations of either side of my culture. I was placed in two separate boxes that could not be joined. I had learned that I was someone who would never be good enough.