I'm a 27 year old Japanese American living in San Francisco, with a very strong head on my shoulders and am very confident in anything and everything I take on. My close friends now, would say that I am very outgoing and that I always wear a smile on my face.
But.. I would have never thought I'd be able to say that about myself throughout my middle or high school years...
Being the only _____ is never easy. ( homosexual, racial minority, obese kid, handicap, any number of absurd label/ societal category we as people in our communities have made for others and ourselves in our environments)
I was the only Japanese kid in my middle school, and one of a few in my high school. I was constantly picked on, bullied, called names, beat'n up and whatever unpleasant things kids do to kids to make themselves feel more in control of their own insecurities.
I didn't know if it was out of boredom, or because they really hated me, that they did what they did. But what I did know was that it felt very unpleasant. Junior High was the worst, so when I moved up to High School, I started to dress, act, and even talk like people from other racial backgrounds. Just to fit in, just to feel like I was a part of something, a part of a group. Anything for my experience in High School to be different.
I was "fitting in" better in high school through the first half of my freshmen year, but then it all happened all over again. I was going through my hip hop phase at the time, Eminem was making a name for being the first "white rapper" so he was somewhat of a role model. He seemed to be "making it" in a group that he was not really a part of. (Racially) He showed me that skill, confidence, and intellect would lead to results. So here I was, wearing the baggiest of clothes, wearing my cap sideways, and rapping it out with my friends who were mostly black at the time.
But just like any high school experience, there were fights pretty regularly at my high school.. and one day, there was a fight between the " skaters " and us black people... Seems weird right? Here I am, very Japanese looking, but being accepted as a part of the group who were all black except for me. When this fight broke out, the "skaters" pointed me out, put a question up on my group of friends asking " why is the confused chinese man with you guys too?!"
The fight ended with no side on top, but oddly enough.. some people in my group of friends started seeing me as different.. not a part of there group, and before long, I was alone once again.
I wasn't picked on like I was in Junior High, but I still had virtually no friends. I was called "The confused Asian" for about a year after that. Had a few Asian kids to eat lunch with, but these guys were no better off. They just didn't try to integrate because they were only in the country for a couple years anyways.
It was my Junior year in high school, when I took an art class where I met my first group of real friends. We had an art club at our high school, and we met once a week after school. It started with just one friend sitting next to me teaching me how to mix paint, the class was unlike any other.. I think it was because of the creativity and freedom of expression in the nature of a class like that, but biggest of all, was the existence of our warm, caring nature of our teacher.
It takes only one person, one place. A person or place that makes you feel worthy. To allow yourself to understand your self worth. It just takes one.
Things got much better, super quick after that one real friend.. we started having art club gatherings at peoples houses, had parties, made more friends, and supported each other through our high school lives. Things got better because I met a friend that allowed me to love myself, to let me understand that there were qualities in me that could be loved.
I'm still friends with my first friend from high school, and most of the people that were in that art club are people who are doing very good for themselves currently.. about 10 years after. It was a stroke of luck, but things got better and still are till this day.
After falling in love with art (I started with painting), I allowed myself to grow, I learned that I too had a creative mind, something to contribute to the world. I loved myself and was able to love people and things. I loved education from there on, went to community college at first (because my grades were so bad graduating! lolz), went to a very good university, and started a career after I got out of Uni.
I had a great paying job but was not "happy". So I just quit one day, saved money working restaurants, apprenticed in styling and designing hair, spontaneously moved to Japan for two years, and came back stateside, and am now making a name for myself here in San Francisco.
I believe that because I had a somewhat rough childhood, and because I struggled.. my ability to deal, my threshold for pain is far deeper than many people I come across on a daily basis.
People ask me, " wasn't it hard going to Japan not knowing anybody?" but to be honest.. I've known a place so much lonelier and far more dark. I've built a sense of indestructible confidence.
People ask me "don't you regret leaving such a high paying job?.. and you do hair now?" but in all honesty.. true regret comes from the things you don't do.. and because I was so unhappy once, I truly know what it takes to make myself happy.
I jumped on Facebook this morning and came across this website. I thought my story might help some. A long post I know, but I want you to understand 2 things.
- It just takes one person or place to allow you to understand your self-worth. You are loved, and even if it doesn't feel like it now, you'll know when you find him, her, or it. Patience is a tough game, but learn it, and you'll be surprised at it's benefits.
- You are the only person that can make you happy. No matter who you are, what your "condition" is, you've made it this far.. YOU ARE STRONG.
I am a strong, caring, compassionate and loving human being, and without all of the experience in my life, I would not be able to write this today.
I am confident that one day, through the knowledge and efforts of those behind movements like this one, we will as a world community be able to embrace and love each other as we should. You are me and I am you, one love, one place, one soul.
By writing some words below, you are showing your support and letting everyone know they're not alone.