The topic of identity is an odd one but it’s ever so thrilling to piece it all together, and university has certainly helped me on my journey.
I always joke that I’m some sort of social anomaly. I’m an adoptee, 100% Chinese in fact. Yet, I can’t speak a word of Mandarin or Cantonese. More so, I’m sure my South-London accent confuses people even more. It certainly has whenever I’ve had to venture out into the hustle and bustle of central London. My housemates even say I’m the “whitest person they’ve ever met”, as white people themselves. To this day I’m not quite sure how to respond.
Growing up, I never really let my unique situation tear me down. Sure, I was unlike most of my peers, but I was fortunate enough to grow up in a mostly accepting and tolerant environment. I recently found out a term which describes my situation to a T: cultural homelessness. I certainly have always felt that I am different to many in both British and Chinese culture. I have British mannerisms, yet my DNA and appearance would tell people otherwise. So, yes, my anomaly joke is quite fitting. You know what, though? I own the identity of being an anomaly. There would be no point in me moping about it. It’s what makes me interesting (and it’s a good conversation topic too!). I have yet to meet an adoptee in York, so if you are one, message me!
Of course, my identity is more than my race or my upbringing. My identity includes my sexuality, gender, my likes, my dislikes, my experiences, my style and many more aspects. It’s the same for everyone really. No one truly fits a cookie-cutter mould. Instead, we all have a ‘cookie-cutter’ personality that only fits ourselves. Some people like to emphasise certain aspects of their identity over others. Personally, I wouldn’t want the adoptee aspect of me to be hidden but I wouldn’t let it triumph over everything else. Of course, there will be people that are like you and that arouses the amazing opportunity to make friends.
Cultural homelessness has created a few minor inconveniences in my life. For example, I had a ‘minor’ crisis on who I was, genetically. To this day, I have no idea about the first year of my life except that I was abandoned on the street, found by a policeman and placed on the steps of the orphanage, where I resided for a probably miserable year. Fast forward 19 years later, I bought a 23&me kit to find out what I’m made up of. Turns out I’m 100% Chinese. Someone in the family tree always wrecks the streak and dishonours their ancestors and it looks like that someone will be me.
Moving on. For less dire issues, one example was trying to find my physical aesthetic. When I was starting out with trying to find a style, I was unsure which beauty trends to follow: White or East Asian. Trying to find any online tutorials for how to even do my eyeshadow was painstakingly tough. I started to dislike my eyes, my face, and my body, since none of my features seemed to fit into either category.
Nevertheless, I took on the phrase ‘adapt, improvise and overcome’, and managed to figure out what worked for me. I’m still figuring out the ropes but, to be honest, one’s style constantly evolves throughout their life. Who knows what will be trending in a decade’s time? I’m a sheep, admittedly, when it comes to fashion so gosh knows what I’ll be forcing myself into.
The fabulous thing with any university setting is that there are dedicated bodies of representatives and multiple societies that reflect you. There, you can find people like yourself. Our PTO’s have been ever so supportive to those who they represent, and it’s heart-warming to see. With hundreds of societies, groups, and networks, I can assure you all you’ll find something that represents some aspect of your identity. Social media is a good one to turn to. I’d recommend Facebook and Instagram groups and pages that align with your identity. For example, I’m part of a few groups for Chinese adoptees and other groups that focus on my general likes and interests. Reading about other people’s experiences who have faced a similar situation as me, enables me to see different perspectives and apply that knowledge to my own situation.
There is no need to know your one ‘true’ identity. I know I have mostly discussed my identity as an adoptee but that does not make up 100% of it. Your identity is made up of many identities, shaped by your personality and your lived experiences. That is what makes you unique. So, I may be culturally homeless but that’s fine. There’s plenty of other aspects of myself which make me, me. So, there’s no need to stress on what you think should be yours. Explore and have fun finding what makes you, you.