Fast toward to college graduation. At that Life Is Full Of Important Choices Fishing shirt, I was pretty set on trying to make it professionally as an actress. I’d gotten an agent in New York, and I was on my way. But what shocked me was how often I was called in for roles that required me to speak Mandarin or roles that called for Asians. On casting sites, the casting breakdowns are usually pretty straightforward about what they want – white or minority (and then they specify what kind of minority they want). All these years, I tried my best to fit into this society. I’m just as American as anyone else; I speak perfectly in unaccented English and I can write long, sophisticated essays in English. I can perform Shakespearean monologues as well as the next auditionee. They say America is for the land of the free. If it is, then why is that my ethnicity is the lead determinant in whether I can get a job in the field I want to work in? I look at my Asian American friends in medicine, business, any other field – and I feel robbed. My parents worked just as hard to get me a good education here in the States, and yet, there are almost no role models that look like me in the profession I want to pursue. (There is starting to be more and more Asians in film and TV, but this is still a new development and most lead roles are not given to Asians). This was the start of my identity crisis.
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This was when I started plotting my return to China. In my mind, I created all these fantasies of Life Is Full Of Important Choices Fishing shirt. No one will ask me where I’m “really” from, because I look like everyone else. I will no longer be a minority, chasing acting roles that I have no chance of landing due to my race. In my mind, I had totally switched my identity. The past fifteen years of being in America could totally be erased; I would be Chinese again and I would fit into the society as easily as I did when I was seven years old. How wrong I was. Now that I’m back in China, almost everyday I encounter something that reminds me of how American I am. Chinese people don’t use driers to dry their clothes; I have to hang them on the balcony on lines. Chinese people don’t tip, but there is almost no customer service. If this was America, the Yelp scores of every restaurant here would be 1 due to the brisk attitude and often rudeness of many waiters. Want to go to the bathroom when you’re out in the public? Well, you better bring your own toilet paper or you’re out of luck.