Artwork: “Found My Wings” by @synth3ticc
When I was younger, there were times when I wished that I could cut myself into two perfect halves: one Arab and one Asian. The Arab one would look like my father with curly Afro hair that smelled of saltwater and a big nose that would guide me home. My tongue would only recognize Arabic and speak up to ask for permission to pour tea for relatives at family gatherings. My hips and feet would only move to Nancy Ajram instead of Britney Spears. My family would not look at me differently.
The Asian one would look like my mother and have eyes that mimicked the crescent moon when I smiled and skin that was pale like canned pears. My hands would grow chopsticks at the ends of my fingers. My mouth would be open wide at every dining table, happily accepting my grandparents’ traditional Chinese dishes instead of reaching for McDonald’s fries under the table. My family would not look at me differently.
Many people in the mixed community can understand this phenomenon: trying our hardest to fit in and assimilate to cultures that should already be ours.
I was not able to be these two perfect halves no matter how much I tried. My tongues entangled and would trip on each other’s words. Every time I visited China, my family would criticize my food choices, that I preferred bread over rice. Family gatherings in Kuwait was just another time for relatives to tell me that I should be ashamed that the Arab blood that runs through my veins does not carry Arabic words to my brain. Even if I assumed I could properly fit in, I never really did—like trying on jeans that hug your thighs just right, but then once they are up, the waist is always off.
Sometimes I still wish that I could be both, but I’ve grown to like myself for who I am. I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot keep dividing my soul into all these different people. As mixed people, we cannot please everyone all the time; we would be cutting and tearing at our souls forever, infinite fractions and never whole. Sometimes, it will feel as if no one accepts or understands us, but we are not alone.
You are not alone, and I accept you for who you are.
Lulwah is a Kuwaiti-Chinese woman born and raised in Kuwait. She is a fresh graduate from Michigan State University, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and with minors in International Development and Human Behavior and Social Services. In her spare time, she enjoys creating fun looks with makeup and taking pictures on her film camera.