I am quietly proud of my multiracial background: my mother is Chinese, and my father is half German, half American. I also look absolutely nothing like my mother, save for straight hair and slightly tanner skin. While never a negative issue, this has led to some interesting situations since the time I was little: being the only “white” person in family photos among my Chinese cousins; having a substitute call another, Asian girl when my mother came to pick me up from school; my mother joking that people would think she was the nanny, or I was adopted.
I was also born three months premature, and for a while I have wondered what those three months would have given me. Would I look more “Asian” ? Would people no longer puzzle over my face, and ask me almost instantly “What are you” ? Would Cantonese flow off my tongue like water, rather than bricks as it does now?
Would I still feel the same?
To some degree, my childhood was filled with ambiguity. I knew our family was different, that I was different, and that was OK, but it becomes even harder to figure out who you are when you sit in the gray regions between two worlds. But it is the very lack of definition that has given me the freedom to explore exactly who I am, and also gives me the perspective to look at people who are different from me and find the common threads.
Those three months didn’t take anything away from me: they gave me who I am today. I chose my career in public health because I can help bring longer, healthier lives to people across the world; I fight to make a difference now because I came into this world fighting.