Lots of reflection going on this week. The little soap opera I’ve got going on in the background has only increased my need to look back, reflect and attempt to get some idea of where I am and where I want to go.
It’s odd to look back at my own mental landscape, see where I’ve been as compared to where I am now. I keep referring to my life as constantly going back to square zero. In a way that’s true, but in way it’s not.
History has not always meant a great deal to me. I figured the past was the past, there was nothing you could do to change it so why bother? In my younger days, I didn’t think to ask. As I grew older, I didn’t want to ask. Now, all I seem to do is ask.
It’s the whys that stand out to me. As a young child, I still thought I was like everyone else. My family’s history was my history. I knew nothing else but life as an American growing up in this little Texas town. My life rarely breached the borders of my county much less those of the US.
Slowly, I was forced to view my world across racial and ethnic lines. There was nothing for me to relate to as the lone other. As I’ve said before, I relied on television, movies and books to find some place for myself. Stereotypical or not, it was something and there was always ET and Tarzan. I laugh sometimes thinking back at how I found my closest associations in the science fiction/fantasy genres.
It was all I had at the time to fill my need to belong to something. Now I can kind of look back on it with a sense of humor, but at the time it was very lonely. I did whatever I could to rid myself of that loneliness, turned to what was available at the time. It’s a consistent pattern throughout my life as most of you know.
I’m not sure how much TRAness plays a part in all my searching. I’m sure it’s had a lot to do with it. Would I have gone to such lengths if I hadn’t been a TRA or even adopted? Would it have been something I just took for granted? I guess it’s just another one of those unanswerable what-if questions.
Now my mind turns towards history and where I belong within it. It’s strange that it took me so long to even consider myself an immigrant. I don’t think I wanted to in my early years. It wasn’t something that I wanted to accept. I’d left Vietnam with a war on my heels. It wasn’t something I wanted people to know so I ran from it and just kept on running.
When people heard “Vietnam,” they immediately thought “Vietnam War” and with that came all the hate, stereotypes and sometimes even pity. I think it was that look of pity that I hated the most. Well, there was the pumped up look some would get as if they’d hand-saved me themselves. “Operation babylift? No, I wasn’t a part of that particular ‘miracle’.” Was I suppose to thank them? That’s another annoyance of mine, but that’s a whole other blog post.
All I really wanted at the time was just to be American. Forget everything else, it was in the past and I’d left it behind to forget about it. I wasn’t a part of it anymore, and I certainly wanted no part of it in my life.
The problem I didn’t foresee was that I didn’t really know what “American” meant any more than I knew what it meant to be “Vietnamese.” My idea of “American” was handed down to me in its small town, Texan, white, Christian form. It was living life as a Muslim that opened my eyes to the narrowness of my thinking. An unusual route to take, I suppose, but one that brought me to this place. Despite everything, I’m glad to be here.
In this here and now, I’m no longer running but have turned around in an attempt to learn and understand my history. On a smaller scale, my genetic history means a lot to me but equally important is my place in the history of Vietnamese adoptees. There were thousands of us and each of us were a part of an even larger picture in how we came to be here. We were immigrants just as much as non-adoptees who came by other means.
I use to bemoan feeling like an outsider when it came to other Vietnamese Americans. It felt as if I had somehow been left out of the history of immigration to this country. Maybe it was just my own isolation speaking, I don’t know. What I do know is that I am a part of that history and the history of Vietnam. It’s mine to claim and that’s what has led me here to blogging and writing.
I must seek to understand how I came to be “here” and write my own story. It’s not up to history to claim me and my part in it nor should I allow others to attempt to speak for me. It’s up to me to grab hold of it and let it become a part of me. I am no more a miracle than I am a tragedy but one small story within a much greater picture. However small my piece may be, it’s mine to tell and it’s time to set the record straight.
And so should it be for all of us.