Asian vs. Asian American Identity

This is a topic that’s been sitting on my mind for many months. Being in spaces that embrace vulnerable conversations has led me to discuss my race, ethnicity, my upbringing – and how it all molds into my identity. And it’s something I think about often – especially when I was back home in Japan.

MY STORY

I was born in Nagoya, Japan in the spring of 1998. I’m 20 now and living in Seattle, Washington. My parents are both Japanese, making me a Japanese child born on Japanese land. I was raised there until I was 4, and then my parents and I moved to the States. My parents had no jobs lined up and knew only limited English.

I have no US Citizenship, a Green Card is what allows me to stay in the States. When I travel, I carry my Japanese passport – still with a black cover, because I’ve yet to renew it as a now-legal Japanese adult. And I also carry my Green Card. My Japanese passport is my way back to my motherland. My Green Card allows me to return to my legal home.

My political identity and numerous societal ideas have been influenced by Western ideas, by the American public education system, and by the diverse crowds I (try to) surround myself in. Yet, I cannot vote in the States, despite having lived here for 15+ years. But in Japan, policies and institutions are important to me – yet too distant of a conversation/idea/topic for me to engage in political conversations or vote.

MY CONFLICTS

Am I too Japanese to be American? Am I too American to be Japanese?
What does it mean to be one, or the other, or both?

This is something I don’t know how to grapple with, questions I don’t have answers to. I’ve had conversations with my parents about it – and I’m not sure what answer I’m really settled on. I feel Japanese, I look Japanese, I speak/write/hear Japanese. But I also sometimes feel American, and I can speak/write/hear English. I have moments where I feel firmly Japanese, and then other moments where I feel firmly American. And I don’t know which moments are strong enough for me to feel firmly close to just one.

Is it okay to be both?

DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

To be frank, I’m not sure.
This question leads me into a cyclical questioning of, “Does anything really matter?” – but that’s for another mental/thoughtful breakdown.

It sometimes feels like a weight I’m obligated to deal with somehow, and that dealing/coping method is something I can’t quite understand or figure out. I wish I felt more confident in navigating my identity – especially because it’s mine and no one else’s.

But sometimes it feels molded, influenced, and configured by others.
And maybe that’s just the way society is.

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Image captured by Hallie Kathryn. Also shared here.

Stuck. Stuck is how I feel now, regarding this question.
Stuck in two comfortable identities, supported by loving individuals like my family, those I have close relationships with, and those distant but who strongly influence me.

I’m comfortably stuck – and this is where I will most likely remain for a while.

I’ll update y’all if I figure out a more solid answer.

With much love,
Monet.

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