NAAAP Boston News
AAPI Heritage Month - Xinyi Wan, an active member of NAAAP’s Toastmasters Club, found her own way to live in America and learned something new from her new life!
Growing up in China for the first 20-ish years, I had never expected my American experience to turn out this way. Bittersweet. For good or bad, the learning curve was steep. Sometimes it felt like riding a roller coaster.
Before coming here for school, I gained most of the knowledge about the United States through newspapers, books and TVs. Unfortunately, they didn’t prepare me well to start a new life here. In fact, 70~80% of the presumptions turned out to be wrong. In the first few years, I stumbled a lot. There is a running list of mistakes and jokes I made out of bad assumptions. I often tell people that Asian culture and American culture are like Windows XP and Mac OS – they may share similar logic, but the contents are not quite compatible.
At home I was naïve to view diversity as all positive and had no clue about the challenges behind it. When I was in Chengdu, Sichuan - my hometown, I was surrounded by people with the same ethnicity, which accounts for 90% of the population in China. Ethnic identity was never a question. It didn’t occur to me that minority could be a critical factor I had to live with for the rest of my life. Let alone understanding how that could affect people’s lives. However, when the stories about professional women, African American and LGBT communities came to light, their pains, frustrations and the sense of insecurity resonated with most of my feelings as an Asian minority here. Later learned, I was not alone - this is what most of the Asian peers had to deal with during their upbringings here. Their stories are even more brutal. Some seem to find a way and live through, while others may still struggle. At Boston Asian American Film Festival, Matthew Hashiguchi, the director of Good Luck Soup, shared his secret sauce on how he successfully blended in and later buddied with his Irish “bullies” in the neighborhood. He said, “You need to know how to talk shit.” It made me laugh. Although talking shit is not my forte, it does require me to remain humble and keep an open mind most of time.
Familiarity may breed contempt. But now 7,000 miles away from home, I can’t be prouder of my Asian heritage. Juggling between two distinct cultures, I start to weigh on good parts of each. When I feel stuck, ancient Asian philosophies become my source for answers which usually bring out peace in mind. In the meantime, this country has demonstrated what humanity, liberty and freedom are.
It is and will be an on-going learning process. Despite how much I struggled to adapt here, my situation is hundred times better than my peers’ parents as the first-generation immigrants. I can only imagine how many hoops they had to jump through and remained optimistic. That leaves me tremendous respect to every one of them.
VP of Membership
NAAAP Boston Toastmasters