This is What Your Asian Friend Didn’t Tell You

Dear friend, from your Asian friend,

I know this is quite a lot of information but please bear with me, okay?

My brain is active, very active. Sometimes it’s before bed, so I call it the one-hour-before-sleep ritual. Yes, it takes me one hour to fall asleep sometimes. I don’t know how it happens. Maybe it’s because my brain cannot stop thinking.

I think about what I could have done to make my day better and more bearable, like attending this meeting instead of lounging in my room, or using my phone less often.

I think about what I could have said differently to people. Sometimes words just come out of my mouth uncontrollably, and the moment I want to take them back, it’s already gone.

I think about what others might think of me. I remember when a new Vietnamese freshmen asked me If I went to parties at this school, I said, “Yes, a few times.” But the thing is, did I? I did come to the bar in the school a few times and I loved it, but that doesn’t count as a party, does it? This made me question: Am I a loser? Do I not belong to this school? Am I just like a typical submissive Asian that most US people have formed the stereotype of? I don’t think so on this one because I am neither typical nor submissive.

I am not typical. It’s because I don’t study or do what typical international or Asian students do. Business Economics? No. Computer Science? No. Maths? Absolutely not. I’m not saying those subjects are not good. I’m just saying I am tired of following the trend. In fact, I’ve never done that. I don’t like Despacito — man, why does that song keep replaying? And seriously, how many people actually like what they study?

The truth is, I’m afraid of doing something that I don’t like then ending up feeling miserable, unhappy and angry all the time. I have a blog called “Happy Journey” as I really want to be happy. I don’t want the corporate life, a 9 to 5 job tied to an office. I know my parents support me via that corporate life but I cannot fit in with that, you know? I want some feeling of agency and control, which my mom could not get until she’s in her 40s. To me, that would be too late.

I am not submissive. Do you know how many times I’ve corrected people who assume I’m Chinese? How many times a Chinese would come to me saying a whole sentence in Chinese and I had to explain, “Sorry, I am not Chinese”? And oh, do I speak French because of the French influence in Vietnam? Yes, and no. Now, yes, a little because I am trying to have a minor. But no, not until I got into college and French was never a language that I wanted to pick up. It just happened to be there when I needed a new foreign language besides English. It’s that simple.

Thinking helps me cope mentally. I always have to think before I say anything, kinda like creating a script before the conversation, and it helps me a lot in formal situations, like in class. When I listen to music, I always visualise the scenes that come with it. That’s why sometimes I decide not to watch the music video of a certain song because I think they would ruin my feelings for the song somehow. When I’m in the thinking zone, endless ideas would flow through my mind, and although I could not note down everything, I keep some in my memory to remind my future self that the process made me happy.

Thinking makes me feel warm, but it also makes me sad and blue. But I cannot stop thinking because maybe it’s the only thing I am good at right now. Because thinking, for me, is like another way of feeling, of connecting with my inner myself and others. And thinking helps me see myself as myself, not as someone whom others perceive me as. So, I wonder the moment I stop thinking, would my life be just as boring as people imagine? Would I turn into the person others want me to be? That’s scary, to even think about.

I would probably visit you again soon, friend, or well, stranger. But before that, do you have anything to say before I leave? Tell me about you too — I’m all ears.

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