The Confessions of a Kind of Child Celebrity

When I was twelve-years-old, I discovered I was a celebrity of sorts.

My parents worked for a non-profit organization and much of their job involved fund raising and meeting supporters for dinners and casual gatherings to inform them about the work they were doing. My brother and I were usually there as well.

One day, I walked into the home of a perfect stranger. As I entered their kitchen, I saw a picture of my face on their refrigerator. It was a postcard sized image of our family with relevant details about what kind of work we were doing and how interested parties could reach us or our organization.

I was completely taken aback. Who were these people? Remind me why I’m here again? Why am I on their refrigerator? After a few moments, I had a rather shocking revelation: “These people think they know who I am.”

Our supporters–whether they realized it or not–had a preconceived idea about who we were. I was this perfect,twelve-year-old who got to travel the world and see amazing things and I was “just so blessed” to be part of what my parents were doing and wouldn’t it be amazing to be part of my family.

Years and countless similar visits later, I realized the thing that really bothered me. I didn’t really mind someone having a preconceived idea about who I was. This happens everyday with acquaintances and people we meet in passing. What bothered me was that they thought they had the right to interact with me based on the notions they created in their heads.

They believed I was the person they thought I was not who I really was.

And what was worse is they didn’t notice the difference.

For years, I let these people define me. I smiled and answered their questions. I complemented their cooking, and I put on a big smile as we left their house. I knew our family needed their donations. I thought I was doing the right thing.

Now I’m an adult and have had years to process these experiences. I’m not longer upset or angry at what these people thought about me. Let’s face it: I’ve made the same kind of assumptions in similar situations.

But I now know I’ll never have to conform to that picture perfect image on someone’s refrigerator ever again. I am my own person.

And if you want to get to know me, you should just ask.

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Home and Now

I remember when I was growing up and moving every few years. People would tell me I was lucky and I was being afforded so many opportunities.

They weren’t wrong. But what they didn’t see was the crying and frustrated questions and pain from a child who just wanted to belong. They didn’t have the memories of her parents (who worked for a non-profit organizations) struggling with money or her older brother trying to understand the political, social, and cultural aspects of a place he was “supposed” to understand because he had been born here.

Those people never saw behind the beautiful red curtain to the chaos of backstage. They didn’t see the truly unglamorous nature of it all.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I have been afforded opportunities to see and do amazing things. I have been given a unique perspective on the world. I see the beauty in other cultures more easily than others might. I understand why cross-cultural anything–politics, families, institutions–will always be more complex than mono-cultural dealings because I’ve experienced it first hand.

I would be a completely different person without my time living between worlds.

But now, as a young adult, I find myself longing for stability. I want to have a tangible answer when people ask me when I will leave Singapore and settle down in the US. I guess I feel like if I’m in one place for longer than four years, I’ll no longer have the awful feeling in my heart of being pulled in all different directions because of all the places the people I love live.

But the truth is my heart will always feel that way. Maybe one day it will be less painful or more manageable. But there will always be a place or a person or a memory tugging at my heart reminding me of who I was, where I’ve come from, and who I am.

It really sucks sometimes but I think I’ll be okay.

Homesick

I miss fall leaves and brisk wind. I miss hot drinks held in gloved hands. I miss scarves and boots and warm wool coats.

I miss driving in my car with the radio playing my favorite song. I miss smiling cashiers and happy Starbucks baristas.

I miss walking by the Cameo. I miss browsing the shops in Newberg with a cup of Chapters chai in my hand. I miss the quiet simplicity of The Coffee Cottage interrupted only by the sound of children laughing. I miss Jem 100’s milkshakes. I miss the MET, Powell’s, and the Saturday Markets.

I miss looking at Mt. Rainer on a clear day. I miss Pike’s Place Market. I miss the hustle and bustle of people, the smell of flowers, and the cries of the fishmongers. I miss sitting by the water on a park bench eating a sandwich and salad from one of my favorite deli’s.

I miss shopping without a sales person tailing me like a hawk. I miss courteous shoppers and good customer service.

I miss libraries with whispered silence instead of lulled mayhem from children and parents. I miss independent book stores tucked away on quiet streets; their charm and peace and smell take me to places and lands of wonder and excitement.

I miss late night Diary Queen runs, movie nights when we know we should be sleeping, Smash Bros and Legend of Zelda with roommates, and watching TV shows week by week with roommates freaking out and agonizing over what will happen next.

I miss In-N-Out, a good old-fashioned doughnut, Jamba Juice, Cheescake Factory, and Olive Garden. I miss watching doughnuts fry on conveyor belts at Krispy Kreme, seeing real potatoes be chopped for fries at In-N-Out, and lemonade at fountain drink machines.

But most of all I miss the people who will always be in my heart but might always be in different time zones.