"The Switch of Belonging."


For my sisters and brothers of varying races, backgrounds, stories.

This is for you, and so very much for me.

As an Asian American born in Japan having grown up in the States, I worked really hard to belong here. What felt difficult as a child became easier as an adult as I swiftly adapted an American lifestyle that helped me feel comfortable thriving here.

I am proud of my path to this feeling of belonging I have cultivated within my Community.

I live in an area where, fortunately, I can walk freely and not feel that I am being looked at as "different" based on my exterior. In fact, 98% of the time, it truly does not cross my mind that I am not White like so many of my peers.

Yet, I know that while I have the strength to tap into this internal sense of belonging, I can just as quickly spiral into a feeling of belonging nowhere based on my cultural heritage, my cultural background and roots, and the same exterior that a moment ago didn't create any sense of boundaries.

If I just take a moment to look in the mirror, I can easily convince myself that I don't belong.

"Your eyes are almond shaped. Your nose is smaller. Your limbs are shorter. Your hair is darker. Your mouth moves differently when you speak..."

When I travel back to the country where I was born, the feeling of belonging gets especially trippy. I look 100% like I belong. There is no question about it. In this country, my eyes are normal, my nose is average, my limbs are just fine, my hair blends too much like everyone else's, and the language that comes out actually fits my mouth. I can walk around this country and chances are, majority will walk past me without questioning my sense of belonging.

And yet,

I don't belong there AT ALL based on my very obvious American lifestyle, my mannerisms based on growing up in the States, my education and the way I was disciplined, and so forth. It becomes utterly obvious to me that I belong nowhere in Japan by something so simple as stepping into a bakery and not knowing how to properly order a muffin without being looked at like a foreigner.

"I belong everywhere, and nowhere at all."

I did this once, standing in my bathroom. I had just returned home from a social gathering, feeling so full of joy and love. I walked into my bathroom to brush my teeth and my own gaze suddenly caught my eyes.

"But, who are you?"

As if a voice from somewhere beyond me whispered to the back of my ears,

"Who are you?"

In that moment I went from feeling like I belonged everywhere, to nowhere, in an instant.

As I stood there, speechless, and energetically felt my heart begin to drain itself of joy,

I did something that I believe my soul yearned for.

I flipped off the light switch.

Took three deep breaths.

I turned the light back on, re-focused my eyes,

looked myself in this new light,

and made myself bring on a soft smile.

I was back. Here. I am.

In this moment, I belong.

With no one else around me, just me staring at me, I belong right here.

Sometimes that's what it takes.

Many times it takes more. I'm with you there.

But most of the time our heart just wants a moment to beat stronger than our thoughts.

Take a few deep breaths.

And come right back home, to this body, to this moment

where this soul of ours is speaking and breathing

whispering sweetly

to remind us that we always belong to it

and therefore

everywhere, and nowhere

all the time.


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