I think I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live outside my homeland, just as I was beginning to explore the world around me with my own feet. I was too young to understand how different I looked from those who were around me. It was also good that, to many, I was the first Asian toddler they met, so they were intrigued by me and pampered me to get any kind of reaction from me.
Can you believe people used to let me into restricted areas in exchange for a pat on my head because they had never seen a child with black hair?! Yep, I had all the fame and glory I could ever want back then! (hehe)
So I find it rather ironic that I first found myself to be different from others when I returned to my homeland in my primary school years. My parents and grandparents did the best they could to prepare me to the same level as the other kids, and the teachers tried to treat me the same. But the more effort they put in, the more obvious they made that I was different – that I had to be dealt with differently to be made the same.
My appearance did not help either. My skin is paler and my hair is brighter than an average Oriental. I think that a general preconception within my people that having lighter pigment is usually associated with Westerners, together with prior knowledge of the fact that I lived in Western societies, led those around me to categorize me as something different even before they got to know me. (But if you asked any Westerner, every one of them would tell you I look nothing but Oriental!)
In the subsequent years, I struggled with colours. I wanted to have yellower skin and blacker hair while I was in my homeland, but wished I had white skin and blonde hair the second time I lived abroad. I did not feel like I belonged anywhere. It seemed like everyone was turning their backs on me and slamming the door in my face. I thought my fifteen minutes of fame were over – nobody wanted me any more.
I was so desperate to be accepted, it got to a point I consulted my Caucasian hairdresser what I needed to do to make my hair darker to make me be more Asian. “Avoid staying in the sun for too long” and “eat food with lots of thyronine and zinc” was the kind of advice I was hoping to get, but he had a much easier and simpler answer – “Dye it!” That was the moment I began to realize how meaningless it was for me to be hung up on the colours I wear.
Maybe it is not the colours on the outside I need to change… it is so easy to fake it, but acceptance based on false representation was not what I really wanted.
Maybe it is the colours within that I must establish first… what are the qualities I want to possess, and what is the character I want to portray?
Maybe I should be spending more time making my colours within become solid and naturally glowing, so it will shine passed my colours on the surface.
And when my true colours start to shine through, that is when it would no longer matter if I look like a bleached Asian or jaundiced Westerner on the outside.
Maybe people will stop categorizing me as different or same, but instead see me purely for who I truly am.
I think it would be most fortunate if I can be accepted for the colours I let shine through from within.