My home is Earth.
Just before I turned ten, my family and I moved from China to the United States. As the youngest of my family, I was the most ready to adapt to a new life and therefore became the most Americanized. Even though I am now twenty-nine and only a third of my life was spent living in Macau (and probably only half of that has real memories), my perception of time is distorted to a point where I still think of Macau as spanning half of my life.
Similarly, I’ve been having problems defining my identity, especially in the past few years. Technically, I am Chinese-American, but can that title be split up and still have it sufficiently define me? Am I Chinese? Ethnically, I am. Culturally? I can read a good amount of Chinese and I can speak Cantonese. But I have limited knowledge and experience with customs and traditions; I only know whatever I was exposed to before I moved to the States and during occasional family events like weddings and holidays. Traditional ways of thinking about family structures and behaviors, while I obligatorily follow to a certain extent and when convenient, are lost on me, especially if there are based on ancient superstitions or how the pronunciation of the phrase is similar to another good or bad luck phrase. So one might find it hard to make me pass all this on to my future children, unless I was asked to by my family. I also find that Chinese shows and movies are two-dimensional in plot lines, character development, and acting. Those more familiar with the Chinese culture (like the rest of my family) would look past that and better relate to the stories and be emotionally invested in them.
Well, then how American am I? Do I share the ideals? I favor and prefer individuality and freedom of expression. I believe everyone is responsible for their own success and can do whatever they dream of if they put their mind to it and work hard. Do I think “America is number one”? Sometimes, sure. But there are many things (especially social issues, from what I’ve heard) that other countries (usually European) are much better at. Do I follow American football or baseball? Only bandwagon-style. Do I eat fatty and deep-fried foods? Only on rare occasion.
So what does that make me? Where do I belong? At the very least, I know I am a citizen of the world. My home is Earth. As my first trip around the world nears its end, I realize that a lot of places are practically the same, all thanks to globalization and sharing of best practices. In the metropolitan areas, there are usually subways or trains, there are supermarkets, and there are bottled waters. All places have a complicated past, documented in museums, bring to front painful events and celebrating proud moments.
After being in so many places in a short amount of time, I somehow feel numb to these similarities among cities, but it’s the type of numb that makes me comfortable and feel like I could belong in any foreign place, even for a few moments.
When I watched the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, I felt some pride for the Chinese people for putting together such a spectacular show, but the pride can only be the smallest possible amount for I have very little to do with the seemingly amazing outcome, other than the fact that I share ethnically with majority of the people who put it together.
At the same time, I felt just as much pride for the successes of Michael Phelps in the ’08 Olympics, while the only links I had with it were that we both live in the same country and we’re both swimmers.
Instead, I felt more pride, the most pride, for humanity, because whenever I see people come together peacefully and show the world the best that they could be, I feel belonged and safe, like I’m home. Even though the Games are a competition among nations, I focus on the “human spirit” story and just be proud of anyone who’s overcome hardship and succeed to the world stage, and I get all inspired and motivated to be a better human being.