Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange)
Mark Rothko, 1955.
My father once told me that our ancestors immigrated to Taiwan before the ultimate demise of the Qing, which was the last imperial dynasty of China. So basically, my ancestors were one of the first ones to move to this little island. It was quite a pleasant surprise to find out that they were the pioneers of somewhere I’ve lived for most of my life.
This was the place where my parents’ families rooted themselves at, the place where they stopped claiming themselves as nomads.
This is evidenced in my last name. Our history has proven how long my family has moved here.
I possess an uncommon family name that foreigners cannot pronounce correctly. It’s more than okay. Sometimes people say my first name, even my “English” name (when in reality, it’s Japanese), incorrectly, too. It has happened too many times for me to mind anymore.
My mother said that my grandmother was, unsurprisingly, born into a penniless family. Big, yet hungry families were common. They lived in a foreign era masked with a veil of familiarity in the present. Females were essentially deemed as worthless, perhaps even less than a couple bowls of rice.
She was sold to my grandfather’s family at a young age, and then assigned to be his wife.
Matrimony was, and perhaps still is, so transactional at times. Perhaps not the most romantic mentality, but definitely realistic with the aim of being long-lasting. Not everything can and should be a bed of roses. If that were the case, we’d be changing our beds quite often.
Based on my grandparents’ interactions, I’m sure that a bond of love and comfort was there. However, it definitely didn’t appear without an appropriate or a copious number of disagreements and fights.
If I were to categorize myself in a general sense, I’m labeled as Han Chinese.
In modern (and in my opinion, somewhat derogatory) terms, my ethnic group is assigned to the color yellow.
I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to feel about that anymore, because it’s so unfortunately ubiquitous nowadays. However, at first impression, it seemed to me that most people may be somewhat colorblind. Why?
We barely hit the shadow of yellow.
Not many people know my Mandarin Chinese name.
Three words with a total of thirty-two strokes make up my name. Each of these lines and curves formulate a word with its assigned intonation. It’s beautifully crafted compared to the simplified alphabetical spelling that completes my name with mere eleven letters. These letters are more open to personal interpretation. There are a lot of misses, but some rare hits for the proper pronunciation.
I used to be somewhat ashamed of it, because of a strange, inexplicable aversion. Maybe it was partially derived from embarrassment and awkwardness when I had to teach someone how to properly pronounce my name. It wasn’t a simple, universal name such as Anna or Kate. It wasn’t easily understood and recognized. I suppose my ignorance behind the origin and the meaning of my name fueled onto that dislike as well. It resulted in me barely telling anyone my actual name. My official name. The one that proves my existence as a living, breathing individual on documents and identifications.
The everlasting and painfully visible elephant in the entire world should be discussed. Not just a bit, but a lot more.
I thought I was less than instead of equal to others because of my race, nationality, and gender combined together for the longest time around. I didn’t understand why. I simply followed the paths that society, stereotypes, media and internet provided for me and asked very little questions.
I felt like I lost at the beginning.
There were many instances, and this also includes recently (unfortunately, as it is a constant battle when dealing with personal insecurities and inadequacies), where I felt like I would have more of an advantage if I were someone else. If I were another gender. If I were another ethnicity. If I were another race. If I were born somewhere else.
All of these improbable and hypothetical statements cloud and fog my visions. I forget the fact that there are plenty of others who would want to be in my shoes (literally and figuratively, because I’m actually pretty proud of my taste and shoe collection). My current situation may not be ideal for me, but may be seen as perfect or somewhere shy of it for others.
It’s a waste of time to go down the rabbit hole of comparing myself to others. All of our desires are insatiable, but the honest truth here is that we’ll never achieve and obtain every single one of our wants. We can always bury ourselves with despair and angst and blame how we were dealt with a bad hand.
Don’t just look, but closely examine the cards that you and I were given in life. We might not be able to change them, but (and I know how awfully cliche this sounds) we can react and modify them to a certain extent. If we stay the same, we really have no one but ourselves to blame. Maybe we overestimate our interests and it’s a whole lot easier to sit and pout than to spring into actions that lead to change.
I can change my gender and my name if those decisions are what I truly want.
They are not.
The only part that I have changed was my mentality.
It’s pointless to hide who I am. It’s not as if the whole world went blind. There’s really no use to add extra fuel to my existing insecurity. So I started reading (a bit more consciously, instead of focusing only on fiction), listening, asking, and learning.
I want to hear the history behind my parents and their individual families. I inquire about their mutual memories, whether it was the good or the bad or the “boring” in between. I keep a part of my memories and conversations with my maternal grandparents in a closed part of my heart. I listen when my relatives, close and distant, recount certain tidbits and stories. I look up historical events and bits and pieces of my culture. Consistently.
And today, I decide to write about my origins.
Today, I guard my Mandarin Chinese name as well as the correct pronunciation of my last name closely. Not out of any hint or shade of shame, but solely as a sign of intimacy.
I want my loved ones, the ones closest to me in my heart, to know how to say my name correctly should one day they ever get curious about it. It’s more than just a simple name. I am fearless and willing to open up to my bare bones for those who I voluntarily recite my proper name to. It paints out personal histories, sketches out cultures, carves out anecdotes, sparks certain moments, and most importantly, it’s yellow, or more precisely, colored gold.
It’s not worth much to others, but it’s priceless to me.
You have a place in my heart, dear, the yellow, golden part, if you know and can properly recite my name.