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Patient and kind

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AUGUST 20, 2021

As a kid, my mom used to sing a Mandarin song to help me fall asleep, which begins: “爱是恒久忍耐,又有恩慈.” This translates to “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). 

My mom often reminds me how even if I was kicking and screaming in the car or insisting that I was wide awake, she could sing this song to me and I would immediately doze off. “It was like magic,” she likes to say with a laugh. “No one else could get you to sleep, but just by singing this song, I could do it.”

As I grew older and encountered different stressors and troubles — a friendship gone wrong, a bad day at school — my mom would sit next to me in the worst times, comforting me by singing this song. The familiar lyrics and soft, gentle tune erased my worries and made them feel a little less scary. 

I always loved this song. Through the years, it started to take on a meaning for me: specifically, that the love that I’m capable of showing others, and even to myself, doesn’t have any sort of boundary or standard. Even moments that seem to be completely earth-shattering or destructive don’t have to be as terrifying as they seem if I try my best to actively show patient and kind love.

Truthfully, these past couple of weeks have been very challenging for me as I’ve directly faced the uncomfortable ideas that I don’t fit into either of my backgrounds and that the experiences I’ve already been exposed to have built up my character — possibly for the worse. Especially as I’ve struggled to coax readability and relatability out of my articles, I’ve fallen into a trap where I’ve generalized some of my experiences so that more Asian people, or even people of color, can approve of what I’m saying or can feel like I represent them well.

Now, as we approach the end of my time here as a columnist at The Daily Californian, I’ve realized that as a writer, I can’t completely bridge this gap between you and me, no matter how much I may try or how similar we are. I can’t share with you every experience that has composed my character and has shaped the way I see myself. I also cannot represent all Asian Americans or people of color from my life experiences. I can only represent myself: weaknesses, strengths and all.

I am incredibly grateful for being able to add my stories to the beautiful cloth of those written by people of color who were brave enough to share their own life experiences. Still, I’m sure many of us would say that we have more stories and more moments that we regret or are proud of that we will encounter in the future. 

Nothing about my identity or my understanding of myself right now is certain, and that’s certainly OK. In fact, I hope that as I continue forward in my journey as an Asian American woman, I can grow and learn more about myself. 

Even this past weekend, as I walked onto the campus for the first time, I was immediately struck by how electric and even terrifying this new experience was. I’m now forced to face the fact that I am completely independent, untethered from my background from home and the familiar songs or voices of my family back in Washington. Here, I could even lose myself in my American side without attempting to learn more and grow in my Asian identity if I truly wanted to. 

For so long, I have relied on my family to “maintain” that side of me and to keep me connected to my Asian identity. I’ve never really had to challenge my identity in my everyday lifestyle by actively looking for ways to grow in my advocacy for Asian Americans and for women of color; often, I think, I used the excuse that I was still a child in a more sheltered community.

Still, I know now that it’s the time for me to actively make that decision. The world in Berkeley is one that I haven’t explored yet, one where I will have to find my footing and create space for myself. It’s also now my own responsibility to make that sort of space for others whom I come across; to act on the feelings that have been chasing me for a long time with the opportunities and freedom I have here.

Here, as I look out of my window onto the Berkeley buildings bathing in sunlight and hear different voices chattering outside my window in a variety of different languages, I know that it will be a start filled with change for all of us. I hope that we can encounter new challenges, find connections to the cultures that we have always loved and, most importantly, that we can find comfort in the patient and kind love that we discover in others and, hopefully, in ourselves as well.

Bella Chang writes the Friday column on being a person of color at UC Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter
LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 20, 2021


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