This I Believe

Kim Thi - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on November 13, 2006

It is always difficult being different. I attended elementary school with a group of people with very similar cultural and familial backgrounds. The majority of my classmates from kindergarten through eighth grade were Caucasian middle-class children who spent every weekend with their grandparents. Because I was so young, it was hard for me to understand why I could not spend weekends with my grandparents like everyone else. Naturally, I felt abnormal and robbed of the typical American childhood. However, I learned to accept (not yet embrace) my cultural differences and, as of human character, I quickly adapted and attempted to live as much of the typical American childhood as I possibly can. Little did I know, my cultural heritage is one of the many aspects that construct my personality. Now I dearly uphold all of my differences and I believe that everyone should embrace his or her heritage.

Even though the Vietnam War occurred over three decades ago, it still holds many innocent victims. My family is among the many war-torn, separated, and scattered victims of the gruesome veracity of this war. In Vietnamese tradition, family is the core of everyday life and relatives are considered immediate family members. However, I, and other Vietnamese-American children of my generation, have been denied this experience. While my American classmates visited grandparents during Christmas break, I looked at old pictures and dreamed of what it would be like to visit my own grandparents someday. While I celebrated the Vietnamese New Year by doing my homework, most kids in Vietnam pranced in the streets, celebrating. I struggled to distinguish between the two different worlds and simultaneously tried to balance them in my life.

I finally met my remaining grandmothers about six years ago. Though the reunion only lasted several weeks, I learned so much more than I could ever imagine about my heritage. I learned about my cultural, familial, and even political past. I now felt that I too have a history – I am no longer just a face trying to assimilate into the great American melting pot. Through this short visit to Vietnam, I learned to uphold my heritage and quickly disregarded my idea of conformity with my classmates.

I now not only embrace and cherish my heritage but I am also able to open-mindedly respect everyone’s unique story and background. I believe that everyone should and I encourage everyone to uphold his or her heritage while remaining open-minded to the many different cultures of the world.