Skase ke katse esixa was what I regularly heard the kiria yell when fooling around in Greek school. It doesn’t mean, Yanni you’re my best student it means, shut up and sit down. The torture of going every other day for six years to get treated like a slave for two hours was not worth learning Greek. Missing out on fun Fridays and doing homework later than the others was the life of a young Greek American named Yanni. Was it normal? I don’t know, but this was definitely not all the fun that came with being Greek. I had millions of uncles and aunts in other words my dads friends. I never really could distinguish if one was a friend or if one was a blood relative because my dad had me call everyone theo and thea, uncle and aunt. I hated when people would come up pull my ear and ask, “Milas Ellinika?” but that is what the uncles and aunts would do. I hated being Greek, being called Yainy or Kantstandthecheezys, I wanted to be like the others in my fifth grade class.
When growing up I learned more by making friends in Greek school and by going to Greece. I loved both but as it happened the more I started to love them, the less of them I saw. Greek school ended and summer was only so long that the trips to Greece felt shorter. I had stopped participating in the Greek community when I had really started to enjoy it. I was now fluent in Greek and loved going to those occasional church parties where all my friends were. A couple years passed, and I was losing my language and becoming an “Americano” according to my dad. I wanted to be Greek and stand out like I saw my dad do everyday in his thriving business. Then the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out. I saw how other Greeks were making an impact in their community too, by sharing the funny moments in Greek culture, and I decided to take a stand. I was then easily signed up for GOYA by my willing and excited parents. GOYA is a program where I learn about my Greek Orthodox religion and hang out with the other Greek kids.
Then my cousin Zoe (meaning life in Greek) was born. I was excited because she was just like me. I could teach her Greek and share jokes with her about what our parents do as stereotypical Greeks, but I was later jealous to find out she is a bit more Greek than I am.
These experiences taught me that it is fine to show my heritage because it gets me involved with people similar to me. I learned that being and acting Greek is part of my identity and I believe that I should accept and enjoy it even if it means getting chased around with the lamb brain during Easter. Now when they pull my ear, I can answer, “Of course I speak Greek!”