I’ve been missing in action here at Kimchi Mamas and Anti-Racist Parent (another blog I contribute to) lately. I’ve been incredibly busy since mid-summer. I’m working my regular 9-5, teaching a college course one night a week, presenting at conferences and preparing an application and studying for the GRE so I can apply to a doctoral program. All the while trying to keep my sanity as a mama to my two kids who are busy in their own after school and weekend activities.
Reading weigook saram's post made me think a lot about the model minority myth lead me to think a little bit about why I have this extraordinary drive (and some of my friends and family call it outright ambition) to keep pushing myself to do more. More and more seems my mantra lately. I’ve got everything a lucky person like me should need: a supportive family, a great education, a job that is rewarding, friends who understand why I’m running in circles all the time. So it’s during times like this that I stop myself to ask why I’m doing all this.
Obviously, a lot of it has to do with an inability (I promise, I’m really working on this!) to say no when I should. But it’s so much more than that. I’ve asked myself if I’m over-busy and over-ambitious because of the model minority trap. I’ve always felt insecure over not being the “model minority” because I was not super smart or super successful.
Growing up, all the images I had of Asian Americans were either 1) martial arts experts or 2) geeky dorks (like Long Duck Dong), 3) MIT-bound math or engineering whizzes or 4) over-sexualized and subservient Geishas.
I reveled in being the antithesis of the “model minority” throughout my twenties and early thirties. It was like, “If I don’t got it (model minority skills), flaunt it!” So I did.
I’m quite the late bloomer. I quit college to have kids and spent 8 years being a full time stay at home parent. I didn’t go back to school to finish my degree until I was 34. Now it’s like I can’t stop thinking about the next step, the next level. Is this part of a latent desire to tap into the model minority mindset I’ve been working so hard to fight all my adult years? Am I inadvertently becoming what I struggled against?
Unlike some of my Asian friends who grew up with Asian parents, super-success was never expected for me. My whole family is average in every way and even college was presented as a shrug of the shoulders. They look at me now like I’m working myself too hard. Yet some of my Asian friends share that they’re never good enough or successful enough for their parents. So it's interesting to me that now, getting close to the big 4-0, I'm finding myself trapped in this model minority myth even though it wasn't culturally part of my growing up experience in my family. Or, was it, by default? Even though my parents didn't raise me culturally as Korean or Asian American, I seem to have still absorbed it.
Any of you other Kimchi Mamas out there dealing with this? And how do I encourage my own kid’s successes without burdening them with the model minority expectations?
-- Jae Ran