on checking the "other" box


I clearly remember having this conversation with my parents:

Little Priya: Mom & Dad, I'm not 50% Indian and 50% Finnish.
Dad: Oh you're not?
LP: No! I'm 100% AMERICAN! 

So, there, for anyone who says I'm not patriotic. I would like to add to this that for my first audition EVER, (age 9) I sang "God Bless America". I also have a pair of patriotic socks and a hair bow. 

Throughout my life, I've grown accustomed to people asking me, "What are you?", along with people speaking Spanish to me, people not believing me when I say I'm half-white, and checking "other" or "ethnic" or "mixed" when I'm filling out a form (which makes me feel like 1) an alien, 2) a hair type and 3) a cocktail, in that order). 

Here's what I'm getting at: these days, I love the cultures that I am a part of. I can't get enough. I can't have enough Finland pins, or India t-shirts, or vocab from either country, or generally, pride, for either of those places. And I wish more than anything I had been taught another language growing up, so I could be bilingual (or TRILINGUAL like some people I know, Andrea, looking at you).

But it wasn't always this way. Growing up, I really didn't want to be different from other kids. I especially didn't want to have parents that celebrate different holidays and listen to music that I couldn't understand. I wanted my parents to have the same views as my friend's parents when it came to "American things" (dating, sleepovers, Halloween, junk food, MTV, to name a few). 

Maybe it was when I went away to college that I began to appreciate the way my parents are. And miss my mom's "Finnish sayings" and my dad's pronunciation of the word "tomato" and singing songs in Malayalam really loud and not liking cheese. I miss them a lot these days. And my whole family, really.

And sure, there are days when I wish I had blonde or red hair, and freckles (I've always wanted freckles! I would get really jealous of my sister growing up because she sometimes had like 4 freckles #ethnicprobz) but then I realize, why not be happy being me? No matter how I feel about it, it's not going to change, so I may as well embrace the cray Indian hair and Finnish nose with a dimple (thanks Ma) and everyone thinking my name is "Bria" or "Preya" or "Priba" or whatever (when I played when I was younger, my name was always 'Emily' not joking, not trying to kiss-up to my housemate. I just wanted a normal American name). 

So maybe it's taken me 21 years, but you know what? I love being me. I'm 100% Findian. 

Here's my advice to you: no matter what you do, you are 100% you, so why not rock the hell out of it?

Let me know you've read this so I can encourage you further!


Nataly said...

This is truly one of the greatest posts, ever. Half of my childhood I grew up in a very white dominated area in Orange County and my parents never really knew the childhood importance of Halloween and stuff like that. But you + your parents are THE CUTEST and you're gorgeous, as always. Parents + culture are the best, aren't they? I love the salvadorean food I get, people be jealouzz ;-)

Nataly said...

Oh! And by the way, the 2013 jar is eventful stuff me + my sister have done (travels, shows, accomplishments) because at the end of the year I always forget what I've done hahah!

Unknown said...

Priya-I've been following your blog recently and loving all of your posts! This one I love particularly. I've always been very confused when answering the question of "where are you from?" Being raised as an MK meant that I didn't really come from any particular culture and I wasn't patriotic to any one country. I've recently been processing how awesome that is as a kid though-feeling drawn to a variety of cultures and picking different aspects of each meant that I feel a tad bit more "worldly."
It has only been recently though, that I have taken ownership of my upbringing and how huge of a blessing it was. I only hope to be able to provide the same kind of adventurous, exciting, whirlwind of a childhood to my kids.
Thanks for being honest about it all-
Keep up the blogging, you're a great writer!
Natali Smiley

Dus of Cuddly Cacti said...

Hey girl! I just found you from our Flock Together reader remix and had to stop by and say hi even though I commented over there : ). This was a truly fantastic post! I loved your openness here and although really can't personally relate (minus the wanting to look diff at points) have so many friends who can. It's a pity you weren't taught either language growing up but as I tell everyone, it's never too late to learn! I didn't know a wink of Spanish until college and now have worked in offices abroad where I only spoke it.. although unarguably Spanish seems WAY easier than other languages. Super awesome to have grown up w/ such strong cultures! hope you enjoy your spring break since I'm guessing you're in college if you're 21. glad to have found your blog! : )

Kitty Cat Stevens said...

i love this post so much! i cannot relate to your exact experience alone, but i know so many people who can and i think you have raised so many great points. but as a person who wished her freckles away as a young girl but has now learned to love them, i can say that i'm so happy you have found such peace, motivation, and acceptance with something that gave you a hard time. i'm so glad i found your blog and i love your positivity— can't wait to follow along =]

Rosie Brown said...

Priya -- this is spot-on! I'm 1/2 Filipino, 1/2 White/French, and -- like you -- growing up in the Bay Area, I just wanted to be American and "normal" like everyone else. But when I moved to Washington for school, people called me "Asian" instead of by my first name, made jokes about my driving, made disgusted faces when I cooked (I will have you know, frying fish does not make it an Asian dish...), etc. I became a stereotype to most, a fetish to some, and sub-human to even a few people. It used to get me down; I used to insist, "I'M NOT ASIAN!" Because, let's face it, we hapas are a completely different culture from Asian...Not to mention, 'Asian' is so...generic!

Anyways, rant aside, I am glad you're proud of being Findian -- it is one of the coolest things about you! Keep rocking that 'multiracial' box, because I am right there with you!

Karen said...

I LOVED reading this! I've had the same problems although not as pronounced as you because fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) it's hard to mistake me for anything but black. I've actually being toying with the idea of writing about my heritage on my blog (I'm of Ghanaian and British ancestry) and this was so encouraging to read. You're such a breath of fresh air!!

Priya said...

That is such a cute idea! Those little papers in a jar make a cute room decoration too!

Priya said...

Nataly- I never knew that your heritage was Salvadorean! That's awesome! Getting real ethnic food in your own house has got to be one of the perks of foreign parents. My mom used to make chicken curry for my soccer team dinners and I was embarrassed, but it proved to be a hit! Thank you for your kind words, and for reading!

Priya said...

Natali- I am thrilled that you've been reading my blog! Thanks so much for saying hey and for your sweet comment! I've always wondered about the Smiley upbringing...(I mean it seemed so crazy and fun, and that van!) but I love what you said about picking different aspects of each- so true! As cliche as it sounds, that upbringing made you exactly how you are today, I'm sure no one would have it any other way. Definitely with you about a whirlwind childhood for my kids, let's hope they love it (in retrospect) as much as we did. Thanks again for reading! Comments like this make me love blogging all the more.

Priya said...

Hey Dus! Thank you for your sweet comment and for coming by my blog! I feel really comfortable sharing myself on this blog, especially when I get so many supporting and understanding comments! I did take Spanish for 3 years, and even being able to pick up some here and there at work is thrilling to me! I would LOVE to learn Finnish and be able to talk to my Grandparents, I still send them cards in Finnish I write using a glossary :) I went by your blog as well and I'm excited to keep reading, your traveling adventures seem awesome! Thanks for reading!

Priya said...

Thank you so much for your kind words! I definitely relate to the feeling of wishing/wanting parts of me away, and while you make it sound like I have it all together...there are still times when it's hard! I do try my very best to love and live in the exact way that I am. One quote I heard recently that I really enjoyed was "Comparision is the theif of joy." So true! Thank you for coming by!

Priya said...

Rosie! Hi! I'm so glad you made your way over here! You can definitely relate, and I have to say I kinda laughed at your Whitworth stories (and I have heard many about how overwhelmingly UNdiverse it is over there!). I never knew your exact heritage either, so I'm glad we finally got that cleared up :) thanks for your encouragement and your comment!

Priya said...

Karen! Thank you so much for your sweet compliment, it really means a lot (esp. coming from you, a fantastic writer!). I would love to read about your heritage on your blog too! Thanks for reading along, you're great! P.S. Did you ever get another card I sent you??

julie said...

Loved this post.

Priya said...

thank you for reading!!

Unknown said...

I don't remember from where I stumbled upon your blog...but I'm hooked! Imma hit that follower button ;) I read many of your older blog posts, and decided I just Should leave a comment, as I'd spent at least half an hour on this blog alone.

Fun fact - I'm trilingual ;) I still wish I were fluent in more languages!

Blogger Template by pipdig