Ive posted this essay before. But I finally completed it and edited it… and its been sent to Stanford EA. But if anyone has any suggestions:
Wang Yu, guo lai, ni de qi yi ge ming zi! my aunt screamed at me from two rooms over.
My time had arrived. I ran into the room where everyone was waiting.
All of a sudden, the room erupted in cacophony. Mandarin Chinese and heavily accented English filled the room. After twenty minutes of this madness, I heard that my cousins had chosen Kathy and William as their new American identities.
I stood there, too young to be wondering if I was going to assume a similar identity. Instead, like every other six year old, I was thinking about cartoons. G.I. Joe, Tom and Jerry, and many generic Chinese cartoons were at the top of my head. However, instead of asking for Tom, Jerry, or Joe, I asked for my favorite cartoon character, Rai ke, which was the American name Rick with a heavy Chinese accent. My auntie opened the English dictionary and searched for Rai ke. Not surprisingly, that was not to be found. So, she started to look through the dictionary, searching for similar-sounding names.
After using the Chinese Ping Yin spelling and much searching through the dictionary for something with a ke or a similar ending, my auntie read the name Lake. Since I was only six, I immediately became attracted to anything that was remotely related to what I wanted. My auntie, tired of looking through the dictionary, asked me if I would like to take Lake. I was thrilled to be named Lake. It was only a day later that I found the meaning of lake: a body of water, bigger than a pond, smaller than a sea.
On my first day of school, I realized that perhaps I should have made a different decision. Not only was I unable to speak English, but I was also named after a very large puddle of water. Remarks like Lake Tahoe or River or questions like Is your brother or sister called River? filled my elementary and middle school years. I felt so ashamed of who I was that for several years during middle school, I even thought about changing my name. I wanted to be able to speak perfect English, celebrate Christmas under a glowing tree, eat bagels for lunch and have a typical American name; essentially, I wanted to be American.
As I grew older, I began to enjoy the way people often couldnt figure out what to expect from me. Perhaps it was also because I learned to enjoy my own unique culture more, that I felt like I no longer needed to assimilate into the masses. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed eating long-life noodles, wearing red underwear on my birthdays, and having random good luck charms in my house. I found that I was no longer ashamed of these things as I had been before. I started to look at things not only from the perspective of an American, but as a Chinese and an immigrant as well. I have to thank Lake for much of this realization. Lake allowed me to keep my own unique identity by preventing me from simply assimilating into American society, where I might have lost my self-identity. When all is said and done, I will eventually forget the jokes and alienation that Lake had brought me when I was a child, but I will never forget the way Lake has kept my identity as an immigrant and most importantly, as a Chinese-American.