Things I Would Have Told Myself

Dear Past Vian (or future Vian),

  1. You are beautiful: When people tell you your eyebrows are too thick and your skin is too dark and tease you for having body hair–don’t listen. You are you. You were never meant to look like the skinny cis white girls in the advertisements and T.V. shows you watched and internalized. Yes, you’ll never be white and your hair will never be straight or blonde but that’s not a bad thing. You are individual and different just like anyone else in this world. There are people in this world that you have yet to meet who will have to teach you of this fact, the fact that you are not white and that is perfectly fine.
  2. Don’t ever let people tell you who you are and how you should act: Remember how Mrs. Buchanan would always yell at you when you weren’t acting “lady-like?” tellmewaht
    Don’t listen. She and no one else besides you can tell you who you are. Even when you don’t feel like a lady or like “one of the girls” all the time I want you to know that those feelings are very valid. In a few years you’ll learn about a lot and even meet a lot of people who feel the same way that you do, but for now I want you to stay strong and always remember that you are valid and you are loved and you deserve to be loved.
  3. Question everything: You are so inquisitive about everything, always asking instead of accepting everything as fact. Never be ashamed in asking because most often than not the people telling you what don’t really know why themselves which can cause them to lie about the why, but not usually out of malice or spite but because they are ashamed of not knowing. Never be ashamed of wanting to learn or admitting your ignorance. Be true to who you are because in the end you’ll learn much more from yourself and those around you.
  4. You are valid: At this point in your life you’re probably surrounding yourself with a lot of white people and that’s not a bad thing but in surrounding yourself with people you WANT to be like instead of people SIMILAR to you might make you feel like your experiences are wrong, bad, or different. Just because your friends don’t experience or understand what you are going through doesn’t make you bad or weird but yes, you are different. What is conventionally normal is a very small box that you simply do not fit into and that’s okay. A lot of people don’t fit into that box but what’s important is that you don’t force yourself to fit in the box. Acknowledge and understand and learn what makes you difference and move forward. Oh also you make better friends, like you’ll meet someone very soon who teaches you more about who you are than you could ever imagine and they do this simply by existing in your life (I KNOW, it sounds way too good to believe, but I promise I’m not making that up.)
  5. Yes, you are Asian-Pacific Islander: Yeah I see you pretending you’re white. I mean LOOK at your skin for a second and I mean really look at it. Do you see white? I understand the need to assimilate especially when everyone screams “ching chong” in your face and make you feel ashamed for getting good grades but please…..stop. It’s hurting you deep down where you can’t see, trust me. It’s hurting you. Looking in the mirror and coming home to your mom’s broken English gets more and more painful the more you believe that who you are is wrong so please for your sake, stop trying to erase who you are. Your Vietnamese heritage is NOTHING to be ashamed of and you’ll meet a lot of people who will have to teach you this as well. It’s taken me years to move forward past those years of torment but now..here I am. I love who I am. I love everything that I am, my smile, my hands, my style, my skin shade, my music taste (YES! You eventually grow past Minh telling you your music sucks too!!!), my heritage, EVERYTHING.
  6. It won’t be easy: Remember how Baba always told you that life isn’t easy and you always dismissed him for being an old cynic? Yeah…sorry to be the one to tell you this but that was like the one thing he was right about. Life can’t be managed the way you want to, you’ll learn that the hard way. You’ll break down a few times, even lock yourself in your closet more than a handful of times but through all of the times that you believed killing yourself was the only option I want to tell you, I’m here. I’ve made it and there are so many beautiful things in this world I really don’t want you to miss out on. You probably don’t believe me as you read this but you’re really just gonna have to trust me (and I know that’s hard for you too.)
  7. Believe in people: Okay, look, I know you’ve been hurt more than a few times by people that you thought you could trust, people who were very close to you, but I want you to trust in people again. I know, it’s hard for me to just say that and have you miraculously be okay with everything but this is important. You’re going to meet someone who will impact your life greatly and they’ll ask that you trust them and you won’t be able to the first few times and it’ll break your heart every time. Spare yourself the heartache and just believe in them. I’m not even asking you to believe in everyone! You can believe in just one person, that’s cool, but I want you to at least believe in someone and trust that they won’t hurt you, at least not out of malice anyway.

Okay, that’s it. That’s pretty much everything I wanted to tell you, or the most important stuff anyway. I’m not telling you this to correct the past or change what you’ve done because that stuff is pretty much set in stone. You’re going to trip up a LOT with or without me telling you all this but I guess I just wanted to give you some hope. Hope for better days even when things get really bad (and trust me, they will.)

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