Navigating Two Cultural Identities
I always found discomfort in distant family parties. I hardly ever saw this side of the family, visiting them only on specific occasions or holidays. Although I value family above all else, it becomes difficult when both sides of the family are so different. I am half-Filipina and half-Peruvian. Some years we spend Christmas with my mom’s side, leaving New Year’s to be spent with my dad’s side. The situation seems like an efficient system, where I can be involved with both heritages, but not when it feels like I’m switching between characters or versions of myself that are more palatable to that particular side of my family. I didn’t fully realize I was switching between versions of myself until I was much older, and that spending time with family shouldn’t be so complicated. I wanted to find a way to navigate between both of my cultural identities, without negotiating one identity over another. What it comes down to is accepting the ‘both’ in oneself.
I realized that attempting to fit a mold, whether it be my Peruvian or Filipina side, only perpetuates that feeling of needing to be different in order to feel accepted. Although that desire to be accepted may seem necessary to other people, I realized that all my family ever really wants from me is to simply be present and be happy. There was never a mold that I was forced to fit into. The mold came from my own desire to act like that particular side of the family, because I believed they wanted me to be more like them. When in reality, all they have ever wanted of me was to be myself. I realized that I didn’t have to present myself in any other way than what felt most authentic to me.
It’s easy to create the mold in your head and believe in being the ideal person for that one side of the family. It’s a performance of sorts, in order to feel accepted into either or. I’ve concluded that having two big sides of the family only means that there are more people who care about me, and I truly feel privileged to be a part of both families.