I was so far from the model of a smart, calm, and collected Asian woman. When I watched TV, all the Asian female characters were stereotypes. At home, my independent single Laotian mom meant everything to me and I wanted to make her proud.
My diploma was initially denied due to incomplete coursework. Depression halted my final senior paper, and almost got the best of me completely. Over those four collegiate years I had decided to drop out twice but was talked out of it each time by my father. The “model minority” isn’t just about STEM; it’s an idea about esteem and excellence.
Nature isn’t simply a playground for outdoorsy, crunch-granola white people. As Eurocentric concepts, they have been used to deem our ancestors primitive “jungle” people and, in the name of either conservation or profits, dispossess us of land and other resources vital for our survival and well-being.
Our experiences are different, the sources of our trauma are different. Even the language we use to describe our emotions and pain can be different. I can only believe that if marginalized people are to find mental health services more impactful, there must be a complete restructuring of these interconnected institutions and social structures.
Despite identifying as a minority, I walk a line of privilege that many similarly marginalized people do not share. I am high-achieving though I have a learning disorder. I benefit from East Asian androgyny and am read as a cisgender male. I am half-Japanese, one of the more commonly positively fetishised Asians. From this perspective, it is hard to justify to myself how I came to experience adverse mental health.
I want us to live not just to survive another day, but to experience the fullness of ways we can move through the worlds we create together. To grow into our boldest selves, grey haired and wrinkled at the corners of our mouths, signs of all the laughter that rolled deep from the warm places where our joys thrive.