“You get the best of both worlds,” sang Hannah Montana, and I used to think that’s how my life was structured. As an American-born Chinese, I spent the majority of my childhood attending an international school in Shanghai, China. I was educated in English, and outside of school I spoke Mandarin. I was equal parts American and Chinese; both cultures were equally important to my identity, and I was incomplete without one or the other.
This, however, all changed when I moved to California for high school. Suddenly, I had to pick between the two: become Chinese and befriend the international students, or become American and mingle with the ABCs who grew up in the States. It felt as if I was being torn apart; my two identities were at war with each other, and it seemed impossible to keep both. Perhaps due to my unwillingness to change and adapt, I was never able to fit into the groups and cliques in high school.
My struggles continued into college, where, again, I felt conflicted. I never understood the root of this problem; after all, there were no language barriers, and I had been exposed to both cultures equally. Why was it so hard to feel like I belonged? Slowly, it seemed to me as if the problem lied within myself; perhaps something about my personality was so horrid that I was destined not to be able to make meaningful connections with others. I pretended like I didn’t care, that I had the confidence to stay true to myself instead of forcing myself to assimilate, but deep down, I knew that my unsuccessful search for identity hurt me greatly.
“You get the best of both worlds,” sang Hannah Montana, and I can only laugh and shake my head — no wonder she was the star of a children’s show. In reality, trying to get the best of both worlds means not being able to fit into either world, no matter how proud you are of your dual identity.