Fitting in with those who don’t fit

In elementary school, I was introduced to a cookie-cutter version of what a successful, progressive woman should be. She was a white brunette who overcame adversity to become the CEO of a major corporation. That narrative did not fit me. 

As I got older, I realized that my storyline was different from that of white girls, since I, as an Asian, stood out. But even within the Asian community, girls had a storyline that I did not fit into — the storyline for Asian women was directed towards East Asians; as an Indonesian, my skin is darker. People were confused about what I am, and I was, too.

I felt lost; not fully tethered to a community, not sure where I fit as a woman. Others’ perceptions of who I should be were very far from who I really was. 

But did I know who I was? No. When someone told me I was special or unique, I did not buy it. I felt too lonely.

Over time, I became more comfortable with my identity. I found my niche at an Indonesian language school and made a diverse group of friends. Friends who were also confused, since their own storylines as young women were different from what they had been presented with when they were young.

Now I’m confident in my identity as a Southeast Asian woman and feel strongly that I do not need to fit a narrative to be successful since that narrative was never built for me, anyway.