Growing up, I was acutely aware of the things that made me different from my classmates. Consequently, I also made every effort to fit in, but coming from a mixed race made it close to impossible. There were so many things about myself that I wanted to change—anything that defined me as “different” was immediately considered a flaw. Learning to embrace what makes me different took years and years, but I can proudly say that it happened. I would not have been able to achieve it without the help of my two friends who, like me, are children of immigrants. Although we each had different cultures and different beliefs, we drawn to each other through our experiences as outsiders. This personal reflective essay focuses on the idea that what truly unites us and strengthens our relationships are the differences that make us unique individuals.
Our differences are our source of connection
My friends and I are each from different cultures. I am half-Korean, while my two friends are Argentinian and Jamaican. We were indeed an odd bunch—an Asian, an Argentinian, and a "black girl"—but that did not stop us from being the best of friends. All three of us were children of immigrants, and although we were not necessarily discriminated against by our peers and our school emphasized multiculturalism in classrooms, we did not exactly fit in with them.
The proverbial lunch was one of the main things that drew us three together. Other kids have sat with me before, but would often avoid me after smelling my lunch. The smell of kimchi put them off, I suppose, but not my two other friends. I still remember the first time they both saw kimchi. They were intrigued by its color. When they found out it was spicy, they had different reactions. My Argentinian friend was hesitant but my Jamaican friend was eager to try. To my surprise, they both loved it. Our lunches after that became mini feasts in which we shared whatever we had.
My Argentinian friend shared that they did not eat spicy food at home often, but after trying Kimchi, thinks she loves spice, too. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the different flavor palette offered by Jamaican and Argentinian cuisine. I particularly enjoyed our conversation where we try to identify food we have tried that taste similar to the one’s we’re eating. Although our cultures couldn’t be more different, our food sometimes share a lot of similar flavors. The same is true in our group. Although we come from different cultures, we share similar experiences.
My friends and I came to realize that although Jamaican, Argentinian, and Korean cultures are very different, we share a lot of the same values and experiences. As children of immigrants we lived a kind of double life, wherein we are immersed in our families’, in my case my mother’s, cultures at home. We speak our respective languages and partake in other cultural activities at home but we are also immersed in American culture, especially outside. We talk about the latest bands and the latest Netflix movies like everyone else from our school. However, we also talk about our relatives, because all of our families maintain close relations with relatives, as is customary in our cultures. The quirks in our cultures and our families add color to our conversations, as does our accents.
My friends and I come from different cultures, with different backgrounds, but this is precisely what brought us together. We started off completely unfamiliar with each other’s cultures but we slowly learned about each other. We carefully explained things to each other, while the others listened attentively. The result is becoming immersed in another culture other than my own. Not only have I gained more knowledge that could potentially make me a better person, but I have also gained lifelong friends. Furthermore, our experiences as outsiders gave us a common denominator that allowed us to get to know each other. Although the three of us do not necessarily “fit in” among our white peers, we found true belonging in our mini group of misfits.
Our differences makes us stronger
Being different is not easy, but what I have come to realize is that everyone is different, and that our differences is the root of our similarities. We, as a people are too drawn toward our differences that we have become blind to our similarities. At first glance, my friends and I do not have similarities at all, but as it turns out, we share the most fundamental values and experiences. And these are the things that brought us together. The same is true of everyone else, if only people looked past the superficial differences and focused on the things that make us human. Our similarities come from our differences as people and as individuals, but these could also be the foundation for our unity and strength as humans.