"Where are you from?" is an inquiry most people have no problem answering. The answer to the ubiquitous question comprises their identity. This question has always perturbed me, however, not because I don't know, but because there are so many possible responses.
"Taiwan," I blurted out, when asked some years back, since I was born there and my mother grew up there. Seeing my light hair and Caucasian face, the person's face contorted. I changed my answer to Chicago, the place I visited every summer to see my grandparents. Then, the person asked, "Didn't you just move here from Asia?" and I responded, "Oh yes, I'm from Thailand."
My internationally mobile lifestyle and mixed heritage have sometimes left me groping in the dark for self-definition, wondering who I am. There are times I have wished that my world consisted of a cute house on Mabel Street, a street with two rows of identical dwellings, with only the shades of shutters and doors varying.
I can't return to one house and run my hands along the walls, as images from halcyon days flash before my closed eyes. I can't look into the corner of a bedroom closet and find "i love mOmy and dady" written in jumbled cursive; a testament to the past. I've learned over time, however, that being adventurous is more important to me than pursuing a fruitless quest for the absolute definition of Home.
My favorite poem, "Ulysses" by Tennyson, perfectly encapsulates this sentiment. Ulysses returns to Ithaca after years of travel, only to leave directly afterwards, pushed by the desire to reach beyond the limits of mundane Ithaca by broadening his knowledge of the world. Some may condemn Ulysses for hubris and recklessness, but I see him as an admirable adventurer. He serves as a symbol for those who wander the earth in pursuit of living life to the fullest.
Like Ulysses, my nomadic experiences have shaped who I am: "I am a part of all that I have met." I have been given precious access to other cultures which have allowed me to see the world from a different perspective from most Americans. I have witnessed the hardships of living in third world countries, and have seen how America is perceived in those countries. This has instilled in me a passion for politics, which can be attested to by friends and family who have found me yelling at the television screen during the nightly news. It has made me devoted to the cause of ameliorating poverty and economic injustice. I have made friends with children in poverty-stricken areas through my community service work. I've taught them English, and they have left me with an indescribable feeling of satisfaction at having made a difference. I want this to continue in the future, possibly as a journalist or a diplomat. In college I plan to expand my knowledge of the Chinese language, which will grant me the opportunity to travel around the world as an adult.
Ithaca wasn't the life for Ulysses, and the imaginary house on Mabel Street isn't the life for me. I will be like Ulysses in my approach to life, sustained by the resolve to push onward into the world; "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."