Word Count: 647/650 ~ PLEASE HELP EDIT!
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent ...
Fold. Crease. Turn. Unfold. Edge to the edge, as precisely as possible. I analyze the ends for flaws.
As the myth goes, one who creates 1000 origami cranes would be granted a wish. I took this as a challenge. To my parents' confusion, junk mail and money would often transform into these little creatures.
This was a distraction until the doors of McCarran International Airport opened.
I was 3 years old when my parents chose to uproot their comfortable lives in Jakarta, Indonesia to Newnan - a suburb 45 minutes south of Atlanta. A stamp of arrival on our I-91 cards validated our entrance. And so my family began the business of equivocating Tahun Baru Imlek and Eid al-Fitr to New Years' and Thanksgiving.
Growing up, nobody ever spoke to me about my immigrant status, and I overlooked the implications until freshman year of high school. As my peers began to test for their learner's permits, I was frustrated when my request was shut down by my parents: "We don't want you on the roads." However, I knew it was much deeper than that. Though no one openly told me I was undocumented, I was able to reason.
People often asked, "Why haven't you gotten your permit? Aren't you 17?" Consequently, I found myself scrambling to make the same excuses to friends my parents made to me. Hiding this vital part of my identity was an attack on my self-perception.
My opportunities were severely limited in comparison to my classmates. I wouldn't be working a summer job, and I wouldn't be voting when I turn eighteen. At the same time, I was plagued by the Model Minority Myth. The stereotype of Asian families is a successful, nuclear family. Not conforming to this cliche due to my undocumented status pushed me to compensate by pursuing math team and academic bowl. Even so, did I do these for my own happiness, or did I do them because I felt the need to? Believing I was designed to engage with society this way, I fell into that role. As a consequence, my grades slipped; I found myself straying farther from my wish.
With this outlook, I began volunteering at the Piedmont Newnan Hospital. There, I observed the bonds established between the workers and patients. I fell back on my childhood habit of origami around this time and attempted to build connections in my own way by leaving cranes for others to find. I imagine these bits of folded paper go unnoticed, but I hoped those would amount to the thousand I needed to not only heal patients' illnesses but also their quality of life. I may have not been handing a scalpel to a surgeon, but through this experience, I recognized healthcare was the career path I wanted to pursue.
I had 1000 pieces of paper necessary for a wish, yet the one piece of paper determining my worth was out of reach. The system often says "You're not welcome here. Do it the right way." But, how do I secure a paper that is impossible to obtain? I have a love-hate relationship with my identity as an Asian-American. What's the benefit of pledging my allegiance to a country that doesn't pledge its allegiance to me?
The public refers to me as someone who doesn't belong and who is nothing but a mere shadow. It seems the only alternative is to give up, but I plan on continuing my education and encouraging others, success is feasible. Nobody should exist in fear or be doubtful of their academic future. Being undocumented isn't a weakness. Rather, it's a drive. It helped uncover the virtue of my endeavors and resolution.
I'm no longer the girl who believes in legends, but I am one who is determined to integrate and flourish in the systems putting me at a disadvantage, in order to deliver change.