My name is Daniel, and I am an American-born Chinese individual who has lived in Minnesota for all of his life. As many may know, there is a stereotype that many Asians are very competitive academically. My family was not much different. While I had more freedoms compared to my Chinese peers and appreciated being able to live a more normal life, I was known as the “dumb one.” I felt that I wasn’t respected as an individual, and this caused me to feel a lot of pain and guilt growing up since I always felt like I was disappointing my parents even though they’ve clearly said otherwise numerous times. Unfortunately, this worsened when I began high school.
My family and I would always go to parties with other Chinese people. At these parties, other parents were always able to brag about their children while mine just politely smiled and listened.
“My son earned a 36 on the ACT and didn’t even have to study.”
“My daughter missed school to play piano in Paris. She’s amazing, isn’t she?”
“I am making sure my child gets into the best school possible.”
While I was able to feel short-term motivation to improve myself academically, I would end up feeling behind and terrible about myself. Every single “short-coming” I’ve had academically, like not earning straight A’s, straight 5’s, or a 34-36 composite on the ACT, caused me to wallow in despair and become more insecure. Oftentimes, while I was supposed to sleep, I would always believe that I was a failure and a bad child even though I knew it was wrong. It got so bad to the point where I would openly express my academic frustrations at school and annoy everyone, including my friends. I knew that they didn’t understand the true extent to how competitive and toxic academics could become within the small community of Chinese people I’ve grown up with, but I always felt awful about it. I have reminded myself that all I was doing was sounding ungrateful about my academic successes, but my insecurities have always come out involuntarily and damaged my relations with others.
Come time to apply to colleges, I wasn’t excited to even apply. While everyone else was able to decide which college to apply Early Decision to, I was going back and forth between Emory and Tulane for my Early Decision application–both very competitive schools–since I was convinced that I wasn’t competitive enough to get into a highly selective college without the extra boost that Early Decision provided. In the end, I did not apply Early Decision anywhere, and it ended up bringing eventual closure to my academic insecurity. While I was initially waitlisted from Emory, I had received fantastic news on July 24, 2020–I got admitted! To say that I was in shock would be an understatement–I almost teared up knowing that my hard work had gotten me into a school that was considered prestigious even within my Chinese peer group. However, I didn’t end up committing right away. Since I had gotten settled at Tulane, I actually went through many sleepless nights pondering whether I should stay at Tulane or go to Emory. The latter ended up being my final choice, and I couldn’t be happier.
Once I committed to Emory, my parents didn’t blast the news within my small Chinese peer group. However, I told my friends the great news and thus their parents found out. Now I was not known as the “dumb child” anymore, they respected me, and most importantly, I finally felt that I have made the first important steps into truly making my parents proud of their first-born son. It’s crucial to not let insecurity consume your life, and now I am able to control it much more effectively.