My life has spanned three continents. My immediate family includes three brothers, but not at the same time. There were also three weddings and three deaths. With a quiet authoritarian father and a distant mother, I have learned to keep my head down, trying to blend in, learning early to manage for myself.
I initially set out to write the definitive answer to the question “where are you from?” If someone asked me, I could point to the book and inquire, how much do you want to know about where I am from? In writing it, I discovered a more universal question about belonging. How do I fit in, and still be myself? How do I define myself when my own family keeps shifting, when the truth of my parents is still a work in progress, even after they are gone? Somewhere along the way, I discovered that parallel to trying not to stand out, a different track was developing, a track of choosing to stand out—where skills I learned were bringing me attention and recognition. At least acquiring and deploying these skills—that I can control; I cannot control assumptions based on physical appearance.
But even so: that is not the whole of me. I don’t live solely to earn money, to be admired, to gain popularity, or to save the day heroically. Attention and wealth is welcome to be sure—I am not that saintly. But on their own, these attainments cannot fulfill me. My self-worth and my humanity are defined from within. When I tap into my creativity, enthusiasm and kindness: these attributes percolate outward, infusing meaning and purpose to the myriad activities of my day.