Stop me if you've heard this one: Asian kid brings home-cooked lunch to school and gets teased, internalizes resentment for being different, and only now as an adult, is rediscovering their heritage.
Good, now we've got the origin story out of the way. Having gone through the full immigrant-family circle of life, I like to think I've gained some retrospective understanding of what it all means. Every angst and failure - each phase a necessary step to the next - has pointed me towards what I'm doing now and what ultimately brings me happiness.
Transformation is at the core of the hyphenate-American experience. We are walking Venn diagrams of cultural influences. What populates the middle inevitably shifts throughout our lives like those take-a-photo-everyday viral videos: there are subtle changes over time but on the whole, the person is recognizable. Each snapshot neither wholly neglects nor reflects the figurative "You," and that's okay.
What we see as obstacles early on turn out to be our greatest superpower. We shift effortlessly between spaces and have the luxury of pulling the best from all of them. We defy categorization. It's a confusing, alienating way to come into the world but it strengthens our resolve. It's also a scary thought - that you'll never fully understand your parents and they, you - but I think it makes us a touch more empathetic. We're two-way streets that can show our disparate circles what they share in common and how to appreciate the things they don't.
Change is universal, but it feels a little passive for what we're getting at. Transformation implies a more proactive approach. Knowing that each snapshot is just as much "us" as the next, maybe we can trust the shifts a little more, be kinder to ourselves, and embrace each new iteration. Transformations are opportunities to let go of regrets, forgive our failures, and earnestly work at whatever comes next.
Evan Lian is a cartoonist for The New Yorker.