Across the Board Culture Mirrors: A Magazine Series Stories

Mirror: A Peek through the Parallel World 

Little Su in New York City, 2012.

When I stand in front of a mirror, I see myself: an identical twin of Martin Su. I often wonder how my life is on the other side of the mirror, in a parallel world that I’ve never experienced.

I was born and raised in Shanghai, with a Chinese father and a Korean mother. My family decided to immigrate to the US when I was very young, and that was what they have been telling me since I could remember. Our family planned to move when I was in the third grade, so everything was prepared beforehand. However, when the time came, my father’s health deteriorated, and we were unable to move anymore (he is okay now).

Thus, I’ve spent my entire childhood and teenage years in China. Coming to the states as a young adult, I feel like an expat; I feel like a fob. I wonder if it would’ve been different if I did move here back in third grade. It’s a parallel world that I’ve missed. I see myself on the other side of the mirror, and imagine all the things that might have been part of me.

My English might be better, the expressions I use might be more authentic and my accent might be more “American”, however, at the cost of only being able to speak broken Chinese and Korean, as well as being illiterate at both. I might go through a phase of hating my Asian identity during puberty and eventually growing out of it, feeling proud of it at last. I might enjoy playing pickleball more than Shanghai style mahjong. I might be listening to Rich Brian more than Masiwei. I might have been hanging out with friends in parking lots rather than at room escapes and Chinese mafia games. If the two of myself from two sides of the mirror were to meet each other, we might find it struggling to relate. I know that because I have drifted apart with my childhood friend who moved to the US over the years.

“H” was my best friend in the 4th grade. He lived in a compound (小区) 15min away from mine. We used to ride the bike, play Clash of Clans on our iPad2, and drink boba together after school. The memory between us is becoming vague as our friendship halted a decade ago. It halted because H left to go to school on the other side of the world, California. I barely heard from him because we weren’t old enough to use social media back then, but we would always meet when he comes back home for summer. H was like Santa Claus, I met him once every year. However, I can sense the increasing distance between me and him each time we meet. He would tell me about the stories in his American high school, which felt unreal for me. I would tell him things about kids in our school that H haven’t seen for years. The signal was fading between us. Me and H are still friends now, and we’ve grabbed dinner a couple of times since I’m here. We would still talk about the things that we did as children, but that seems like the only thing in common between me and him ever since.

There is certainly a gap between Chinese culture and Asian American culture, though it all stemmed from the same place. I don’t regret not being able to move to the US at a young age, because I feel proud of where I come from and grateful for being raised in my own culture, and I know that I will also feel equally as proud of my Asian American culture if I grew up and established my values here. However, sometimes…and only sometimes I peek through my parallel world and wonder how my life would’ve changed if I were on the other side of the mirror.

Martin Su

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