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100% Non-Existent

I think I’m going to think myself into a hole

I’m going to spiral down the abyss 

and it’ll be my fault for falling in the first place

I think and think and think

about things that matter

and especially about things that don’t

Right now the tattoo on my left hand preoccupies my mind

something I impulsively got at nineteen (or was it twenty?)

“how cool would it be to get a hand tattoo” I thought

You dumb fuck

I often think of the things about me that contradict

and how this is probably the reason why it’s so hard

for people to understand me

I think about being both American and Asian

two things that can’t exist at the same time

well, according to some people that is

I think about the word “Chindo,” short for Chinese Indonesian

and how it does and doesn’t 

embody my ethnic heritage at the same time

What am I then if not Chindo?

I’m Chindo in the way

that my Chinese heritage is Taiwanese

and my Indonesian heritage is native

But not Chindo in a way

where my ancestors moved to Indonesia from China

and have settled there for generations, much like the people who coined the term

I’m Chindo in the way

that you can’t find “typical” Chinese features on my “typical” Indonesian face

not that there is such a thing as a typical “Indonesian look”

I’m Chindo in the same way my mother is Chindo

Chindo in the way

that our Taiwanese identity is Americaized

and our Indonesian identity is Indonesian

Chindo in the way

where we have gaps in our understanding of Mandarin 

because no one ever properly taught us

Chindo in the way

where we learned the Indonesian language from the many years living there

makes me wonder if we’d even learn in the first place had we never lived there

My mother and I are Chindo in an Taiwanese-Indonesian American way

Some say that 25% is not enough to identify

but if that 25% of me is taken away

what am I left with exactly?

25% Han Chinese and 25% Javanese from my mother

25% Bantenese and 25% Bataknese from my father

how am I to be whole without these four quarters?

The umbrella term Indonesian itself

can’t cover all the different ethnicities within the country

an oversimplification of a whole nation and of who I am as well

I’m tired of being told my percentage isn’t enough to identify

I think about my mother and grandmother

two women who shaped me into who I am today

who lives in the same state of discomfort and displacement that I do

My grandmother, my mother, and I

women who were destined to live far from home

not that any of us can pinpoint where home is to begin with

I think about how my grandmother, my mother, and I

are tied to island nations

and how we all live like moving islands ourselves

Is this life hereditary then?

I think about how my children will inherit this identity crisis

even if their father isn’t of mixed heritage

all because their mother carries so many cultures within her

I think about all the cultures I’ve been exposed to

from my time living in Tokyo, Seoul, New York, and even here in London

all the habits I’ve picked up from each city, each country, each person I meet

I think about how I don’t wtite about my Muslim background 

and my complicated relationship with religion nearly enough

to be born Indonesian means to be born religious

The mere thought of talking about the disconnect feels blasphemous

But I look back at memories of early morning eid prayers fondly

now quietly observing mass prayers held at parking lots from afar

instead of being a part of it, quietly feeling left out to some degree

I think about how being Muslim in a America

meant being afraid, borderline paranoid

because the actions of extremists is somehow your fault

I think about growing up in Los Angeles

and how I was never the only Asian kid in class

but the Asian American community was always too East Asian centered for me to feel included

Too brown to be a model minority, what a joke

I still remember the anger and frustration I felt

after finding out my mom and uncle were seen as lesser Asians by relatives

all because they were half Southeast Asian

It makes me think about all the people

who criticize me for clinging to that 25%

because these quarters were all I had to cling on to

Especially all the men I’ve dated

who lack any empathy for me and my complicated identity

picking and choosing whatever parts of me suit their narrative of who they think i am

No one has invalidated me more than the men of my own ethnicity

Yet the ones who don’t share a heritage with me

fetishize me for being the way that I am

either that or they tell me I’m not the kind of Asian they’re looking for

I speak english too fluently

and I’m too headstrong, unlike other Asian girls

too tan and too round eyed too

Have these people even met an Asian person before?

is that why they always ask “no, but where are you really from?”

sorry I’m not blonde haired, blue eyed enough to say I’m from LA

Why do I have to properly educate you about this when you’re older than me?

Trying so hard to fit me into boxes I don’t fit

desperately clinging onto biased views of what I should be

based on shallow things like how I look

Seems like every conversation about identity

is met with criticism 

sometimes even from my own family

It’s comforting and heartbreaking all at once

to know that my mother and grandmother

are just as out of place as I am

I don’t want my children to feel out of place, but I know they will

I’m thinking myself into a hole

I’m spiraling down an abyss

and it’s my fault for falling in the first place