“You sound so American, I thought you were born here.”
This is usually the response I get when I tell people I’m from Nepal.
I remember in college when people told me this, I was flattered with the response. The naive and confused 11-year-old who tried so hard to assimilate herself to American culture, it felt like this is the outcome I was longing for.
But now, that I am older this response feels unsettling. I’ve lived in America for 14 years of my life now and 11 in Nepal. I feel often times stuck in between two different cultures, languages, and societal expectations.
On one hand, I have close friends and family who moved to America after college and experience the struggles of being an immigrant, such as securing a visa and not getting to see family members. On the other hand, I find myself in a place of privilege with my American citizenship and more flexibility to find a job and go home to see family and enjoy home-cooked meals.
The way I identify myself now looks very different from how I identified myself a few years back. I’ve grown to embrace and appreciate my culture and heritage, instead of being embarrassed by it. I’m fascinated by the history of our people, and how the economy and geography influenced the Sino-Tibetan language, food, and culture. Instead of avoiding speaking Newari, I try my best to practice it when I can. This shift in mindset also shows up in small ways, where I love accessorizing my outfits with jewelry that my grandfather made or aunts sent from Nepal to remind me of home.
When I first moved to America, I used every ounce of my energy erasing my identity as a Nepali and Newar. I changed my name, suppressed my accent, and wore everything Abercrombie and Hollister.
However, now that I’m older (and a bit wiser, I hope), I’ve realized that the amalgamation of cultures, languages, and people is what makes America America. While we have a long ways to go to achieve equity and justice for minorities that make up the majority, I’ve grown a deeper appreciation and pride to be a Nepali and Newar.