What is My Culture?

I have an assignment in one of my courses to explore and discuss my ethnic background and my culture. In just the past few days of thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that I am the daughter of story-tellers.

I grew up in a mixed household, not just ethnically speaking, but generationally speaking. My mother was born at the beginning of the 1950s in the Philippines; my father was born in Washington state before the 1920s. To most people, my parents’ age gap throws them for a loop. To me, as a child, it was difficult to explain away to people. Now, though, it’s a matter of pride– I don’t know very many people my age that can say their father was in World War II.

I didn’t give too much thought to what my identity meant outside of music growing up. I was a musician first and foremost. My interests in dance and cheer, or schoolwork, or being of mixed race, or anything really of substance– that never really came up. I wavered in my identity, aligning myself with musical cultures for a good portion of my life, making that my identity.

In college, though, I became gradually aware of my non-whiteness. Before, my non-whiteness had meant simply being “the token Asian friend.” By being around other people with similar backgrounds, primarily my friends in FASA (Filipino-American Student Association), I began to explore what my heritage meant and how it affected me. I viewed it as something to be proud of, and luckily, I had few experiences in which people questioned my full-belonging to the group, even though I am of mixed background.

I have also always appreciated my Irish and Italian roots. I am a Casey by my Irish grandmother, and my rare, Italian last name showcases another particular aspect of my background. I love it– especially for its difficult pronunciation on this side of the Atlantic.

I could have had a mass identity melt-down. However, I think because I always lived in confusion, when I began understanding more of where I came from, appreciating its richness, the puzzle began to come together. As it did, a beautiful picture emerged.

I made sense of who I was through stories. Stories of my father growing up in the era of the Great Depression. Stories of my mother growing up in a faraway chain of islands, being one of the first families to have a TV in the neighborhood, playing games that needed no elaborate set-up or checker pieces. Stories from all my family members that made my face hurt with laughter. And as I grew older, my peers told me stories that sounded like mine– eating rice with every meal, getting confused stares from strangers while they wondered, “What are you?”– and I began to figure out just where I fit into the world.

I am the daughter of many stories, and I am the hero of my own.

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3 thoughts on “What is My Culture?

  1. Ninong Dorrance says:

    Of course you know I understand. You are the culmination of the best that the world has to offer and I could wish for no more from my “Daughter”.

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