No, I don’t have the coronavirus.
No, I’m not Chinese.
No, I don’t speak Chinese.
No, not every Asian speaks Chinese.
No, Asia is not a country; it’s a continent with over 40 countries in it.
No, I don’t know your neighbor who is Asian.
No, I’m not related to Jackie Chan or Jet Li.
No, I’m not related to your friend’s friend who is Japanese.
No, I don’t eat sushi every day.
No, I’m not the same person as the other Asian who works here.
No, I’m not okay with you getting us mixed up after four years of working together.
No, my name is not similar to the main character from “Jungle Book.”
No, it’s not funny when you mispronounce my name.
No, I will not change my name to make it easier for you to pronounce.
No, I did not immigrate to this country.
No, I refuse to be your “exotic beauty” or someone who cures your “yellow fever.”
No, I’m not afraid of making my own money and following my own dreams.
Yes, I am American.
Yes, I was born here.
Yes, I am Japanese.
Yes, I grew up there.
Yes, I speak Japanese and English fluently.
Yes, I also speak French and even some Spanish.
Yes, I am an English teacher, not a Math teacher.
Yes, I have an accent, but so do you.
Yes, I have been bullied for not being “Japanese enough” in Japan.
Yes, I am constantly seen as a “foreigner” here in the U.S.
Yes, I have struggled with my identity.
Yes, I was the captain of my high school dance team.
Yes, I was a sprinter; now I’m a marathon finisher.
Yes, I’ve even skydived.
Yes, I am fearless.
Yes, I am proud of my accomplishments and cultural background.
Yes, I enjoy being different.
Yes, I do love my skin color.
So yes, I am a human being, and you need to listen and stop assuming.
Home is in a phrase, “I’m so glad I have a place to go home to.”
But does it have to be a physical space?
It is the way I feel when I drink some green tea
After having a bad day
And I calm down because it reminds me of my mom
And how I used to tell her everything
After a busy day at school.
Home is the way the sky looked
When I risked my life willingly for the first time
And jumped off a plane after recording myself saying,
“I understand that I may possibly end up dead.”
The limitless, cloudless sky
Bright and colorless from above
Woke me up with pure adrenaline
and an exhilarating kind of fear
and I noticed the encouraging, borderless sun above
and the countless, inviting shades of green below.
They say the grass is always greener on the other side.
I think the truth is, the grass is always green at home
But life often makes it difficult
to remember how to go back home.
Megumi Ito was born in southern California but moved to Shizuoka Prefecture as a child. She previously taught ESL in New York; she presently teaches Japanese and French at a public high school in Pierce County.
Omoide Writing Workshop
Third Saturdays, 1 – 4 pm
JCCCW, 1414 South Weller Street Seattle (in person; jcccw.org)