On Feeling Alone

I’m extremely aware of the privileges I have being East Asian (a topic for another article…but I wanted to bring this up). Some might just consider me Asian without specifying anything else. People, including myself a long time ago, seem to consider being Asian just being Chinese, Korean and Japanese — with light skin and dark hair. It can be an extremely touchy, confusing, blurry-lined definition. It depends on so much — what generation you are, what part of the States you live in, what part of the specific state you live in, how your parents have raised you, your friends, how you see yourself, how others see you…

Often, how others see you is the big turning point. In a world where everyone tries and wants to be right, there’s so much pressure on your shoulders to be what they want you to be.

Of course, we’ve got to fight that. But it’s really, really, really hard.

Have you been anywhere where you suddenly feel alone? People are unique for a reason, but I don’t feel alone just based on how I look. I feel alone because I feel like I take things too seriously. I feel alone because I feel like I care too much. I feel alone because no one else truly understands why I feel rejected. I feel like they empathize with me, and I feel like they do feel sorry for me, and I am appreciative…but having someone emphatically agree with you because they’ve felt it themselves is entirely different.

When did it become a bad thing to take things seriously? When did it become a bad thing to care and want to change the world? Realistically, I know — you might not be able to change people’s minds, but you can plant the seed.

Think about this…fighting for things is extremely tiring. No one does this because they’re being petty or because they’re bored. We do these things — fighting for equality and safety — because we need to. I care because what I do now in this world can change things for the kids that are coming up behind me. I want people to feel safe in places they feel different. I want people to feel like they can stand up for themselves. I want people to know that they CAN do it, and they SHOULD if they believe in it. I want other Asian women to know that they’re not alone. I would also like to know that I’m not alone…we can help each other.

I believe I take things seriously because I want to show people I’m serious about my career, my ethnicity and identity, etc. I’m an Asian female who also looks like I’m about 18 years old…that doesn’t bode well for others taking you seriously, so sometimes I try to take that step beyond and show how serious I am.

I was helping out at a men’s professional soccer game and I saw that one of the refs was an Asian woman as well, and she looked pretty young. At the half or the end of the game, I forget, we locked eyes and she said “good job!” to us, and we all said the same back. And I don’t want to assign people’s opinions for them, but I feel like we had that same thought. We were thinking — good job. You’re doing it. You’re making waves. You’re being yourself, you’re loving your career, you’re giving others hope. Granted, I haven’t really “made it”, and I never really will because I’ll always want more…but I felt like we understood exactly what was happening and why it was important.

I’ve experienced uncomfortable situations at work before. The first one happened during my first semester in my undergrad program, I was 20 years old and one of the coaches made comments that were NOT okay towards me. It freaked me out, I had no idea what to do. I’m really glad I told someone, though, and it got taken care of. That issue fueled me to do better when a similar, uncomfortable situation happened recently in my life. I told myself — even if no one wants to help you, you tried. You did it! You did exactly what you said you wanted to do — you said you’d fight for things, you said you’d demand respect from the people you work with/for.

Thankfully, I had help. I had so much support I didn’t know I needed from my friends. I felt alone in some ways, but having enough people back me up even if they didn’t fully understand was a massive help. True understanding is a lot to ask for especially when you all come from different places in life, so I’m not going to be too bitter about that! Also, like I said — I know I have privileges. I’m going to recognize them, allow myself to feel the negative feelings, but then go back to those.

There are a lot of different ways to feel alone, and it’s really easy to complain about one of them, yet forget about the rest of the ways you aren’t alone. And don’t get me wrong, it’s totally okay to feel that way. I personally just don’t want to let it interfere with my work or my friendships, but that’s just me, so I work through things.

It’s important to acknowledge how you feel. It’s important to let it out in healthy ways. It’s important to feel safe and loved. When things are scary or frustrating or disappointing and you feel alone, it’s important to give yourself time to heal. Be patient with yourself but work hard every day to get better.



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Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.