Okay, let me explain how a 40 year old Asian Pacific Islander who now lives in the Pacific Northwest can be anything like the heroine, Tris from the bestselling trilogy by Veronica Roth.
I was born into a faction of sorts. Two if you want to be exact. If you were to peg me into the two Roth defined factions, it would be Erudite (The Intelligent) and Abnegation (The Selfless). Being raised by a Korean mother and a Chamorro father on Guam had its limitations, and blessings of course. I love my heritages, don’t get me wrong and have spoken of and written about it many times. However, I was bound by rules and regulations of the cultures which affected the adult I became. It is only in the last five years or so, perhaps factored by my father’s passing in 2007 that I have become freer. I have changed factions so to speak.
Focusing on being a Chamorro female, I was told many times that school came first. I was restricted from dating (my first kiss was at the age of 21 – but, don’t weep for me). I was pushed into a college degree that wasn’t my first choice. Vanity, like in Tris’s world, was frowned upon. I wasn’t allowed to feel pretty, or to focus on my looks. My father, the practical one, knew that these things fade. Any time I strayed too far from my set boundaries, I was yanked back by an invisible leash of obligation. In many ways, these restrictions saved me from risky behavior, but I have always wondered what kind of super woman I would be today, had these restraints not been placed on me. I probably wouldn’t cringe when someone pays me a compliment, especially regarding how I look.
I was scolded when at 18, I wanted a tattoo (it was all the rage with my girlfriends). Side note, it took another 18 years to get my first one. A tiger on my back with many hidden symbols (again, much like the Divergent characters).
I married a childhood friend, who is also Chamorro, when we were 30. When we were set to leave the island, I was struck by fear and excitement. I was scared to leave the tiny sanctuary of home and all that I knew for California. But, I was excited at the ripe age of 30 to start my life. I wanted to jump into and off that moving train. And in these last ten years of living in California, and now Washington State, the result of being a Navy wife; I have never felt more liberated. Now, is this a slap to the Chamorro childhood and upbringing I sprouted from? I would hope not. My Chamorro and Korean culture seeps into my everyday being. In my interactions with my new community, I am a culmination of all my experiences. I haven’t immersed myself so deep into the traditional American life that I have lost all that I was originally. But once in a while, I’m reminded that I don’t do things like we do ‘on the island’.
We celebrated my birthday and my daughter’s this past weekend. A friend from Guam was here. She overheard me tell my son to grab his ‘flip flops’ to go outside. I was scolded on the spot and then flushed red in the face. I got it. I didn’t use the term for slippers we use on Guam, ‘zoris’. I then had to explain to the two Navy wife buddies of mine why I was being chastised. In one sentence, I explained Guam terminology and the word origin being Japanese. This small oversight on my part made me question whether I was bringing my children up properly, my very Divergent children. But I dismissed my doubt quickly and enjoyed the rest of the party.
In many ways, we are all Divergent and it’s when people judge you for liking something outside of your cultural norms that my feathers get ruffled. I know who I am, where I’m from and where I’m going. Just because I’ve switched from a life of coconut trees and balmy weather to a life of chill winds and evergreens, it doesn’t make me less. It makes me Divergent. It makes me greater. And, I continued to evolve.