At first, Takayasu didn’t relate to the others in attendance, who were listing typical Asian values their parents had taught them. “They were all saying things like ‘Study hard,’ ‘Become a doctor or lawyer,’ blah, blah, blah. That’s not how my parents were. They would worry if they saw me working too hard.” Takayasu had spent her childhood shuttling between New York and Tokyo. Her father was an executive at Mitsubishi; her mother was a concert pianist. She was highly assimilated into American culture, fluent in English, poised and confident. “But the more we got into it, as we moved away from the obvious things to the deeper, more fundamental values, I began to see that my upbringing had been very Asian after all. My parents would say, ‘Don’t create problems. Don’t trouble other people.’ How Asian is that? It helped to explain why I don’t reach out to other people for help.” It occurred to Takayasu that she was a little bit “heads down” after all. She was willing to take on difficult assignments without seeking credit for herself. She was reluctant to “toot her own horn.”
By contrast, the white lawyers he encountered had a knack for portraying themselves as above all that. “White people have this instinct that is really important: to give off the impression that they’re only going to do the really important work. You’re a quarterback. It’s a kind of arrogance that Asians are trained not to have. Someone told me not long after I moved to New York that in order to succeed, you have to understand which rules you’re supposed to break. If you break the wrong rules, you’re finished. And so the easiest thing to do is follow all the rules. But then you consign yourself to a lower status. The real trick is understanding what rules are not meant for you.”
…I care, in the end, about expressing my obdurate singularity at any cost. I love this hard and unyielding part of myself more than any other reward the world has to offer a newly brightened and ingratiating demeanor, and I will bear any costs associated with it.
The first step toward self-reform is to admit your deficiencies. Though my early adulthood has been a protracted education in them, I do not admit mine. I’m fine. It’s the rest of you who have a problem. Fuck all y’all.
It’s taken me between three and six months to finally get around to reading the whole thing, but I think I really just needed to read it and question it and and wish for it and identify with it and everything it just this evening.