My Confusing Cultural Identity

Explain a struggle you have faced in your life that helped define who you are

“Aap meri choti shezadi ho, Hannah,” my Pakistani grandfather told me before I moved to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. I was later able to translate his loving Urdu words into English: “You are my little princess, Hannah.” I am a Pakistani-Burmese-American, and I have been culturally confused my entire life.

Walking to school every morning in a pair of blue jeans, I am American. I say the Pledge of Allegiance, speak English, and seek company and am influenced by my American peers. Yet, the moment I step foot into my house, I am greeted with “Asalamualiakum,” and I am Pakistani again. The spicy, nose-opening scent of biryani and the beautiful native tongue of my mother are what make my house my home. My closet has a separate section for shalwar kameezai, and my television has a multitude of Urdu channels. At my family reunions, I am reminded once again of the hardships my brave Burmese grandmother and her family encountered as they migrated from Burma to Pakistan. I am Pakistani, Burmese, and American. This lineage shapes who I am today.

My cultural identity used to be a way for me to please others by obediently following customs. I would dress in a shalwar kameez to please my parents and speak a few words in Urdu to please my...

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