Some days are good days.

Today is not one of them.

I look out, through the frame of a loading dock, at a stark, concrete expanse.

It so clean and barren that it is almost like art, especially as I watch the movers toss a bright blue tarp off of a dusty red truck. The blue color, flung into the air against a background of nothing, seems to pierce the space it is in for a moment, before falling to the pavement.

Our robot is revealed from underneath the tarp, a greyish white that matches its surroundings. It will fit in nicely here, its new home.

This warehouse is not dusty or dark or glum. It's surprisingly sharp-looking, clean and organized. It reminds me of the outside of airports, or even hospitals. Wide, sterile expanses. Even the eating area feels this way, full of long tables and benches with light-colored laminate tops. I look out of the window into whiteness, a sky with no features.

Some days are good days.

Today is not one of them.

We are far from Shanghai, in a town just outside Hangzhou. Warehouses are always built far from city centers, so here we are, in a place that's nowhere. I help my teammates unpack and begin to work. The warehouse workers are very curious and stare at me, and this is how I remember the difference between Shanghai and other places. People stare in Shanghai too, but here, as I walk from the entrance down a long stretch of concrete to our section, I literally turn heads as I go. Everyone is curious. A security guard asks in surprise after I speak with him, "you can even speak Chinese?" I give my default, short answer, "I'm mixed."

Another security guard, a lady who screens me at the entrance, says partly to me and partly to her coworker, "A beautiful girl! Very pretty." I walk down that concrete expanse, as heads turn again. I wish I could appreciate compliments more and negativity less, but the compliments always feel hollow, somehow. Baseless.

Earlier today I found an online community of mixed Asian people. I ask them, "a long shot, but is anyone else here African and Asian and strongly identifies with both?" A few responses, but ultimately no one is quite the same. A few have similar backgrounds to me, but identify more with one side or another. I know that even my own brother is a little different from me in how he sees himself, and how he wants others to see him, although I know he feels similar pains.

It is lonely and frustrating, to be an unusual color, clearly seen against the background, to stand out with nowhere to hide.

Some days are good, and on those days I focus on beauty and power. I feel I can adapt easily to anywhere; I feel unique and important. I fly up, high above in the air.

But today is not one of them.

I think about how, no matter how hard I try, I may never be able to speak my four languages as proficiently as my parents do.

I think about how, no matter what I accomplish, I can never be granted entrance into the comfort of being recognized, of being seen by one of your own people.

I think about what has been stolen from me, so many people who have denied and denied and denied me. It took me years to realize that it does not matter what most people think or what they choose to believe, but still there is the rejection, day after day. I am evicted from my place among others. I am made to walk away homeless.

I think about how maybe it will be easier for all those who come after.

I think about how hard it must have been for all who came before.

I think, for the thousandth time, why was I born, why was I put here.

Most days are good days. This feeling is less and less now, after spending most of the last 20 years wrestling insecurity away. And there are still many good days to come. But still, this will never completely leave me. It will follow me for the rest of my life.

It is evening now, and dark. I look at the concrete outside, lit by florescent bulbs.

I look out into nothing

standing on the dock


MIT grad, robotics engineer, mixed. A place I write.

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