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#reverb10: Beautifully Different

#reverb10: Beautifully Different Today's #reverb10 writerly prompt is:

December 8: Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

I grew up in an affluent, predominantly Caucasian Boston suburb and always felt different. But not in a beautiful way, given that what made me different -- being one of seven Asian kids with very little money, living in a chaotic, threadbare, and leaky home that periodically was visited by the police -- felt embarrassing.

Sadly, the only time I experienced "same-ness" was also embarrassing -- such as when I did competitive orchestras where a majority of the group was Asian (the stereotype is accurate I’m afraid). And in middle and high school, it became clear that I would always be relegated to the chorus in school plays because I didn’t look right for any of the parts, and that boys generally wouldn’t date me publicly (they only wanted to make out with me in secret), presumably for fear of social backlash. The latter is probably why I succumbed to a relationship after high school that resulted in 18 years of emotional abuse and stalking.

Now, this is a long winded but relevant way to get to the point that for so many years, different equaled negative for me. It’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve become truly happy in my unique and different skin. During this decade I met and married an amazing man who loves me unconditionally and has challenged me to grow and evaluate continually. I pursued an ambitious professional path that I eventually left to reinvent myself in a creative and different way. I became a mother, through which I am reminded daily of the beautiful different-ness that is my hybrid daughter. And I underwent a considerable amount of therapy that has helped me release old baggage (at least some of which undoubtedly is related to my perception of different as negative) and really embrace who I am now.

But admittedly, old habits die hard and every day involves work. I’m no longer hung up about being Asian (and actually, thanks to friends like Jim, Anissa, Sandy, Stefania, Angela, and Kristen, I celebrate the humor and solidarity in Asian-ness), but I do tend to have a knee jerk critical reaction towards myself. A fitting example: (the beautifully different) Karen Walrond (the author of today’s #reverb10 prompt) took this photo of me in August at BlogHer. When I first saw the image, adolescent-Christine-Koh immediately thought, “Oh, the dark circles under my eyes…my face is a weird shape…my nose is too wide…I thought I got my eyebrows done before BlogHer…and ugh, those freckles."

But then grownup-Christine-Koh took a breath, let go of that negative (not to mention pointless) mojo, and thought -- very simply -- that all of those different things make me, me. And that I see various bits and pieces of me in Laurel, whose beautifully different face and spirit I celebrate every day.

I actually think I’m getting better with age (I thank my Asian genes for that…my mom looks spectacular), and most importantly, that all of these little bits of different from my history -- the stuff that is lodged deep in my memory and in the cells of my body -- contributes to what I do now that seems to light people up: my passion for living a creative and inspired life, my commitment to my loved ones, my positive energy, and my desire to be present in each and every moment.

In short: Negative different is so 1980's/1990's. Positive different is so beautiful. And so very now.