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  • This past December marked the 20 year anniversary of my family moving to the United States. During these 20 years I have traveled extensively throughout this vast and beautiful country. I have now visited every state on the East and West coasts as well as Illinois, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Georgia. I am not sure where the habit of buying magnets from every place I visit started. I think it began from a need to have a memory made physical. To have proof beyond photos that I did indeed visit, and that it meant something. Magnets are diverse, funny, and cheap. The perfect keepsake.

    However, my travels revealed something else to me beyond the ridiculous magnet variety offered in gift shops. Often, magnets would come pre-filled with names. Simple, gorgeous American names such as Jack, Alex, Samantha or Julie. But never have I seen my name on a magnet. I realize that many names are the same across the world, but if names are more ethnic and unique, they can no longer be represented in a gift shop. Of course its more than just magnets. Its a reminder that even 20 years into my tenure here, I will still never be fully represented. But I get it, I really do. As someone who went to business school I understand the logic of appealing to a mass audience and the profit lost of trying to appeal to a niche one, if that is not the business you are in. Still, not seeing your name is a stark reminder.

    When I was young, I saw the movie The Bodyguard. I remember one scene where the name RACHEL is in flashing lights, for Whitney Houston's character. I was so excited that I wanted to call my best friend and tell her that her sister's name was in a movie. Oh wait, that's stupid. Its a common occurrence. In Junior High School a classmate was carrying a shopping bag with the name Wilson on it, the famous sports brand. But I didn't know. Naively, I asked her if her parents owned a store, as Wilson is her last name. She didn't quite know how to respond, she must have thought I was joking.

    I was not joking then and it's no joke now. I wonder if us immigrants strive a little farther, push a little harder and try to accomplish a little more than we thought possible because there is a certain level of acceptance we will never be able to reach. No, my name might never be on a magnet. My name is on my business card which reflects the fragmented and often difficult 8 year journey into the career I have now. My name is on my master's diploma, only 6 months old, but a damn proud piece of paper. My name is now also on conference badges, the conferences I went from attending, to speaking at.

    No, my name is not on a magnet, and may never be, and that's OK.


    ___
    Week 3 of 52 - Story a Week in 2014
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