Photo by Kleigh Balugo
Going to college with rich white kids has taught me a lot about myself. In my first year of college, I was desperate to make friends, as most freshmen are of course. Mostly because college can be lonely, especially when you don’t know anyone and especially when you move almost 3000 miles away from all of the people you’ve ever known.
I would make small talk with my peers in order to feel less lonely and later see them post pictures of themselves on their family boats, going to Paris for the 100th time, sitting at rooftop bars drinking $30 cocktails, and living in fancy apartment buildings with a doorman. I wasn’t aware that people’s real lives were like this and for some reason I thought being friends with them would make me feel like mine was too. Even though it’s not.
Moving cross country for college was by far the most exciting thing I’ve done in my whole life. But for these kids, it was mundane. They spent class time texting their friends who were vacationing in Germany and online shopping for designer shoes. I spent class looking over at their laptop screens.
If someone I met was super rich and had traveled all over the world, I, a person who has only ever been to the Philippines in 2006 to visit my family, would try to relate. I remember the moment I told a girl from school I was Filipino and she said “Oh really? My maid when I was little was Filipino!”
I don’t think you’re meant to be friends with everyone. The thing that makes your friends so special is just that. They’re your friends.
I know now that I don’t relate to everyone for a reason. I can try really hard to, but my identity is far more important to me than making plans with someone I have nothing in common with. Whenever I found myself trying to befriend white kids who only ever hung out with other white kids, I felt like being Asian was an obstacle I had to overcome. I had to prove my worthiness.
People like community. And they like making friends with people who are similar to them. So, rich white kids are friends with other rich white kids. And disrupting the peace is something I would never dare to do, no matter how hard I tried freshman year.
I used to always find myself in these compromising situations, where I so desperately wanted to be liked by people I didn’t even like. People that everyone seemed to know and love on Instagram, but would say backhanded-racist shit in class.