I’m an octopus, covered from head to suction cup with purple and white. I’d probably be yummy in your sushi with a dash of Sriracha, but I’d prefer to live the varied life I’ve come to love. I was born in Minnesota; my mom is a tropical magenta fish, a refugee from the red tide that swept over Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, my dad a Guns and Roses loving albino- whale. As the product of such an unconventional marriage, I’ve always been a little odd, to say the least. When I was young, I was exceptionally shy, and it didn’t help that English is my second language. In middle school, I used my camouflage to assimilate into the “white girl culture.” I was ashamed of my Khmer half and I hid it behind my straightened locks and secondhand brand name shoes. Not my proudest years I’ll admit. Then in high school, I was dumped from my freshwater sanctuary into pure saltwater. I went from one of the most heterogeneous schools in the district to an inner-city school where I joined the track team. On track, I was the only “white girl.” Where I had been cautiously accepted in middle school, I was ostracized in track. I wasn’t exceptionally fast, I didn’t speak “right,” and I didn’t act like everyone else. Girls tried to pick fights with me and the boys weren’t shy about their intentions either. I kept my head down and worked, running until I threw up and lifting weights after practice. By sophomore year, I became JV captain and high-jumped for the varsity team that won state. I wasn’t just a part of the team, I was the friend people came to when they needed someone they could trust. This acceptance became real to me when a teammate sought my advice when he became homeless because of his mother’s drug use. Earning respect on the team gave me the confidence I had lacked. Now I go effortlessly from a rigorous academic program to the loud, spontaneous dance parties at track. I am humble, respectful, and quiet among my mom’s friends (the stereotypical Asian kid) but curious, opinionated, and outspoken in class. When track season comes around, I bring together my cross country and track friends. Where the teams were once segregated, I’ve helped make them one. I can fit in among the corals teeming with different species, or lead a school of silver fish darting and moving as one. I am able to empathize and mingle with any group, and my diverse perspectives allow me to unite individuals from different backgrounds. I’ve brought together middle school skateboarders and the elderly to start a petition for a stop sign on my busy street corner. I’m a part of the Long Beach Climate Change Committee, bringing together politicians and students to push for a carbon-neutral Long Beach. But what I’m most proud of is my Khmer Community. In middle school, I was embarrassed by my Cambodian half, but now I embrace it. I love attending the local events, surprising people with my Khmer language, and simply being a part of the community. I’ve learned to spread my tentacles, to move with the ocean currents. I can camouflage in any environment without losing myself. The confidence I have in my identity has allowed me to take full advantage of the amazing place I live. I attend local art shows, write petitions, explore underground concerts, and live my life to the fullest. I have a tentacle in each of my worlds, not quite the “nerd,” not quite the “track girl,” not quite white, not quite Khmer. I used to hate that I couldn’t be labeled, that I never truly fit in-- now I know that it is my greatest strength.