Eddie Huang loves food. Eddie Huang loves hip-hop. Eddie Huang loves basketball. Eddie Huang loves weed. Eddie Huang loves women.
And Eddie Huang does not give a fuck what you think.
For the most part, Eddie Huang figured out all of these things at a young age. But after reading Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, his autobiography about going from a culturally-conflicted kid to the confident and successful man he is today, it’s clear that the last one materialized over time. As T. Swift would say, haters gonna hate.
Authenticity is the most admirable of human qualities. It’s also why I find myself so drawn to Eddie’s story. In my mind, there’s nothing more attractive than when people are true to themselves, when they don’t put on airs. Sure, we all have different tastes; that much is clear and unavoidable. But the hardest thing in life is to figure out who you are and own it. As the late Stuart Scott said, just do you. The story of Eddie Huang is about somebody finding himself, and owning the fuck out of it.
In a story relatable to many children of immigrants, Eddie, now 32, grew up conflicted. On the one hand, there were his Taiwanese-born parents, speaking Mandarin and eating traditional Chinese food, even famously making him take it to school for lunch. On the other hand, there was America, with its fast-food restaurants, rap music and capitalistic outlook.
From an early age, he met other Chinese people that he simply didn’t relate to. They were shy and quiet. They were safe and obedient. They were all studying to be doctors or lawyers. All of their parents approved of them. It took him some time but he eventually realized he wasn’t down with all that. He wanted to speak his mind. He didn’t want to be shy or quiet. Inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan and Jay-Z, he wanted to blaze his own path.
There is an interesting contrast to Eddie. In spite of his brash way of speaking, there is no doubting his intelligence. After all, before leaving the corporate world behind, he was an associate at a law firm in New York City. On Huang’s World, his excellent travel/food YouTube series, he may curse like a sailor and drop rap references ad nauseam. But these are offset by thoughtful and intelligent comments on the places he visits and on humanity in general. He can seemingly find a way to relate to anybody, no matter their country, language or culture. His street smarts are off the charts.
The beauty of Eddie’s story is its universality. You don’t have to be the child of Chinese immigrants to relate to it. You don’t even need to be a child of immigrants at all! You just need to be human.
In an age of FOMO and a world with maybe too many options for people, there’s no wonder that people are confused. If you start a family, you miss hanging with the boys. If you hang with the boys, you miss the comfort and intimacy of a true partnership. Maybe your parents want you to be somebody you’re not. Maybe one group of friends has different values than another. Maybe you’re not sure if you fit in with your colleagues.
In other words, life is hard. It can be messy and chaotic. It can pull you from different directions. Choices are everywhere and the correct decisions are rarely apparent. What Eddie has taught me is that you can’t please everyone. You can’t meet everybody’s expectations. Just make sure to be real to yourself, even though it may take a while to figure who exactly that is.