I first became the "awkward age" when I was thirteen or fourteen, soon after puberty laid its hands on me. I grew nine inches taller in two years and my voice changed almost overnight, wrecking my career in "speech recital" and singing at school. My coach and teacher, Ms. Leung, felt helpless as my voice changed in the middle of a competition, and that didn't do well for my confidence either. I ended with a very low score at the finals.
At fourteen, I was constantly mistaken for being a seventeen-year-old upperclassman. I looked too old and mature next to my classmates, but too young to hang out with the older kids, or girls from other schools. I felt isolated, and for a couple of years, I hardly had any friends. Those were truly awkward years for me and I focused my energy in extracurricular activities such as learning to speak English, playing the classical guitar, and programming the computers. Outside of school, no one knew my real age, so I could act more mature than I really was and fooled the others. For example, I took the English classes at an adult-learning institution run by the British Embassy, and most of my classmates were at least college-aged. No one suspected I was just a fourteen-year-old kid.
Everything started to turn around when I was about sixteen, when my classmates began to catch up physically and mentally. I started to act my age again, and got involved with sports, academic clubs, joint school activities, leadership camps, etc. I became more social and active at and outside of school. Everything started to catch up, and college was the best time of my life back then.
Now, years later, it seems that I've reached another "awkward age" again. I was at an amusement park last year and the "guess you age" guy there thought I was 28, and that was after he considered Asians look younger than their real age. I had a good laugh at his expense. But that also made me feel strange. I'm actually not sure if I like the fact that I look and act too young. Am I becoming one of those caricatures: guys who don't act their own age?
As an IT professional, I look too young to be in the kind of leadership roles I should be in. Most people my age would be in upper management or senior architect roles. Some people think I was straight out of grad school. But at the technical level, I'm too old to compete with the new kids actually from grad schools. They know all the new technologies and jargons and demographics, etc. They also have the kind of energy and enthusiasm that old men like me lack.
As an actor/model, I look too young -- years too young -- to play my age group. When they ask for an Asian man my age, they don't expect to see me. They expect to see someone like Chow Yun Fat. Older, mature, maybe with some grays in the hair. At the same time, I am too old to go for the 20-something, or early 30s roles. They expect someone who acts certain ways, and I'm too mature for them.
Therefore, my agent has a hard time placing me in auditions. Currently, they're trying to fit me into the 30-35 age range, but even then, something is out of place. Of course, if I go for the non-Asian roles, then I have yet another problem: I have to compete with actors of the right ages. There are so many actors in that age group. The competition is ridiculous, and they all act and look right for the parts. My disadvantage is my race and the fact that I don't have a niche. "Asians who looks too young for their age" is not really a niche. It's a quagmire. A casting dilemma.
An awkward age.