Essay:I'm Only Human
Note: There's no specific reason as to why I wrote this essay. It's simply for therapeutic means, and something for me to clear my head. Writing this is also something that allows me to backtrack on my life and actually gives me a chance to see myself in a different perspective. It's strange...yet oddly satisfying. And at the same time, I get to see how I got to be at this point...to be the person I am now. Whether or not anyone else reads this is none of my concern.
- 1 Yin
- 2 Reply
- 3 Test
- 4 Kim Soojung, the substitute daughter
- 5 Hell feels like a Rice Cooker
- 6 The Staircase to Heaven
- 7 Double eyelids, Nose bridges, and Cheekbones! OH MY!
- 8 Awkward
- 9 4th grade:The Mute
- 10 5th Grade: Not so much a Bully. Just the Karate Chink Next Door
- 11 Middle School: Not the most exciting time of my life, but definitely eye opening
- 12 High School
- 13 The way I see it
According to my grandfather, I was born full of bad superstitions. So my birth was not considered the most pleasant of welcomes.
To start off, my parents were engaged, and that’s when things started to go downhill. Their engagement was all levels of wrong on my mother’s side of the family. My father was not her arranged. Not in any way aristocratic. And worst of all, not Korean. Instead he was a Peruvian Assistant professor who grew up in poverty with 11 other siblings; the complete opposite of what was expected of my mother. My grandfather, being head of the Kim family, was not happy...Almost immediately my mother was kicked out. Her inheritance was taken and all family ties were cut.
At the time, my mother was a pharmacist in Korea and my father was a Spanish Literature Assistant Professor at Seoul University. So money was pretty decent. But soon enough, my mother was pregnant. With twins. This still didn’t worry my mother too much, that was…until my father said that he wanted to move to the States. Being in Korea for a good 4 years, he knew how the Koreans treated outsiders. He especially got to see firsthand at how they treated the ‘halfies’. He wanted to avoid that situation for his children and wanted a better life for them. Away from the family drama and stressful pressures that society would bring.
My father had a full ride to Johns Hopkins University and my mother would follow. But she would not be able to continue her career as a pharmacist in the States…so money was soon an issue. So with what pride and dignity she had left, my mother sent a letter to her father about the situation. She knew that he would at least support her, because she had always been his favorite. She never got a reply until the day after I was born. They were legally married in January 1992. Only my parent’s close university friends were there as witnesses. Within the next month, I was born…on the most ominous of days. Leap days are considered bad luck…and it was indeed a horrible day for my parents. They were expecting twins. A girl and a boy. And to have twins in the year of the Water Monkey meant Good Balance, especially if it was two of opposite genders. My mother had hoped that perhaps with ‘Good’ balance, her family would take it as a good sign, and accept her back into the family. But that didn’t work as it resulted, my twin brother was stillborn, and when he came out, his umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. Somehow I lived, but this does not make me ‘good luck’. Actually it was quite the opposite since I was female. And for the ‘Balance’ females were “Yin”, which meant dark, female, moon, negative…
So until my 100th day Ceremony, I was referred to as Yin.
My grandfather arrived at the hospital a day after I was born. For days my parents and my grandfather talked in secret. It was not going to be easy to simply ‘accept’ my mother back into the family as if nothing had happened, even though my grandfather was the head of the family. He had a reputation to withhold, and by even considering taking back his 'traitorous' daughter was unheard of.
She had broken so many traditional rules that all the other family members from neighboring aristocracy would throw a hissy fit. Especially since they didn't know her very well. She has only recently come back to Korea after living 13 years in Paraguay...and now this. So there was no way for her to redeem her title. The only way to get around it was that my grandfather would take me in instead for 6 years, while financially supporting them. I would return to them for a while, then at 16 move back to Korea to start learning the family business. By then, I would be properly raised by the traditional and modern standards, as well as being multicultural. With much reluctance, my mother agreed. My father on the other hand was quite against it…but seeing my mother at such a desperate state, he too agreed. But only if I was to visit them for a month or two every year while I was in my grandfather's care.
Side Note: By 'family members', not only do I refer to my 'blood-related' family, but the Aristocratic Families in general. Well, the ones that are left anyways. There are the Kim, Park, Yang, Il, Lee, Choi, and a few others. I don't see the importance of it all really...but it's a family 'pride' thing.
For 100 days, I had a mother and a father. For the majority of the 100 days, I was in a kangaroo pouch with my mother as she would purposefully ride the subways to show off her baby girl. But she also knew once the 100th day came, she would be gone on the 101st. So I guess she spent every second she could with me. Of course, I don’t remember any of this, but there are a lot of baby pictures of me in a kangaroo pouch in the city of Seoul.
Anyways, the 100th day celebration is a big deal for the child in Korea. It’s the day where the child has a name. Not the one given at birth by family members; but a name that fits for the child, due to personality and a series of ‘tests’. With few family members and mother’s friends, my 100th day celebration was held a Buddhist temple where a Monk performed the ‘test’. There were 3 trials for me because I seemed to cry whenever I saw my parents. The monk noticed that I was a child with patience and a skill of ‘Nun-chi’. The test consisted of 3 items. A pen. Money( A dollar bill). And a small drum.
The pen represented intelligence. Money meant business. And the small drum meant artistic. The reason there were three trials was because the first time, I looked at all three items, looked at my mother and started to cry, as if lost with not knowing what to do. The second time, I approached the small drum but ended up looking at my father and started to cry not knowing why there were so many people staring at me. Another 30 minutes of crying. Then the last time, the monk decided that everyone leave the room to leave me to my ‘toys’. After a few minutes of crying from being left alone, I had picked up the pen, placed the dollar on the drum, and started to draw on the dollar bill. The monk laughed at this and named me “Soojung”. Meaning Rare Crystal. But according to the test, I didn’t really have a specific ‘skill’. But to make up something for my parents, he told them that my skill was adaptability. My parents were okay with this name, since they had intended to name my stillborn brother Jung Su, which meant Righteous and Honesty. Switch the name, and you get mine. Yay for the 'Yin-Yang' theme...I guess.
Originally, the plan was to name me Sun Jung, to continue the family name line (My mother's name was Sun-Ok, and her other sister's had the same first context 'Sun'). But after the whole 'incident' with my mother, they decided to start me with a different surname.
But nope. I was now Soojung Fernandez-Kim.
Kim Soojung, the substitute daughter
Day 101, and I was now Kim Soojung. Adoptive granddaughter to Kim Yong Dong. Apparently this surprised many people because my grandfather was well known for being a cold business man, but with a fiery temper and passion for life, mostly business. So by taking me in, it was considered a big surprise.
The man who had kicked out his most favorite daughter, had taken in the child. It was rumored that I was to be his replacement. A complete do-over for his daughter. From a third person perspective, I suppose this is a rather reasonable assumption, although, no one really knows why. He has yet to reveal the reason. Perhaps he really did love his daughter and saw that this was the only way that he could make his daughter live around the rules, and still stay close to her. Or maybe he was just viewing this as a business proposition. Either way, I was taken into his care. As I grew up with him as a father figure, I eventually understood how he received his reputation as a cold calculating man. Everything he did was within reason and he was always about 10 steps ahead of everyone. Even though he wasn't very involved verbally, he was a man of action, and when he did say something, it was usually something serious and was not to be taken lightly. He was active behind the scenes and handled everything meticulously. Because of his trustworthy reputation, everyone would come to him for solutions of business propositions and money handling. That is, until he took me in. They saw no purpose for me in his plans, nor did they want me to be. So to be fair, he dictated that certain members of each family, usually the “auntie” would be put in charge of babysitting me. This served three main purposes. This would allow my grandfather to continue his work, I would learn the traditions under the aunties, and they could keep an eye on my grandfather.
Hell feels like a Rice Cooker
I grew up to be a quiet, reserved, and especially cautious child. Everything I did was carefully done and said in a way that would not offend anyone, so then my grandfather and I would not get into trouble. To avoid any unwanted drama, I was often kept inside and would play with the pets my grandfather often brought home from his strange business adventures. From chickens and snakes, to dogs and cats, and even one day a Tamarin monkey, I played with them all. Mostly because I lacked real companions. Not that I really knew what that was. You can't want something you didn't know existed. But since I was easily amused, almost anything turned into something interesting.
When my grandfather wasn’t there, I was ‘raised’ by my aunties, and sometimes my cousins would come over and babysit. I don’t remember too much, but I remember there always being an uneasy tension. Like the monk had said, I had ‘nun-chi’….so I never got into too much trouble. But it seemed that no matter how much trouble I would try to avoid, trouble would come and pick at me. It wasn’t until New Years in ’96 that my grandfather started to notice some unfairness, and I started to show some strange behaviors. An example of this was when all the other children had their New Year’s allowance in their fat red envelopes; he had noticed that I was cheated out of my own allowance by the elder children. When he asked me why I had no allowance, I told him that the elder cousins told me that it was the rules for the younger children to give it to the older children. In good faith, I believed them. But then again, I believed a lot of things.
Mostly a lot of bad things….but I don’t think he was finally aware of the bullying until my ‘strange behaviors’ became self-destructive. He would often come home and find me with broken mirrors, burned hands, or sometimes just lying in water till I pruned up. He would always ask me why I did these things, and I would simply reply that it was an accident or that I lost track of time. But one day he caught me with my hand under the rice cooker. I was 3 at the time, but I remember clearly the emotion that hung in my chest. “…They told me I was dirty and that I’m going to hell…” I lowered my head in shame to avoid seeing his expression. Being 3, I didn't know the concept of Heaven or Hell, I just knew that one was for good people and the other was for bad. “I wanted to know what hell feels like…” I said this as I started to cry in front of him. I think this shocked him because…I never cried in front of him. If anything, I used to cry when no one was looking. But this made it worse for me. I hated that feeling of crying in front of someone. I’ve always hated it. I hate it so much that it makes me cry even more, just because it made me feel weak. Almost like a kick to my mental-self, saying “Why can’t you hold your tears?”…”Have you no shame?”…Even to this day, I hate that feeling. It’s just a giant cycle of hate and tears.
After this incident, my grandfather and I moved to Taegu and lived in the family’s abandoned Hanok (traditional home). It was our family’s private land full of thick forest and low hills. I took to it right away and almost every day would sit out on the porch and entertain myself with games and mini adventures until the fireflies would come out at night. Sometimes I would even go into the village with my grandfather in hand. It seemed that he has gotten warmer towards me. He started to talk to me more. Mostly folktales, scary stories, and about his younger years. He talked often about the family. Who does what, who married who…the family line and sort. Everything that touched his memory he would start to explain to me with full details. It was much peaceful here. No awkward tension. No eyes to keep track of my every move. Instead of that ugly feeling that hung in my chest, I felt like I could breathe easily.
The Staircase to Heaven
The first time I’ve ever entered a temple and actually remembering it was on my 4th birthday.
I was woken up rather early and dressed in a scratchy hanbok (Korean traditional clothes). Oblivious to the event (because I never celebrated my birthday before), I obediently followed my grandfather through the morning fog. That was when I first saw the stairs with large stone statues at the entrance with Hanja written on sheets of paper. Being a small child, these stairs seemed never-ending…and with the fog looking like clouds as it got higher, I thought that these stairs were going to lead me to heaven. Once at the top (with much piggyback riding), an elderly monk greeted us. To me he was rather terrifying. An old man with cat slit eyes, wrinkly face, and calloused hands….but there was coolness to him that I liked, so following my grandfather we entered the temple.
To my surprise, nothing bad happened. No demons, no fire, no booming voice from the heavens that poofed away my very little existence. Instead, there was a low chanting in the next room and I was seated. Mimicking the monks, I kowtowed and prayed as my grandfather supplied for me an apple to place at the statues’ altar. Once that was done, a younger monk, perhaps in training, came in with a small table and a bowl. After a moment of meditation, he handed the bowl to me. I looked up to him, then at my grandfather with confusion. It was miyuguk. A soup that is often given on people’s birthdays. I knew the tradition, but was rather shocked that I received it, for my birthday was not a blessed one. My grandfather, the man with a usually serious face, smiled at me. Smiling back shyly, I bowed in thanks and started to eat the soup…slowly I could feel the hot tears run down my cheeks and started to fall into my soup as I ate. I didn't care if I cried in front of him this time. I just remember being warm, despite the fact that in Korea, February is cold. It was like a heavy feeling of weight being lifted from my heart, because it was that moment when I realized that I was accepted by my grandfather. In his eyes, I was someone...someone worth celebration. Looking back…I probably looked ridiculous. But to me, it really meant a lot. So now, I celebrate my birthday every four years, on the day that it actually exists...
From that time on ‘till August, I went to temple, made friends with the monks, listened to their stories about their lives and family and Buddha. I was exposed to a world beyond criticism and hate...a world of possibilities and acceptance.
From 1994-1998, I was raised and taught Buddhism, Muism, and Shintoism.
- 1996-1997:Went sent to International School in Hokkaido, Japan
- 1997-1998: Sent to International School in Guangzhou, China
Double eyelids, Nose bridges, and Cheekbones! OH MY!
Time was getting closer for me to start living with my parents. The idea excited me, yet terrified me. Even though I met them for a month every year, it was always strange. From the greeting from the airport to the goodbyes a month later. The main thing being the language barrier. At first it varied between Spanish and Korean, but my brother being born in '94, he was learning English. So eventually it was decided that English and Spanish would be our ‘go-to’ language. Especially if I was going to start living in the States. Fall of ’98, I was enrolled to the International School in England. The Hillingdon International School, to be exact. It was completely strange to me. The uniforms were different. The customs were strange. The words were odd. Conjugation was a bit of a mystery. But the biggest impact was that everywhere I looked there were double eyelids! Nose bridges! Cheekbones. All natural! No one here has heard of eyelid tape, eyelid surgery, jaw shaves, or GETTING nose bridges. I was so used to see arches lines for eyes, moon shaped faces, and button noses, that all these protruding angular features seemed strange.
But besides that fact, at 7, I was fluent in Korean and Spanish, and had picked up enough Chinese and Japanese along the years of traveling to survive. Latin-based words weren’t too bad once I started resorting back to Spanish, so English grammar I picked up rather quickly. It was just the pronunciation that always threw me off. But eventually I got the hang of it…somewhat.
…But what I wasn’t expecting…was RELEARNING ENGLISH ONCE I GOT TO THE STATES!
June 1999, my parents had moved to Louisiana to start over as a family unit. It was strange. I had a younger brother whose interests were Lego and dinosaurs, whereas mine was reading and drawing. He had a fiery temper (much like my mother and grandfather) and through much manipulation and conniving schemes…he would get eventually get whatever it was he wanted. My parents had enough to deal with, so I never asked for much. Not that I really needed anything. Just books and some paper to doodle on.
School was decent, I suppose. I was advanced in math, foreign language, and art; but English was always average. I put all my energy into school for 2nd and 3rd grade. I wanted to be the best at everything; because I felt that was the only way my parents would feel happy…or proud to have me as their daughter. It wasn’t much…but a simple ‘keep it up’ was enough. It was better than the usual response I got back in Korea from the aunties. “What do you want? A cookie? It’s your job a student to get good grades.” I mean, yeah...in a way it's true, and I'm sure they meant well, but it still wasn't very encouraging. Not that my parents were much better compared to the other students in my class. I would often hear about my fellow classmates getting money for their A's and B's, or something along those lines. I often questioned whether or not school was really a job, but I paid no attention to it after a while. The only approval I needed was my parents.
Still, the situation was a tad bit awkward. There was as much ‘family time’ we could have, and the language barrier was much better. A jumble of Korspanglish, but better. My parents still had trouble trying to know everything about me. From my allergies to my strange habits, my likes and dislikes…my distant personality. It eventually came to the point where my parents and I were just…’friends’. I respected their privacy and they mine. Victor was the only one who lived in oblivion, but was one of my closest friends, because although he was a bit bratty, he didn’t know anything about the ‘family’ or the ‘rules’. To him, I was his sister, and it was his duty to be annoying. And I was grateful for that.
4th grade:The Mute
4th grade. New school. Still no real friends. My English has improved, but the accent threw people off. I barely talked to begin with, so when 9/11 happened, I immediately started to see a difference on how people treated anyone they found to be ‘strange’. I noticed the pattern with the Middle Easterners. I didn’t want to say anything weird, so I turned mute. At home I barely spoke. My teachers saw this as worrisome, but my parents simply told them that I was always very quiet. There was one friend whom I communicated with….through doodles. Her name was Anoosheh, or Anoo for short. She was an Arab and was often teased and bullied. Her brother was expelled for trying to protect her and was often getting into fights. But whenever we sat next to each other, no one bullied us…at least at first. As quiet as we were, I was often cold and reserved and never associated with anyone besides her. I think some of the classmates found it funny to poke fun at us at some point. Anoo was an easy target. Me...not so much. I guess the only reason they started to bother me was because I was 'mute', so they wanted to know what sounds I made. Eventually the 'mute' jokes went to the classic 'Ching Chong’ teasings. Although it bothered me, I continued to ignore it. But I’m pretty sure Anoo, noticed this because she tried to stand up for me once. Usually, I would often glare or write ‘Go Away’ on the ground with a stick. Usually they would tease a couple more times then leave. This time however, the kids were a bit more rowdy than usual and through a series of event, Anoo was pushed over. Thankfully a teacher saw this before I reacted and sent her to the nurse’s office and they got into a bit of trouble.
April. Anoo had left school, and I was left alone. I heard that she was transferred...and other news that she was deported. I don't really know what the story on her leaving was, but I suppose I made do. The teasing got progressively more annoying, until one day, I was just tired and pissed. No matter how many signals or ‘Go Away’s I would write on the ground, they would come back even louder or in a bigger group. I was already classified as the mute…I didn’t mind. But I remember one of the boys calling me ‘dirty ching chong asian’…and something in me snapped. I don’t know whether it was the word….or something that just brought me to my younger 3 year old days. Maybe it was the tone that he said it in or that obnoxious smirk, but whatever it was…it brought back that feeling…of ‘dirty’. It was quickly replaced with sadness...then anger...then rage. The rage that was pent up for years finally exploded. I remember standing up and punching him in the face and throwing him to the ground. I had a good 4 years of martial arts under my belt, so defending myself wasn't really a major problem. I remember pointing to the ‘Go Away’ written on the ground and sound left my throat for the first time in months. It felt strange...to let that much sound out. The vibrations of the vocal cords. I could barely recognize my own voice...or maybe it was because the voice in my mind didn't sound like what came out. But at the moment it didn't really matter, I just remember saying: “You think I wrote that for nothing? Who’s more dirty now...?”
…Somehow the bullied mute, became the bully.
5th Grade: Not so much a Bully. Just the Karate Chink Next Door
I went to a new school for 5th grade. Buchanan Elementary, home of the Buchanan Bobcats. My reputation somehow passed onto this school, so no one really approached me, maybe Baton Rouge was just really small, or maybe it was in my file or something. Who knows. But seeing that I hadn’t beat anyone up yet, slowly my classmates started to talk to me. I was never mean or disrespectful…just careful. Eventually, I ended up being the “Karate Kid” in class. Not sure how, but I didn’t care as long as they didn’t bother me. But to those that weren’t in my class, they still knew me as “that bully” from Greenville.
My brother had transferred and was now in 2nd grade at Buchanan with me. He definitely had fun with my title and took it to his advantage. I remember him coming up to me one day at recess with a group of his little friends and wanted me to play with him. I knew that mischievous smile anywhere so I asked him as to why. With a quick reply, he said he wanted to play 'Ninja'. Whatever that meant. Whatever it was, I had better things to do...like read my book, but seeing the rather disappointed expression on his face I let out a sigh. "What do you want me to do?"
I always felt somewhat better when he returned to that toothy grin. "BE NINJA MASTER!"...And that's when I laughed. Apparently he had told everyone that I could beat them up...when obviously I had no intention to. I played along with his game, but instead ended up as his 'ninja judge', which consisted of me sitting and watching them try to do flips and run around screaming. If anything, it was just me supervising my little brother to make sure nothing bad happened. It made it easier for me, because I didn’t have to worry about anyone bullying him. Nothing too much happened in 5th grade. I just started going to finish my Black belt in Taekwondo and Hapkido. I also continued my interest in Kendo and Archery. I went to a Baptist church with my mother every Wednesday and Sunday. Korean School every Saturday. Nope. Nothing too stressful. I just wanted to get on with everything peacefully.
Middle School: Not the most exciting time of my life, but definitely eye opening
6th Grade: Friendly Encounters
The majority of my elementary school classmates were with me, so it really wasn’t too much of a difference from 5th grade. I still haven’t made too many close friends yet, just a couple of acquaintances that I would have, in case of group projects. But it was at 6th grade that I had grown more aware of the existence of people. Not just the masses of flesh-bags that hung around in groups, but individuals. From watching and observing so much, I have grown to know what to expect in behaviors and situations. I was already culturally aware of the different races, traditions, and religions that existed from my previous encounters in the International schools, but never so much paid attention to the individuals themselves, so everything was put in a new light. I expected to be one of the strange quiet child for Middle school like I had been for my whole life so far. But to my surprise, I encountered one of my first friends within the second week of school. In English, I was doodling and a Pakistani ‘gangsta’ from California, who loved rap, was Muslim, and had her daily dosage of mecha anime, looked over my shoulder and said she liked my drawing. I gave it to her, and it's been an exchange of gifts every time we talked. Whatever the topic, it's always a gift to be around her because she was very open about her thoughts and her culture and religion. Around the fourth week of school, there was a Bosnian chick with a sharp tongue, outspoken, and quite the party-throwers…We met in science class, and we hit it off rather well.
They were my first official friends…and still are. No matter what happens, I'm still very grateful to them, for opening their hearts and minds to me and allowing me to see them evolve from 11 year old pre-teens to 20 year old adults. I'd have to dedicate this section to Hira Fatima Khan and Sanja Klobucaric.
7th Grade: Sick
Just when I was starting to enjoy the simplicity of life, everything went downhill. Healthwise. Like most girls, I went through puberty. It was an awkward stage…but it didn’t last too long. Within 4 months, I stopped getting those monthly visits from mother nature. It eventually began to skip around…and then…just stopped all together. I thought this was a gift from heaven or something, because I HATED IT. Mother was insanely happy because it 'made me a lady', but when it stopped all together, she started to freak out. For months she hoped that I would get it back, but nothing happened. Instead, I started to get a lot of nosebleeds and horrible headaches. My joints were horrible and my knees had a horrible habit of popping out of place when I least expected.
Going to the doctor, he realized I had a horrible problem. My hormone levels were way off, and…I had a minor case of Leukemia (not that any cancer form should be minor, but it was slow progressing, so I didn't have to worry as much). He reassured me that I was not going to die and that I would be on the waiting list for a proper bone marrow donor, but until then, I was put on medication. The thing that killed me the most was ending all my martial arts. The only thing that kept my teenage anger in check was taken.
8th Grade: Let's get this over with
Nothing too significant happened this year. Or at least, not that I remember. Just a lot of depression and teenage nonsense. All of my friends were about to go to a different high school, and I was the only one that was going to BRMHS. As sad as that was, I was left to continue my ‘observations’ of people, so I didn’t mind it too much. As long as we would keep in contact, the whole ‘separation’ issue wasn’t too much of a problem.
9th grade: Strange Attractions
I don't remember High School being all that bad. Actually, I don't really remember the beginning of it at all. I did my studies, joined clubs, and kept my distance for a while. Nothing new. I suppose it was mostly because my mentality at the time was that I was too lazy and tired to make new friends, and that I would be leaving to Korea within a year again, so what was the point? So I did what I did best. Do my own things and dragged on with school. I don't really know how, but the first people that started talking to me were the goths, gays, and anime kids. After that I somehow made friends with kids in band and computer science, where we'd play starcraft after school. The drama and art kids were easy to get along with. Actually, I got along with mostly everyone...the only group I made sure to keep my distance from was the hoard of Asian girls. If they talked to me, I would respond, but I would not try to continue any conversation that I felt...disturbed in. I don't know. It's hard to explain really. Especially with Koreans. Culturally, I bond with them. Traditionally, I'm a bit too traditional. Socially, aw hell no. I stay away from that like 20 jars of Kimchi in a small fridge (Trust me. Don't open that door.)
But besides that minor sidetrack, I made a handful of friends from different groups. It was great...and it made it hard to want to leave to Korea...but 10th grade happened anyways, and the date approached even closer.
10th Grade: Shit goes down...like down the toilet, DOWN.
10th grade was a very dramatic time in my life. My mother was always on my back about studying, but not going too overboard because of my health, but she still wanted me to go study a whole lot. I was involved in a shit-load of club activities along with school, and going to Church was a no-go. Not only did I feel uncomfortable in going to Church, but I never was a believer. I went because she went, and now that I was loaded with school stuff, I finally had an excuse to not go. One night she got a phone call from one of her sisters asking about when I was leaving for Korea again. This obviously upset her as she hung up the phone. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and avoided me for a good week. Whenever she did confront me, the sentence: “Are you even my daughter?” would come up. That was her thing to say for everything. If my room looked a bit messy. Or if I said something she would disagree on. Everything that seemed to be not like her, she would say it. There was only so much obedient silence I could take.
All the thoughts in my head turned dark. It wasn’t my fault I was unhealthy. It wasn’t my fault that I did things differently. Thought differently. Saw things differently. Eventually, I was bitter about it. Bitter about everything. Whatever was going on through her head, she didn’t say it, but I could feel it. Everything that came out of her lips felt like venom and to me it was getting to a point where it was lethal. I didn’t know what she wanted from me, no matter how much I tried to please her. Was I that much of a bother to her? Did I really not seem like her flesh and blood? It seemed that everything I did, she was against. I felt as though I'm been a pretty good daughter. I'm respectful and honest. When she tells me to do something that's reasonable, I don't complain at all. I'm ambitious in terms of my education. I never got into trouble. I don't drink or use substance (hell, I rarely even drink cough syrup when I'm sick). I'm very discrete about my priorities. Why is it that this woman still isn't pleased with me? What the hell do I have to do!?
It was one night in March that the tension between us exploded. She entered my room, and like every time it started off with “AIGOO! Every time I enter your room it’s a mess! This is nothing like I would expect from a young girl. People can tell your personality from the way your room is!” And then the sentence came. “I can’t believe you’re my daughter! So dirty!” That was it.
I got up from my bed, put my books to the side and looked at her. Straight in the eyes, which is unheard of. You never look at your elder straight in the eyes when they’re scolding you. As a good child, usually you are to lower your head and look at the ground and take the scolding and nagging until they are done. But I didn’t. Not this time.
“…I want to go Home with Grandpa. I’d rather live with a family of people that hate me outright than one that is hypocritical. You’re just mad because I’m your replacement in grandpa’s eyes. You made a mess, and I had to clean it up. You got away living free from the rules, and put me in your place for your carelessness. So no matter how messy my room is, I clean after your shit. If you could really tell my personality from the way my room is, then you’ve done a horrible interpretation. Some mother you are. Not a good mother. Not a good daughter. I'm a better daughter than you are. ”
The moment I finished, my mother’s hand slapped me across the cheek…and the flailing of fists began. But before she could do anything else, I kicked her. I kicked my own mother. It was the worst feeling I ever had. The person I had tried to please the most in my life, I just kicked out of my room. It was at that point where I had given on everything. I didn’t need to have a family. I didn’t need friends. As long as I could do whatever I wanted, I didn’t care.
My father came in and took my mother away kicking and screaming. My brother came in looking scared and confused. I called my grandfather the next morning. And I was gone.
I went to Korea. My father lived with one of his friends. My brother lived with his friend. And my mother went to California to live with her sister. For 2 months, the house was empty. My father came back first. My mother came back second. Then my brother. I stayed in Korea for 6 months.
It was during this time that I went back to Taegu. Back to the Hanok where I felt most at peace. There was nothing in the house except dust and old family collections. I did my best to accommodate myself. For the first month, I cleaned the whole house and started to read the whole family collection. I went to through files of family lineage. Pictures. Diaries. Money accounts. Stocks. Trades. Everything. It was within that month, I realized that everyone I knew in my ‘family’ was fucked up. Why did all of these things continue? You would think that after generations of misunderstanding, it would be fixed by now. The caste system. The bullying. The teasing. The social outcasts. There were a couple of family members in the past that have been kicked out from what I’ve learned. And it was irritating to learn whenever I learned the reasons as to why. It was due to pride...so much pride and close-mindedness, that the idea of even changing was unheard of.
One day, one of my cousins came to visit me at the Hanok. It was surprising because no one really knew I was here except the elders. Nor did I know the reason of his visit. He came from Seoul, and he stayed with me for a couple days. He didn’t do much except go into town and come back with some snacks and had some minor small talks. Whenever I sat with him for dinner, there was an awkward silence between us. It was until one night; he was eating…then stopped rather abruptly. He looked at me with a solemn expression and said “I’m Sorry.” It was shocking and confusing to hear from him. One of my cousins that used to be the ones that teased me when I was little…just apologized. Curious, I asked him as to why. He told me that he felt horrible for what he did when he was younger, and that he came to me because he was just recently abandoned by his mother. For being gay. He tried to keep calm, but the sobs came all at once.
I really didn’t know what to do at that situation. Here was my cousin. Crying his heart out. All I did was listen and sit like a stone. When he finally finished crying…I felt…awkward. But at the same time, I understood. It hurts knowing you don’t belong. Being shunned by own flesh and blood. That feeling of self-frustration which slowly rots into something of pure hate. It drives one crazy. So I did the only thing I felt was right. I hugged him. It was an awkward hug, but it was one of acceptance and forgiveness. It was then when he said something that I will always keep to heart.
“We are only human, I’m sorry I didn’t see that before.”
A taste of the Family business
Within the next month, I decided that if I was going to give my family a try. I was going to try to be accepted and respected in the family. For 4 months, I lived in Seoul and learned the trades with my grandfather. Money would come and go. Stocks would go up and down. It was practically number crunching business with a side of politics. I learned from a pro…and it was scary to be a part of. Mind games. Word tricks. It wasn’t hard. But it wasn’t pleasant either. I think it was during this time that I knew I hated business and politics, and that I would never go into it, even if I was good at it. But I never told anyone yet.
Traveling was constant between Korea, China, and Japan. There were constant business calls from England, Switzerland, and America. The new target was South America. And this is where I fit into my grandfather’s plan. It was hard for Koreans to actually get business into South America. They had very few people that the South Americans actually liked. But in one country in particular, my grandfather had an eye on. Peru. Knowing my father was very well-known in Peru, he decided to use it to his advantage. The thought was, that if a Peruvian had a Korean wife, why can’t Peru and Korea do business together?
They already had a few connections, and with a little bit of effort…It worked. Peru is a developing country by the sea, and they already have good tourism business. But that wasn’t what he wasn’t going for. The trade was Peru’s sea food (Because they don’t eat the large squids and eels like the Koreans. They just throw them away.) for Korea’s modern technology and medical health. My uncle being a large branch in LG and my grandfather being another in Medicine Technologies…they managed the trade. And I was their face and translator.
My grandfather and a lot of the elders noticed a significant difference in my personality, and they had mixed feelings about it. I had grown more outspoken and confident….which was a good thing, but at the same time, the majority of the elders feared that I would no longer have respect for them. In a way, I didn’t…but I never showed it. I had grown accustomed to their ways, so I simply went along with the movements. Slowly, I had weaned my grandfather off the thought of arranged marriage for me. So my ‘fiancé’ at the time was now free to marry his girlfriend (This was drama in itself, but it was quick and over with). I also had started to tell my grandfather that I was not into business…but instead was more interested in the sciences. He was a bit upset at the idea, but agreed. As long as I continued to help him whenever it came to business with Peru.
But I was getting sicker…It was to the point the Gleevec couldn’t prevent the head aches and the constant nosebleeds. I had to go home.
Despite the explosion, my mother and I kept safe distance for a while. The only time we talked was whenever we discussed about my illness. It was August, and school was starting soon. Thankfully, they had a bone marrow match. The surgery was quick…and painful. The recovery was slow and just as painful. But it was done quickly and efficiently. I missed a bit of school, but only a week or so. It was not public, nor did any of my close friends hear about it until much later. It was something that my family didn’t like to mention or bring attention too. Even my brother didn’t realize what it was because I was gone most of the time. He just knows that I was really sick. And that’s all that we’re mentioning to anyone.
Every once in a while, I do get a check-up to see if my white blood cell count is good. So far, so good.
Even though it’s unfortunate, I thought of this process….as a new start.
New blood. New start. Kristi Version. 2.0
The rest of High School
Whoever said High School was hell…was probably right. But it really depends on the perspective. I lived a drama-free high school life from Freshmen year to the End. No one hated me, and I hated no one. I was the ‘go-to’ person when people had something to say, or wanted a reasonable opinion. So I had a considerable amount of friends. Throughout my whole high school experience, I've dealt with people of all personalities with life stories that amazed and shocked me. Atheists, Christians, Buddhists, Gay, straight, Emo, punk, nerds, jocks...I've learned to see and understand people as people. So this part for me was always fascinating.
The only part that was hell-ish was probably all the AP and honor classes I took. It was suicidal! All the applications to the colleges I wanted to go to. Junior and Senior Year was a Bitch! But there were definitely a lot of good memories. I made sure my youth did not go to waste. I already spent a lot of it trying to be an adult. So, for the remainder, I wanted to have a good balance of fun and study. In the end, I ended up going to LSU, because I didn't want my parents to worry about loans and such. Sometimes I regret it...but not really. I still have a bit of work left here.
The way I see it
It was a few days ago actually...my mother came home from church with tears in her eyes. I figured something had gone wrong at church or something of the sort. I didn’t really ask, because Church drama never interested me. It was awkward because I sat and listened as she cried in front of me, the same way I did with my cousin. She explained to me her life story. Her guilt. Her regrets. Her fears. Everything. It was hard to listen to, because part of me wanted to hate her. Hate her for putting all the stress on me. Hate her for not thinking ahead to prevent any of this from happening. But at the same time…My heart went out to her. She risked her dreams and her secure future for a bit of Life’s rare happiness. She had my father and my brother. Who am I to hate someone that takes that big of a risk? I can’t hate her for not being able to predict the future…She’s only human. She slowly starting to accept me, and I’m slowly letting her understand me. Slowly. My family isn’t perfect…but we’re working on it. In small steps.
I’m currently a Biology Major at LSU with a minor in Anthropology. I’m in the process of switching the two…probably. Not sure. If not, I’ll probably end up in Graphic Design.
Who knows where this crazy life leads me?
But the one thing I know for sure, is that I am Human. I have flaws and I know it. I perfect myself to what I see fit, and when I see there is no possible way to fix my only way of being, I can only accept with an open heart.
I live in a world full of ugly, but at the same time it’s full of beautiful things.
I appreciate the small random moments and can still capture the whole picture for what it is.
I find Balance to be essential and Flexibility a form of art.
To be prepared for Life’s crazy journey is simply to be unprepared to begin with and find things along the way.
I find comfort in neutrality at the same time enjoy the extremities.
I don’t believe in God, per se. Nor do I really care if there is one.
I’ve felt the burn of Hell from the heat of the Pressure Rice Cooker,
so I can only expect the healing coolness of one of that monk on my 4th birthday.
I live with an open mind and open heart.
As vulnerable as that makes me, it will scar over and make it tougher.
I was born Yin.
But I live by Yang.
This is what I live by.
This is what I hope to be remembered as.
And quite possibly, die as.
If I could just be more human
I would see every little thing with a gleam in my eye
If only I was more human
I'd embrace every single feeling that came in my life
Would I care and be forgiving?
Would I be sentimental and would I feel loneliness?
Would I doubt and have misgivings?
Would I cause someone sorrow too? Would I know what to do?
Will I cry when its all over?
When I die will I see Heaven?
-Be Human; Scott Matthew & Yoko Kanno