My mother is Korean. My father is American, of German and Irish descent. I grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania. I do not think it is a bad place, but I did not feel as though I belonged there. I was labelled different. I was the Korean girl there, but when I traveled to Korea, I was the American girl. I tried to embrace my uniqueness... but always with a tendency towards shame rather than pride.
For most of my life I wanted the opposite of what I had. I wanted my father's blue eyes, my mother's dark complexion. When I was a young child, I was always the smallest in my class. I wanted to be tall, like my brothers. I imagined that I should be petite and slender, like my beautiful Korean aunt- who always had numerous suitors calling. But by puberty, it became apparent that I was going to be curvaceous. I was one of the first girls in my class to need a bra. I still have to remind myself to arch my back and lift my shoulders because of the poor posture I learned from trying not to stick out my chest.
It was not until I returned to Korea in 2007, when I was 24, that I came to fully appreciate how blessed I am. I realized that my Korean role models all used skin-lightening creams, desiring whiter faces. By then, the aunt that I so envied had married a brain surgeon and had two daughters. She was giving me clothes that she did not have curves to fill, praising my body for its shape. It turned out that she would constantly face difficulty in her married life. By marrying such a husband in such a prestigious position, she put herself under a lot of pressure to continually prove her worthiness. Sadly, unable to have more children, she will never be able to fulfill the primary role of a Korean wife, to give birth to a son.
Someday, I want to have children of my own... When I have a partner who wants to share those responsibilities with me... And I know when I do, I will love him so much that I will hope to see him in our children. I am afraid to see myself in my children... my doubts, my fears, my weaknesses.
I thought for a long time that I was learning to remove harmful parts of my personality. However, I can see now that I can not escape myself. If I am going to be able to love my children, even if they inherit my flaws, I am going to have to start by loving myself. All parts of myself; my body, my moods, my strengths, my challenges. Someday, I will be ready.
Today I am going to start by reminding myself how beautiful I am, how beautiful everyone is. I will remember to be grateful that I grew up in a country and time when I was blessed to have a good education and equal opportunities to find a career. I will look forward to becoming a role model that my children will be proud of someday, as I am of my parents and brothers. Today I am who I want to be, and I will work each day to become someone I like more.