August 20th, 2010
Sara , Why did You Come Back to SJC?
For most of my early teen years, all of my efforts went into hiding what I am proud of and embrace today. My Korean identity, culture and family was something that I wanted to hide.
I’m not actually sure why it started. Maybe it was a childhood broken into two parts; the first six years of my life growing up in Korea and starting another life in America. Maybe it was because I wanted to fit in. To this day I’m not completely sure why, but I slowly started to hate my Korean identity and its differences with the American culture.
When I went over to my friends’ homes I noticed more differences. Their homes looked different, the food, their manners, their parents. And I gradually wanted to change. Eventually, it came to a point where I stood in front of a mirror every day for an hour criticizing my Korean features. I wished for bigger eyes, a higher nose and whiter skin. But beyond my outer appearances I was more ashamed of my Korean family and culture. I didn’t want people to meet my mother because she spoke broken English. I didn’t want my father to even talk to my friends’ fathers because of a difference in culture. I resented my parents for bringing me to a country where I stood out so much. I was angry and bitter and tried to cut them and my identity out of my life.
I hid my identity by refusing to eat my mother’s delicious Korean cooking that took hours to prepare. I declined to participate in the Korean language lessons my dad planned out so hard for me. By doing so, I believe I hurt my parents tremendously.
While my parents gave up their lives trying to give me a better start to life than they did, not only did I fail to appreciate and thank them, but I fought against their good intentions and created a big barrier in our relationship.
I hurt myself too. I denied myself my real identity and pretended to be what I wasn’t. I refused to let myself grow and along with that my Korean language skill, my knowledge of Korean culture, and my understanding of Korean respect started to decline. My self-esteem dwindled into nothing. The bright, young, confident, and proud girl became a shy girl who disliked every part of her identity, appearance and family.
I’m telling you about this part of my life because I want you guys to know how much Sae Jong Camp has helped me. It’s one of the main reasons that I was able to get over my identity crisis. After moving to America, it was one of the first times that I got to see Korean-Americans get together and really talk about their identity and appreciate it. There were other first generation Koreans just like me who wanted to learn more. There were also adoptees who didn’t have the resources I had trying to learn as much as they could within a week. Camp just made me realize that there was no shame in being different or Korean. It’s even okay to be silly and loud and obnoxious. Culture is something you should embrace and be proud of because some people don’t grow up with such a unique and interesting background. We have thousands of years of culture, great food and good people.
So, I guess I was asking myself this all though camp…why did I come back? And the answer to that is that I would hate for anyone to think like I had during middle school and high school and I want Korean Americans to be proud of who they are. So don’t forget what you learn here and never try to deny yourself of who you are. It’s going to come out eventually and life’s more fun when you’re yourself anyways.