Sometimes I Don't Feel So Korean

Now that I’m all grown up and don’t even live in the same city as my parents, I can go months without being around full-blooded Korean Koreans. And suddenly when an occasion arises when I’m in that environment again, it’s a bit awkward. It seems, at least to me, very apparent that I’m a stranger even unto myself in that space with these people. That here in this place with people who look very much like me, I feel somewhat like an impostor. Yet I understand it all, the jokes, the questions– but I fumble for the right words…I find myself regressing to a much younger age, a more self-conscious time.

And yet there are moments within that moment where it feels warm and affectionate. How I enjoy the laughter and the knowing looks. I love especially how playful the language is and how the eyes dance. I love the politeness in tone, the smacking of the jaws over good food, and the covering of mouths at a good laugh. And I’m at the age now where people use the honorific with me which tickles my ears now. People use the term “jundosanim” so freely, as though I had actually earned a real title, how odd that matriculation into a seminary does that. I don’t know what to do with that.

There is a great divide between 2.0’s and 1.0s. The dialogue between the two is about as difficult as trying to refuel an airplane in mid-air. We are both moving targets…often moving in different directions. And knowing the Korean psyche, there is such a pragmatism, such an impatience, that we often tire very quickly of one another. But  here in this place, I am more true to myself in this tension than I am in most places. I cannot merely accept the road of least resistance if it means that I cannot return here. So here’s to the dangerous mission…thank you Lord for making me a person who lives in the gray. I’m beginning to see your wonder here.

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