The joy found in celebrating little victories and simple pleasures has been keeping my boat afloat recently. Not to say that life hasn’t been stress-free lately, but I have been so genuinely, honestly, refreshingly happy. I’ve been surrounding myself with some new and really healthy relationships. I’ve been learning to love being single and being by myself. Though I can always work harder, I have been accomplishing so much – not only with my classes and my internship, but also with my sense of inner peace and self-fulfillment. I feel like I’m doing real work on this campus, you know? And another thing –– I’ve just been so happy being me and myself only – unapologetically, with no explanations needed. I really don’t think I’ve allowed myself to just be me for a long, long time. It was either me trying to be something/someone for another person, or trying to attain an image of an “ideal Laura” that didn’t correlate with my actual desired identity expression. I’m just being me, but also trying to be damn good me – a person who is kinder to others, one who smiles more, one who occupies less conversational space, one who does not depend on male attention for a sense of validation, one who wears what she wants to wear, one who is brave and relentless and unapologetic. I am happy. And I know that’s necessarily the most exciting news or the most interesting news that people want to hear, but I really am. Despite life’s bumps in the road (and trust me, there have been many lately), I’ve been so happy. //
I like being alone. I like the quiet, I think. I need it sometimes. It’s so lovely. I can paint the walls with fire light, memories, fantasies. I can trick myself into walking into a poem or a story. It’s very alive, silence. It lets you extend yourself, be as big as you are capable of being.
Earlier today I was reading Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, a novel that explores the lives of several women whose lives have been burdened with struggles surrounding nationalism and separation.
A passage stuck out to me in particular:
Mother, you are a child still. At eighteen. More of a child since you are awlays ill. They have sheltered you from life. Still, you speak the tongue the mandatory language like the others. It is not your own. Even if it is not you know you must. You are Bi-lingual. You are Tri-lingual. The tongue that is forbidden is your own mother tongue. You speak in the darek. In the secret. The one that is yours. Your own. Mother tongue is your refuge. It is being home. Being who you are. Truly. To speak makes you sad. Yearning. The mark of belonging. Mark of cause. Mark or retrieval. By death. By blood. You carr yte mark in your chest, in your MAH-UHM, in your MAH-UHM, in your spirit heart.
There are always going to be a few things that tug at my heartstrings in all the wrong ways despite time or place or circumstance. And thinking of my mother’s struggles with her broken English and the pain and shame associated with this struggle is so deeply upsetting to me.
Broken English is called just this because what is left is a scattered collection of shards – of disconnected phrases and jumbled up words – that taunt you and cut you and pain you. Broken English is just this because of its ability to make my mother feel a kind of anxiety and shame that nobody should have to feel when they simply want to ask, “Can I have an iced latté?”
I sometimes imagine my mother in her 20s before she moved to America. I imagine her as bold and fearless and dare I say it, even a little bit silly. Now, all I see is her own shadow, quiet in speech and sparse with words. I sometimes see that young girl from the past reveal herself, though, when she excitedly shares the latest news with her Korean girlfriends, or when she watches her favorite Korean cooking shows. It is not long, however, until this exuberance returns to the shadows.
We are not talking about brokenness here, no. Here we have perfect, synchronized, and beautiful interruptions. Interruptions hailing from a transnational, multicultural understanding of identity, of self. Mother, your broken English is 아름다워.
Umma, your broken English is beautiful.