Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beauty and the Beast, a universal & useful cliche

So, I decided to take the plunge. That is, the Korean language plunge. Yipes. The class begins this Saturday and runs through the middle of December. Every Saturday from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM.

We all had dinner at Haeyoung's last night.

I pop outside, where Haeyoung is grilling ribs, Korean-style. I dramatically proclaim to her, "I think I'm going to do it. I'm going to take the Korean class."

She simply says, "You sure? Okay. What time I pick you up?" She has enrolled her seven-year old daughter in a Korean language class at the same Korean church. I'm thanking God that they happen to have an adult class.

I tell her that I'm scared, nervous. She laughs and smiles, "Don't be nervous! You don't need to be nervous! They speak English, so they can help you!"

I'm thinking to myself, Korean people scare me...I don't know the last time I was around so many Korean people.

I tell my husband, I'm afraid they're going to hate me.

I think I have an irrational complex.

Nonetheless, I am resolved. I'm going to do it.

This feels like such a big deal. This feels monumental to me. It feels to me as though I'm climbing atop this giant milestone and staking my flag in it--attempting to show myself that I can conquer these lifelong fears and insecurities. I will emerge triumphant. Confident. Collected. I will show myself that I can do this Korean thing...


Seriously, I feel incredibly intimidated. Almost to tears. If I am going to be honest, in that uncomfortable, vulnerable kind of way, I am dreading Saturday morning. I'm terrified. I feel like a five-year old kid sitting on the doctor's table, squinting my eyes, waiting for the needle to pierce my skin.

We all need to get our immunizations. We all need to be inoculated.

It's good for you, I tell myself. This is good for you.

There is a small part of me that hopes each little exposure to this elusive, ambiguous beast I know as "Korea" will, over time, inoculate me to the intense pain and hurt that I experience whenever even a thought of this creature rustles in my mind.

But this kind of pain is a funny thing. It's more of the chronic type. There are ways to cope with it and ease it. There are ways to live with it. But I don't know that it ever fully heals. There are good days and hard days. But it is always there.

And I suppose, this beast, is more the size of a bacterium. Hard to pin down. You catch sight of it only when you are willing to look closely. You can begin to understand it only when you are willing to pause and take the time to examine it. Yet, regardless of whether you choose to acknowledge its existence, its effects can be pervasive and even pandemic. It will wreak havoc on your life if you don't deal with it.

I do desire to be reconciled with this perceived advesary of mine. For so long I have tried to wrestle it to the ground, to chain it up in some cage, never to have it wander into my thoughts or life again.

But I am beginning to realize that this beast, Korea, will always be a part of me, no matter how much I try to fight it or suppress it.

Besides, not all bacteria are bad. In fact, there are many that we need, that are indeed, good for us. The symbiotic relationship is one that remains crucial to the maintenance and survival of our delicate and fragile ecosystem.

Of my delicate and fragile psychesystem.

I realize that this beast is more than just a beast. There is a beauty within the beast. I just have to give the beast a chance, get to know it. Just as much pain as the beast brings, just as much healing as the beauty brings.

It's not an easy thing taming the beast. And just when one catches a glimpse of its beauty, the beast re-emerges.

But I imagine that we all know that feeling of beauty and the beast, because, although it's something that we often encounter in others, it's when we encounter it in ourselves that we hopefully gain true understanding and compassion not simply for ourselves but furthermore for others.

Whether we like it or not, we all have our beauty and our beast.

Hopefully, on Saturday, while I'm fumbling Korean syllables, they'll play nicely with one another on the playground.


Tina said...

Melissa, you are an amazing person! You are smart, beautiful and intelligent. We can't understand all that you've been through or all that you feel. But the one thing we can say we do understand is that all of us have our own beasts... our own fears, our own doubts and our own demons to battle. But as we don't have to battle them alone. Thats what family is for, thats what friends are for and God will definitely help us overcome the dark places and the fears that lie within. We have a lot of confidence in you and as my own mother used to tell me when I was growing up, "You can do whatever you set your mind too." And its true. I have found we are our own biggest obsticles. But you're stepping through your fears and you should feel very proud of that and all your doing to wrestle your beast. You will come out on top. Stand tall and stand proud. You are an amazing person and we love and support you all the way. Believe in yourself, that's half the battle. Once you over come your own doubts.. the beast has less power to over come you!! Our hearts and prayers are always with you.

Konoyoomo said...

Thanks so much for all of your love & support, Mom Williamson! And thanks for taking the time to read this stumbling-along blog of you!

julieohmchang said...

Missy, I've signed up for updates! I can't wait to read along!

Chrissy said...

Melissa, Your writing is completely inspiring to me...most of all because of how deeply and painfully honest you are. Thank you for being you and for letting us journey with you. Love you!!!

Anonymous said...

I hope I might help as a reference point for Korean adoptees interested in Korean language acquisition. Like you, I am an English native speaker, but I have been speaking Japanese daily for 26 years now (I'm 50).

Korean and Japanese are remarkably similar. I think that for an English speaker, acquiring either language is the same. Meanwhile, Koreans and Japanese find learning each other's language to be quite easy.

Extrapolating from my own experience with Japanese, fluency in Korean is a huge undertaking. Still, even the most elementary knowledge of a language is helpful and gratifying--I know only basic Chinese, yet it has been quite useful.

Here is the only formula for fluency that I know: study 2-3 years of Korean in your current country, then go live in Korea for years. You must be in love with the language to the extent that all you want to do is go out and speak it better than you did the previous day. For me, my favorite thing about Japan is that everybody speaks Japanese.

Not everyone has time to go on such an adventure, but if you can, you will be rewarded with the most extraordinary experience of your life.

I can hardly imagine how much you want to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your birth parents in Korean. However, my own experience indicates that this is a long road. Before I was able to have a conversation like this in Japanese, I had to have something like 5000 conversations with 100 people.

I am an American white guy with no adoption experience beyond having once loved a Korean adoptee. I hold you Asian adoptees in the highest regard. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that recognizes your value. Hats off to all of you.