A Coat of Many Colors

I am shy. And brash.
Forward and introverted.
I am warm and cold.
I am accepting. And temperamental.
I'm very much a loner, but seek connection
I'm a conservative Christian.
And a Democrat.

Both And
Either Or

I've been thinking about my college days a lot lately. I accidentally on purpose found an old boyfriend. He crushed me. I was a fool at my fool-hartiest. If we are all finding out who we are at 18 19 20 21 22, then I had the double duty of finding my Korean-me, too. It wasn't until I saw other Asians that I saw myself in the mirror. I dated a series of Korean guys, including this now-hunkly guy who is some sort of diplomat flying around to foreign countries and meeting with the Secretary of State. (Yeah, her!) I don't envy or covet or romanticize. What I am doing is lifting up another layer of malodorous stuff in my Pandora's ReCollections of Unhappinesses and Insecurities. Recollections. Recall.

Suddenly, I was in college: drinking the Asian brew - breathing it like air. I had been happy as a teen. I had great friends, I was busy, active, got into the college of my choice. I just never knew there was this parched side of me. I drank and drank, unselfconscious, open and free. Then I realized that the Koreans were staring at me. I had spent my previous years with white people staring at me, questioning me. Now, these Koreans were staring at me, too. And soon, I could tell that the other part of me was getting dry and needy.

I came as a little girl and flourished in a white world. My tongue was round and slippery like Spaghetti-Os. They had come later, the angularity of Korean clinging to their tongue, unwilling to slide around in their mouths. They helped at their parent's Korean store, went to Korean church, hovered in clubs with others of their ilk. I didn't dress like I was supposta, I didn't say the right words. I danced with abandon, drank with the guys. I hung with people I liked. Chosen by one category: interesting to me.

Many of my white friends don't see Me. Even though they think they see Me, they really only see themselves in the mirror. They call it Colorblind. I call it Blind. I don't see all of who they are, either. But not for trying. Sometimes I don't want to because 'with all effort, be at peace with your sisters.' My best friend turned out to be a Black Woman. Maybe she wasn't Black enough and I wasn't Yellow enough. Did our negations create a positron?

Why is Both And so hard for so many people? Nobody is simple. Nobody. My friend's mentally challenged sister takes sermon notes that you could preach from. And how many years of living did it take to come up with the book All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten?

The patches come together to make a whole . . .
Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin' every piece with love
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of
-Dolly Parton
. . . or the raiment of Joseph:
. . . Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.
-Genesis 37:3
God made me into a coat of many colors. I am Korean. And American. Conservative Christian and liberal thinker. Shaken and stirred.

*Pojagi wearable art by Chunghie Lee


Haley said...

Beautifully written. I feel that we don't have to conform to what the people around us think we should be. I think it's great that you have your own mixture of white and korean. That is what makes you you. It doesn't make you any less of a person. And I think we all had that one guy in college that crushed us. I still think of mine.

Julie said...

I absolutely love when you write these types of posts. It gives me small glimpses into what my girls will be thinking someday.

rosemary said...

Fantastic post. So moving and honest. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Grace- honestly...you need to write a book. I know you are just sharing your heart, your truth... but your writing is unbelievable. This kind of writing should be commanding a salary. Christine xoxo

Ansley said...

I agree with Christine. And these are my favorite posts, too.