*Reader Discretion Advised: vent post – unstructured garble that is a literary representation of my current thought stream*
I really hated primary school. Interestingly enough, this realisation has only arrived over the last year or so – it’s always been masked by the clichéd, rose-tinted view of childhood that most of us seem to have. But in reality, primary school was not fun for me. To be really generic, the reason behind this was that I just ‘didn’t fit in’ with any of the groups that populated our school – primarily because I was (and still am) a NZ-born-and-bred Korean.
Even at the age of 5, I remember being embarrassed to open my lunchbox (filled with mostly Korean side-dishes) in front of other kids – this led to many days when I’d come home with uneaten lunches. I remember hating having to go to Korean school because everyone spoke fluently and laughed at my broken syllables (fortunately this only lasted a year, as my consistent whining wore down my parents). I remember being infuriated by boys who I’d probably topped in reading and writing consistently – they’d run after me pulling slant eyed faces and yelling maths questions at me. At the time, I didn’t understand why it made me so upset but I knew it was something bad.
Maybe I would have been happier if my parents if had just raised me in Korea. At least there I would have fit in. Here, I often feel isolated and misunderstood. By the time I got to high school, if friends asked me “what the hell” that rice mixture in my lunch was, I’d wave them off and say “it’s a Korean thing”. It was too much effort to try and make them understand. To make them understand that I ate Korean food in my home but also spoke fluent english. To make them understand that I liked Maths but I also like English. To make them understand at all what it felt like to be two things at once and neither of them at all, simultaneously.
I tried to make it easier for myself. Whether this was subconscious or not I’m still not sure but basically, I made myself more ‘white’ (which says something awful about our society in itself). I pretended to hate maths. I began to insist on packing my own lunch. I distanced myself from the ‘asians’ and began to proudly insist that I am a ‘banana’ (although I’m still not quite sure how one defines who is and who isn’t one). But it really hasn’t changed much. Last week someone yelled “F*** OFF ZIPPERHEAD” at me out a car window as they drove past. A friend said in a conversation recently that it’s quite surprising that I “didn’t sound Asian – in a good way”. And still, very few understand what it could possibly be like, having to act as an interpreter for your parents from the age of 10.
But, this is part of who I was, am and will continue to be. I like to believe that this makes me unique in some way, irreplaceable, memorable. I am proud to be Korean. I am also proud to be Kiwi. But I am not proud of how unaccepting those two groups have shown themselves to be. New Zealand proudly calls itself a ‘melting pot’ of cultures when it’s really a bunch of separated groups of cultures that happen to live in close proximity to each other. As for Koreans – well they have a longstanding tradition of prejudice and exclusion.
I’m definitely not the most optimistic person but I’m also (nearly) definitely not the most pessimistic. So, here’s to hoping to a slightly better future. And to all the little ‘me’s out there – head up, chin high and work so hard that nobody can deny you what you deserve.
P.S. partially inspired by a far more interesting and uplifting post here