We become attached to certain people or things. The reasons can be emotional, physical, or intellectual. Whatever they may be, we have to own them. They help shape who we are.
I wasn’t attached to material things as a baby. I didn’t need a teddy bear or a blanket before I went to sleep. The usual pre-planned car rides did the trick, as I’d bawl my eyes out for hours on end. It was nothing for me to continue crying for 12 hours straight. My cerebral palsy didn’t calm me down at all. It only intensified my outbursts of tears. The longer I cried, the more my diagnosis came into effect.
I was more attached to the men in my family than anything or anyone else. I had an immediate bond with them that was genuine. I don’t know where it came from, but my Mom has always attributed it to the fact that I had two male escorts when I came to the U.S. from Korea. My attraction to men was so strong and evident that I’d burst in tears when the stewardess on the plane held me or came near me.
It proved to be a very strong, dominant trait I had that made for many, many long, loud sleepless nights (and days) for my mom. She often needed a break from my “episodes” as she desperately tried everything she could think of to get me to sleep. Or even better, stop crying. She’d even sit in a chair and rock back and forth with me in her arms until her body went limp.
Nothing she did soothed me, so she would call my Dad or grandfather in hopes of getting a few minutes of peace and quiet. And it worked. There was dead silence the second I heard one of their voices on the other end of the phone. They’d talk to me for five, ten minutes and I was fine.
It was as if someone had flipped a switch. It provided a much-needed distraction for my Mom—who was beyond exhausted—and a few moments of comfort for me. As soon as she hung up that phone, however, the cycle started all over again.
When my grandfather came over to our house as he’d often do, he held and cradled me. Mom, being the determined woman that she is, laid on the floor because she refused to leave the room while he was there. She wanted me to know she wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer and was so focused on “winning me over”, as she always says.
She eventually did. The will and determination in her loving actions opened the door for me to accept the other women in my family. It was a very slow, tedious process, but it worked out better than I could’ve imagined. I spent my childhood and teenage years around very outspoken, strong-willed women, but I also grew up around strong, good-hearted boys and men as well.
I’m my parents’ only daughter through and through. I played with Power Ranger action figures instead of Barbie dolls. I listened to bands like Blink-182 and Linkin Park. It made me different, but I was never ashamed of those things. I embraced them—and still do. In fact, I still embrace a love a love for professional wrestling that my older brother instilled in me as a kid. However, there’s more to my tomboy style than punk rock and pro wrestling.
Having been raised in a family of men who have shown me unconditional love in their own ways, is something I’ll always carry with me. It makes me want to be the best I can be—and maybe make a few people proud in the process. They never discouraged me from doing something just because I’m a female who happens to have a disability.
I have a father who holds strong to his actions and those of others, an uncle whose drive and creativity fuels me, two brothers who always have my back and a grandfather who’s now watching over me from above. I wouldn’t ask for anything more, even if I could. My grandfather unfortunately never got to see my love of writing blossom into a career. That motivates me every day because he always told everyone he met, “My granddaughter is going to be the best writer in the world!”
If anything, growing up around men has given me a sense of pride. I’ve learned the value of hard work from listening to my grandfather’s stories. I’ve listened to the way my Dad opens the door after working long days at a local printing company. It’s quiet observations like these that have helped me realize there will be times when I need to put my head down, get my hands dirty and get things done. I’m also not afraid to put myself out there, through my writing or my opinions.
All of these could have been bad for me. They weren’t what anyone expected out of a little Korean girl, much less a Korean girl who’s now an adult. I welcome that, however. It gives me an opportunity to show people the real me.
It’s not about being a woman. It’s not about being adopted. It’s not even about having a disability. It’s instead about proving to myself that I am enough, and I can do anything.
So, how do you represent yourself?
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