A Mix: Finding Peace

There’s a line in one of Sandra Cisneros’ stories in which the protagonist sees herself as amphibious; she is both rich and poor, not properly situated in a specific socioeconomic class. I feel that way too, only in regards to everything – not only economically but also ethnically and physically. I’m neither rich nor poor. Growing up, my parents got me whatever I wanted, but I gradually learned that we didn’t make as much as our wealthy neighbors. I saw glimpses of my dad having to take on the burden of concealing this – a burden that must have been so heavy, so piercing and so damaging to carry by himself. I’m also Korean racially, but my cultural identity stems a lot from my experience of having grown up in the US. I love Korean food but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I identify with Korean societal norms and only hang out with other fellow Koreans. Then there’s what I’ve always reflected on throughout my life and still do to this day: how do I view my disability and the way it fits or doesn’t fit with societal definitions? I know what it feels like to walk but I’ve also forgotten it because it’s been a long time since I’ve been properly able to do it. I use a scooter to get around, but I also can get out of it and stand and walk, even if only for a little bit. None of my friends have a physical disability. The people who surround me are all able-bodied. I’ve never felt like I fully related with someone who has a disability. A disability might be the common denominator that we share, but I don’t see that as something that makes me feel truly connected, just like I’m not going to be friends with someone just because they’re Korean. I’m not saying that I reject or abandon those identities and try to associate with only able-bodied people or “ethnically American” individuals. Sometimes, finding one similarity is enough. But I base connections on many similar interests and how much I’m captivated by someone’s character, the same way in which everyone connects to others. One of the most important points that I’ve learned from my education in the humanities is that almost nothing fits snug into clear-cut categories. I think a lot of us have a tendency to judge something as either this or that to gain an easy understanding of it. I know that I tend to think in these terms but I’m trying to stop myself before I make my final judgment. Thinking in these ways are dangerous because they breed a vs. way of thinking (rich is better than poor, able-bodied is better than disabled) which can develop into prejudice. I don’t think that numerous facets of an identity can be boiled down to just a mere this or that. I’m not fully disabled and I’m not fully able-bodied either. I’m not rich and I’m not poor. I’m both Korean and American. I don’t think that I can find reconciliation within these identities, but finding peace with myself doesn’t require me siding with one over another. I hope others see this too.

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