When things started to break apart for my family, at first I didn’t really talk about it. In Korean culture, it’s often taboo to talk about negative things happening in your private life. I really learned to keep things to myself, which still sticks with me in a pattern of not being able to ask for help when I need it. Being the eldest of two children, I shouldered a lot of responsibility when things got more and more shaky between my parents.
Violence and addiction are not common patterns that are spoken about or seen in Korean households - they happen behind closed doors. I started to work very young, but worked hard to keep up appearances at work or in school. One year, in early high school, things got really bad in my family. I reacted by getting involved with people I knew weren’t good for me - people who reproduced the cycles of violence and abuse that existed in my home. I let very few people in to the ‘real’ parts of my life, and obsessed over keeping up a strong facade.
Since I learned problematic patterns from a young age, these cycles of violence and abuse also manifest in my own personal patterns and behaviours. I heavily internalized racism and misogyny. I dismissed and minimized my experiences of abuse. I began to assume that I had to protect myself from everyone.
At 27, I am far from being done with my learning journey. But I try to walk forward not only gifting strength to myself, but to those around me as well. I think about what and who I needed in my darkest times and, if I’m able to, try to support others in those ways. In this day and age, it is impossible to ignore my social privileges and the social power I possess, even alongside the ways I continue to be oppressed and marginalized as a young woman of colour. I see this as a gift that gets more beautiful daily.