I don’t know what to call myself anymore.
Here, everyone has a hard time saying Leanne. I never used that name – haven’t all my life. But it’s the name on all my documents, and I only exist on documents for the most part, being new here and all. I asked if I should go by my Korean name, Suh, Young-Sook, but I’ve been told that it is actually better for me to go by Leanne, since it is foreign sounding, and there is no other indication that I am foreign…and since I’m the Native English Teacher, it’s better if there’s something foreign about me. The irony – in America, I go by my Asian nick-name. In Korea, I have to go by my American name…
Suki gets mixed reviews – I’ve heard it sounds pretty, I’ve seen confusion, I’ve had people analyze it. As I thought, after my friend and soul sister Myung Sook called me Sook-a and why (the a affterwards is kind of an endearment and nouns sometimes have an indicator after them in Korean grammer, signifying which noun is the topic or has the greater significance) Anyway, discussing this with another co-worker we both agreed that Suki was probably a mistake by whoever told my parents or by my parents themselvs, as it was probably Sook-a.
The other day (prior to school being back in session) I had to run to the G.O.A.L. (Global Overseas Adoptee Link) but the Korean Immigration needed to get me to sign the copies I’d made of my adoption papers and family registry. Well, because I wasn’t there, and because Immigration wanted it NOW, the school took measures into their own hands and made up a stamp for me. Turns out each Korean has a stamp made, and it is the same as a signature. I got many many apologies for them taking this liberty with something so important, but I told them I understood they were trying to help me so I could get my bank account and phone faster. So now I have an official stamp, with my Korean name on it! I just need to get some red ink. I feel like stamping something important now. If the kids were here, I would write “made by” and then stamp them.
4 thoughts on “You can call me Bob”
Funny, my parents told me that they kept my whole korean name “Kim Myung-Sook” as my first and middle name in case I would decide to live Korea later. They said I would only need to drop my family name.
As adult I appreciate their good intention but I think that it was a stupid choice to keep my family name as my first name. In Korea, when people were calling me Kim, I felt they were calling me by my family name.
What’s more stupid was to chose my korean first name as my middle name and to make fun of it. From time to time, my father and one of his sons were laughing at my name. Usually, they were calling me Kim but whenever they called me Myung-Sook, it was only to “miiiiiiaow-sook” and laugh at me. I have always been ashamed of my Korean first name after my first year in Canada but in Korea, I liked being called Myung-Sook.
Since I went to Korea, I don’t know what to call myself. But I wished to be called Myung-Sook and I just don’t care anymore if people would laugh at my name.
When I meet new people, I don’t know if I should introduce myself as Myung-Sook or as Kim. Although I prefer Myung-Sook, I use Kim most of the time because non-Koreans have too much difficulty with my real name. So, I let people chose but I tell them what I prefer. Until now, non-koreans all chose to call me Kim. I also asked my hubby to call me Myung-Sook but he can’t get use to it.
My trips to Korea have only awakened all the hurts that were the result of my adoption and that was buried in me. I never forgot that when my a-parents told me that they kept Korean name, I told them my Korean family name was Gim and not Kim; but what I had forgotten over the time was the hurt I felt when I learned that they wanted to call me by my family name. I never forgot that I tried to explain them with my limited vocabulary that in Korean, people said Myung-Sook-a when they were calling me but I didn’t know exactly why; but I had forgotten was how hurt and angry I felt when my father was calling me Sook-a (and he called me Sook-a only when he was drunk).
I forgot to tell you about the stamp. When Jane sent me my hojuk by email, it reminded me of the stamp with name written in Chinese on it. I had one when I was little, I don’t whose stamp it was, that I played with. I used to talk often when I arrived. I was always saying: “In Korea, we had that and that… and here, you don’t have that…” I even tried to make a red ink myself, put it on my finger to get my finger print. I told about it to Jane, she understood I was talking about the stamp (dojang) and she sent one with my name by with my hojuk. It’s curved by hand. It brought me tears when I saw it.
We are all about good intentions gone horribly wrong, aren’t we Myung-Sook?
There is not a sigh heavy enough to express this. It’s incomprehensible how often we are faced with this reminder – every single time someone calls us by our name. All my life my own name has caused me to wince, because it has never fit in any context. All my life I have stuffed that away, that discomfort and the chaos hearing your own name causes. And people dismiss our issues with identity. They just can’t know how it feels to not fit on such a profound level.
That’s NOT ME. That’s NOT MY NAME. To be reinvented against your will has to be one of life’s greatest offenses, especially when you are powerless to preserve what is yours when you have so little.
Our names hurt us. Every day. And even a new name, a new reinvention generated by ourselves, will still be a reminder. I don’t even know if Young-Sook is my real name.
I need to decide soon. I can’t keep going through the awkward pause/chaos each time someone asks me. My boss also goings through an awkward moment of chaos, because he’s heard several names and doesn’t know what to call me either.
That’s so great you have a stamp too! That was sooo sweet of Jane to get that for you!
Funny thing is, it has Suh, Young-Sook on it and if today’s caller on KBS was correct, Suh is not my family name…more on this in the next post.