Late at night, my mother called me…..
I do not have a close relationship with her. I barely communicate with her.
I only speak with her perhaps three or four times a months over the phone…….
or in short, pithy emails.
My mom and I used to fight a lot when I was in Korea.
She is a strongly traditional, authoritarian Korean mother.
I am rebellious and head-strong.
I worked to make my own money ever since the 8th grade,
…in a country where 30-something-year-olds still live their parents…
to maintain my independence and justify my distance.
But now that I am studying in America,
it is my mother and my father who are paying for my education at USC.
I was only able to earn a half-tuition scholarship…
and my parents are constantly struggling to pay the rest for me…….
I am humbled, but frustrated because I am now dependent on my parents…
I am grateful, but scared because sometimes my funds run so low…
I am ashamed and sorry because I know I have become a huge burden on my whole family…
I am driven because I am determined to make millions and compensate my parents, to ease my mother.
But we are so distant. I cannot share with her my frustration, my gratitude, my ambitions.
And she is so worried. I cannot let her know my troubles, my fears, my unconventional life…..
Late at night, my mother called me.
She asked me why I am so busy all the time.
She asked me what I was doing right now; I mumble “I’m working.”
Working on what, she asks. She knows I’m on vacation from school.
“Uh. Just stuff.”
She starts fretting about paying for tuition, and if I am getting enough to eat,
if I am doing okay in school, if I can afford all the text books,
if I am safe in that country full of crazy people with guns…
I cannot tell her that I am teaching dance, and that is why I can’t answer her calls at night.
I cannot tell her that I am putting together a small company, and that is why I am busy.
I cannot tell her that I live close to Taco Bell and Wendy’s, and that is how I eat.
I cannot tell her that I ask people for rides, and that is how I am safe.
I cannot tell her that I dance everyday, and that is why I am tired.
I cannot tell her anything, because she will be so, so shocked…..
I cannot tell her that I cannot tell her anything, and that is why my emails are so short.
So I finally blurt out, when my mother called me so late at night, the only thing I could tell her…
“Just… Stop worrying. When I graduate, I will make a lot of money, and give you some.”
It is not the sweetest thing one might say to one’s mother…
I couldn’t even say “I’m sorry” or “thank you.”
But for me, it was the most emotional, most vulnerable, and most honest blurt that I have ever blurted to her.
For the first time ever, I wasn’t able to hide that I was crying too.
originally written : 18 août 2009 / Los Angeles