Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Language Barriers

The students have been here for over a week now. Things that I would have thought would bother me just amuse me- their antics, their attitudes, their varying degrees of defiance and testiness.

I love it. I love their personalities, their quirks, their stories... though, sometimes their stories break my heart. They are a group of survivors- resilient fighters trying to figure out how to live in this world.

And sometimes, they're also just goofy bratty teenagers.

While discussing my daily schedule with my supervisor, I realized that I don't actually know when I'm working and when I'm not because what I'm "supposed" to be doing is stuff I want to be doing. I had a moment of utter disbelief... "Wait... What? Seriously? That's what my days are supposed to look like?" I mean, obviously there are going to be days where I retract everything I just said; however, after the purgatory that was my last job, even the hard days here will likely pale in comparison because here there's meaning. There are people involved- people who tell stories and speak in a language all too familiar to me. They speak in honest tones of avoidance and detachment that give away the depth behind the facade, and at the same time also speak with open sincerity and willingness to let you into their space. I was surprised by how quickly their affections surfaced with us. They hug, tease, test, challenge and inspire.

I feel lucky to be here in this beautiful place where I will be challenged to grow in ways I would have never imagined a year ago.

The intensity of the schedule and environment leaves me little space to process some of the tender areas of my life... so here I am, putting it out there into the safe anonymity of the internet.

About 6 weeks ago I decided to reconnect with the adoption agency my parents went through in efforts to find a translator to make communication with my biological father easier. One would think that after over 8 years of trying to communicate between English and Korean, I'd have learned that this process is never easy. This is a language I don't understand, and honestly, I'm not sure that I want to learn it for a multitude of reasons. There's a surreal element to my life- this whole other family, culture, and identity that almost was, but wasn't, but somehow still is. Pieces of myself are contained in this family literally a world away- and I don't even know how to speak to them. It's frustrating.

Years ago when I first initiated contact, the agency sent me a letter that my father had written 3 days after I was born. It sat in the archives for over 20 years. I learned that my parents intentionally wanted me to be sent to some place where I would stick out- where it would be clear that I did not belong so that I would look for them one day. And they succeeded. My entire life, I have not once felt as though I belonged anywhere, so I've traveled, wandered, and searched for the transient meanings of "family" and "home."

Here in the mountains, I'm exploring what those things mean. I'm exploring the concepts of identity and belonging with and through the students. I'm exploring parts of myself that I had to hide away because I wasn't strong enough to deal with them before.

Before I left Pennsylvania, a few people felt it necessary to remind me that I couldn't run from myself. I was never trying to run away from myself; I am giving myself the chance to know myself in a way I wouldn't have been able to without letting go of my comfortable routines- without facing my fear.

This year will be hard in a lot of ways, but as I'm finding, not in the ways I anticipated. Instead of learning to build walls and defenses, I will need to learn how to let them down while maintaining healthy boundaries.

There is much growing to do, and I'm looking forward to learning the language of it all.

As far as my biological family is concerned, I suspect that, like the rest of my life, the results will be something I would have never predicted.

No comments:

Post a Comment