We’ve just started a memoir unit in writing workshop. One of our mentor texts is My Name by Sandra Cisneros. I was inspired to write something about my name. Something that has been a struggle for me…
My name in Korean means beauty and wisdom. My name in English sounds ugly. I hated my name. I already knew I was different from my friends. My friends had to take their shoes off when they came to my house. There were weird smells coming from all the kimchi in the kitchen. I had to speak in Korean at home. I didn’t need my name to remind me of it.
As a little kid, I always wished to buy things with my name on it. I would go to souvenir stores on trip and I would desperately hope to find my name written on the pens, mugs or key chains they sold. However, as I searched through all the J names, there was nothing that resembled my name between Jackie and Jenny. There was no Jee Young. Never.
I always dreaded the first day of school. Not because it was a new class or teacher, but because of the role call. I would anxiously sit in my seat, just waiting until they would get to the letter K. Kim, yes, that was my last name, which I secretly wished at times was my first name. As the teacher would go through the list, after saying Kim, sometimes, there was a pause. Other times, there was a joke. “Gee, you must be young…” Or, “Is Young your middle name?” ,”How do you pronounce your name?” Was it really that difficult? It’s Jee Young. No jokes please. No middle name. No silent J. Just say my name.
When I turned 17 years old, I became an American citizen. On that morning, my mom mentioned to me that I could change my name. Change my name in a few hours? Why didn’t she tell me earlier? Why didn’t I think of that before? Do I seem like a Jessica? Julie? Jenny?
As I stood with my hand up and pledged to be an American citizen, I knew that no matter what the papers said, I still had my name. That was something I wouldn’t change. I was finally starting to like.
Slice of life challenge is hosted every Tuesday by the Two Writing Teachers.