Until recently, I’d just accepted that the holiday—hot soup or otherwise—would always feel lukewarm. I didn’t particularly think about it. I wasn’t sad about it, either—it wasn’t like I was spending Christmas alone, or like my highly anticipated birthday plans were falling through.
And then, at a workshop last May, I met a group of 1st to 2nd generation Koreans who changed things for me. Over the span of an afternoon, we practiced somatics: movement and breathing exercises designed to foster mindfulness about our minds and bodies, rooted in a collective experience of what it meant to be Korean settlers on Indigenous land. I swear, it was a quasi-spiritual experience to be there with these people, my kin, many of whom had contentious relationships to Koreanness, as I did. I felt held, acknowledged, understood. It felt like a homecoming.
English was still our lingua franca. But as we spoke, we dotted our sentences with bits of Korean, like sesame seeds floating in rice cake soup. The names of foods, hometowns, and old singers our parents listened to in the car—these little gems constellated our conversations. In meeting these people, whom I’m now fortunate enough to call my friends, I learned that I wasn’t alone in my experiences of feeling distanced from parts of my own culture. In talking with these people, I saw my longing for culture take shape.