“Mom, I don’t want to go!”
In Inchon Airport, on a hot and humid mid-August day, people were busily moving as always. But when the girl cried out, people stopped moving and turned towards the scene of the girl and her mother. Her mother shook off the girl’s hands that tightly held her sleeves, but everyone could see the mother’s eyes holding tears. That girl shouting and whining to not leave her mother was me.
As I eventually let go of my mother’s sleeve, I also let go of my 15 years being “little Min-Kyung”, hiding under my mother’s skirt in Korea.
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After a 13-hour flight to Chicago and three more hours of driving, I arrived at The Culver Academies, where I have spent the last four of my teenage years. The only person greeting me was my chubby roommate Charlotte, her mouth filled with chewy-chocolate remnants. She was not the Barbie-doll-like roommate I had imagined, but her smile made me feel Culver was my home—until she turned on heavy rock music at highest volume and shook like an eager head-banger.
After unpacking my luggage, I sat on my bed. I sat until the sun set behind Lake Maxinkuckee until I finished a good cry. I felt myself fading behind the darkness.
In America, in Indiana, in Culver, there was no one behind my back, no one defending my position, doing my laundry, greeting me when returning from school, no one making me a warm Kimchi soup. I did not understand the Greek mythology Mr. Davies spoke about, I did not know why Ms. Workman was always mad at me when I cooked rameon, I did not realize the harsh winter of sub-zero days was drawing near. There was only me in the middle of the desolate cornfields in Indiana.
One day after school, on my way back to my dorm, I saw a lonely duck stuck between rocks where a part of the seawall had crumbled, fluttering his wings under the shadow of tree branches. I stopped and observed that duck, sure he wouldn’t make any difference, but would stay under that shadow forever. Surprisingly, that duck got himself out of that gap, despite the chance of getting hurt, and flew away to the sky. I sat down on the seawall, wishing good luck to that duck, constantly traveling and looking forward to new challenges. And I grinned.
I grinned because I saw myself overlapping the fading duck over the lake. It was me flapping my wings, struggling to get out of the broken rocks under the shadow of the tree. And it was me bravely escaping, energetically going forward to my dream, not fearing to be hurt.
I went back to my dorm as always. Girls were gathered and chatting as always. But that day, I didn’t drop my head; I didn’t frown and hide my face under the shadow of my hair; I didn’t miss the chance to say hello to strangers.
“Hi, I am Min-Kyung, a new girl from Korea.”
The sky was high, wind was warm, trees were green, and I fly.