Taking a weekly family trip to the local Korean supermarket on a Saturday afternoon is the one thing I miss most about living alone in New York. Looking back, those were some good times. My younger brother and I fought like hell over who got to sit in the front seat. My mother would threaten to call down my father, who was upstairs reading the newspaper, and that was enough for my brother and I to forge a temporary truce.
Shopping together on a Saturday was all about celebration- life, family, food, and of course kimchi. While my mother struggled to get through her list, my brother and I raced down different aisles. And that’s the way my family has become- each of us running down separate paths.
When my father passed away nine years ago, my mother was left to take over my father’s business and raise 2 angry, headstrong teenagers on her own. My father, once president of his insurance company and proud owner of one of Los Angeles’ few historic buildings, was no longer there to protect us. My brother started getting into serious trouble, and I lost myself in studies, team sports, anything to keep me busy. My world crashed. I had lost the man I looked up to as my hero and my number-one fan. Right after my father’s death, family friends and relatives fought over who would get what, while others took advantage of our situation. It would be an understatement to say that I trusted no one. From that moment on, I built a fortress of mistrust, anger, fear, and perfection around my broken soul. I swore that I would protect my family and never let anyone hurt me again.
Rarely have I let people inside that fortress. After college, I moved to New York to find myself and to start fresh, without responsibilities, without a family to worry about. Moving to a new city without a job or an apartment or friends was the biggest risk I’d ever taken. And it gave me the strength to take another risk- to tear down my fortress. Two years later, after much soul-searching and overdue therapy, I’ve come to the realization that I belong with my family. In order to face my past and own up to my present, I need the love of my family as much as they need me. I recently decided to move to Korea to reunite with my family and to continue pursuing my dreams of a tv broadcast career.
Things haven’t been any easier for us. My brother faces jail time, and I pray that he will come home quickly and safely. My mother is taking care of my Alzheimer-ridden grandmother, and she worries about us all the time. But one thing’s for sure. I believe in the unity of our family, and I believe that we will race down the supermarket aisle together very soon.
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