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In the Middle

By , Hoffman Estates, IL
This is one story I’ve never told before. Not to anyone. Perhaps I did not recognize for a fact that everything would change, and that’s why I did not want to look back. But even so, looking back or not, the thought just made me feel awkward every time. Up until now, I’ve been leading a life with two different cultures, two different lives. And if you are a middle child, you would know better than anyone how it feels like to be just stuck in the middle; it makes you wonder where you belong in the family. Middle child, as some say, are the mediocre, and this is no different than as what I am describing myself as right now. Living and adjusting to traditional life in Korea and then newly adapting to American life was, surprisingly, not too difficult for me. In fact, I had actually found myself enjoying the two pathways back and forth, feeling auspicious to experience such diversity. However, at some point, I began to realize that fitting in between the two lives and filling in the gaps for me and for my family wasn’t something that could be solidified.

In the summer of my middle school, eight years after moving in to the new place, our family decided to visit our relatives and other extended family in Korea, as we do every two year. But that summer, I discovered out of it something more than just a simple visit. It was then, that my fixed view toward myself readjusted to an intertwined position. Excited to

see my grandparents, close cousins, aunts and uncles, I prepared myself to have fun, to seek out to love every moment of it. When we arrived, we took a taxi and drove past the blinking lights of neon, the packed buildings, the briskly walking people, and finally a sign that we had arrived to our grandparent’s house: our old house.
Although I had not lived there for a long time, hundreds of memories of those brief moments pierced through my mind: jumping rubber elastic with my friend, climbing up on top of a vacant building, running around with neighbors, laughing with our aide officer, walking along the river, and walking to school with my best friend. Even when we arrived at our grandparent’s house, the memories still swarmed around unconsciously. It just seemed to sink somewhere in the back of my head and when I couldn’t get it out, I decided to explore out the neighborhood. As I wandered about without thinking too much, everything was so familiar, yet unfamiliar. I suddenly felt as if watching some kind of personal timeline from far off, way off in the distance that I couldn’t dare to reach. Somehow, it felt a little bit more different than simply being nostalgic, but rather, a hollow feeling. I felt strange because everything that represented me felt so detached now. It was as if a part of me was gone.
A few weeks later, I finally got to see my cousins who I loved and adored. We were all ecstatic to see each other and we shared endless greetings. It was pretty late at night after an unbearably large dinner, and my two closest cousins who were nineteen and sixteen requested to go watch a movie. So we reserved three 1:30 A.M. tickets and took a taxi to the closest cinema. As we sat waiting at the lobby for the movie to start, my cousins started throwing questions at me. Then, one of them jokingly commented, “I feel like hanging out with
a foreigner.” Born in the second largest city in Korea, but spending my infanthood in another city and then living almost my whole life in America, I didn’t really know. I didn’t know whether to agree or disagree, so I just laughed. Normally, when people inquire where I am from, I would answer “Korea,” but the thing is I don’t feel like Korean. I don’t feel like Korean because I have become so accustomed to my life right now I feel so awkward whenever I say it, and I honestly don’t really know too much about life in Korea. I also feel like English is my first language because I am not as familiar in Korean language as I was before. On the other hand, I don’t feel too much like American because I wasn’t born in America. My older brother, though, was born in Los Angeles, California, so whenever I talk to him, I feel as if I am the one out of place.
I had never understood what it meant to be a middle child but I understood, in a similar way. It was a feeling of being in a place of nowhere and just stuck. It is a constant search for one’s identity, one’s place, one’s belonging. As I finished packing my luggage to set back home, searching for any last minute check-up, I looked around the room. Then something just struck me—I used to have a home and now I have a new home—and it may not be the same ones, but both meant so much to me. I smiled to myself and thought, ‘It is nice to have two homes.’





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