Being a Korean-American, it is hard to decipher what is considered appropriate. What could be deemed as a norm in America could be taboo in Korea, and vice versa. Raised with traditional parents, I was considered the “culture shock” to my family. I was not a devote Christian, I did not learn Korean fluently, and I did not spend all my hours studying. As I grew older, I began to struggle to find my own identity versus satisfying what my parents wanted. To this day I still have trouble trying to figure out what I want to do instead of doing what they would want me to. One of the biggest things that helped me realize my own identity were my tattoos. Nevertheless, a lot of Korean people look at tattoos as a taboo. People assume that you are a “bad” person with tattoos and can be connected towards gangs or rebels. Since it is frowned upon in Korean, you could imagine how well my parents took it when they found out about my smaller tattoos.
I have 10 tattoos and each one has a specific meaning towards my past. I will not go into detail with each one, but I will discuss two of my major tattoos that relate towards my past. One of my biggest tattoos are the phases of the moon. This was the one tattoo I really wanted from middle school. Ever since I was little, my parents would be working a lot to support us. My sister would be with her friends or doing extracurricular activities. Since I was alone at home a lot, I would look for the moon every night. The moon just radiated and gave me a sense of protection. It was kind of my release from the world. The moon would always give me comfort when I felt alone.
Another tattoo I have is a unalome. In Buddhism, they are the visual image of reaching enlightenment. There are spirals representing our obstacles in life and then a straight line showing we finally found harmony. The unalome are the “crowns” of the Arahants, the enlightened saints. It is a very powerful symbol of spiritual and personal quest. This meaning drew me in instantly because I have gone through numerous obstacles in my past. From abusive relationships, sexual assaults, eating disorders, etc. I always felt that there was no positivity in my life. While I will explain all those stories later (need to keep you interested in the future), I have finally found harmony in my life.
Even though I still have troubles, every day I wake up happy to be awake. My relationship with my parents have been renewed and I feel comfortable talking with them about my concerns. While I graduated from George Mason University, I have a job that I love to do and am going back to school to further my education to help others. I am getting back into weightlifting and trying to figure out my lifestyle as I go. I am slowly figuring out my identity, planning out my future, and trying to reconnect towards the Korean culture. Even though I have dealt with some horrible situations, I live for each day and it has helped shape me as the woman here today. My tattoos help me to remember my strengths and weaknesses; also, it has helped me take a step forward in figuring out my own identity. I do plan on getting more and hope I can change my parent’s outlooks on them.