There is a tiny white photo frame on my mother’s dresser, adorned with a plastic rainbow. It has been there as long as I can remember. Inside is a photo of me as a wrinkly, reddened newborn, photographed in the hospital with a tiny sign that says, “YOO MIN-HEE.” I always assumed it meant, “Baby Girl.” Finally I asked my mother and she told me that it is my biological mother’s name for me. An internet friend whom I “met” in junior high school told me that it is a very pretty name. It just sounded like foreign nothingness to me until then. I didn’t know I could have a pretty Korean name.
Amidst remembering these things while writing, I obviously had to google the name. I didn’t spend much time searching for “myself,” mostly because that is not actually who I am. I don’t identify with that name and am not interested in being addressed by it. But also I could feel something stirring within the veins in my left arm. It’s like parts of my DNA were awakening and stirring, as though they suddenly remembered they should rip apart.
Ok, yes, that’s a little dramatic. In sum, it made me feel strange in a way that is unfamiliar to me.
It’s a little bit like reflecting on a path untraveled, considering what could have been. Occasionally I imagine a parallel me, one who stayed in her birth country, one who is called Min-hee. I imagine it like a movie, where the camera focuses on me right now in my apartment, knees curled to my chest as I type on this laptop, and then the scene slides over to the “alternate” me, with different clothing in a different country by a different window, also typing on her laptop with her knees curled to her chest. (Note that the “alternate me” has had the same educational and economic privileges I have. Interesting.)
Just as I may wonder what my life would have been if I had decided to move to the middle of Montana and start a cattle ranch, I wonder what my life would have been if I had been raised in South Korea. It’s not like I’m going to corral a wormhole and go back and re-do my whole life as a South Korean citizen, nor would I really want to. We all spend a little time confronting the myriad of possibilities that one’s life may have taken. That’s all I’m doing.