Conscious Choices

Video chatting pro: It’s a lot easier to understand Korean when I can see someone speaking.

Video chatting con: Mother and Father see the reaction on my face when Mother claims that they’re going to stay with us the entire duration of their visit for our wedding.

Choosing Taekwondo
A few weeks before testing for my black belt, I systematically asked myself why I was practicing taekwondo.

According to American instructors, most people (in America) quit post-black belt. According to Master, most people (in Korea) quit post-second dan. One night in class, while working on poomse, I asked myself a series of questions. Am I doing this for a black belt or for life? Am I going to continue taekwondo? Would I stick with taekwondo somewhere other than Korea? What if I lived in an area with no dojang? Would I actually practice on my own? Do I understand that there will be no point where I suddenly know taekwondo? Do I understand that I will always be learning more about taekwondo, about myself, through practice?

It wasn’t that I thought I was doing taekwondo only for the black belt. It’s that I thought I should be very clear and honest with myself about my intentions.

I’m very happy that I made the conscious decision to stick with taekwondo.

Choosing Korean
A few days ago it suddenly hit me—and laugh all you want at my slowness in realizing this—there is not going to be a single a-ha moment where I think, “That’s it, I understand Korean. 끝! The end!”

If I choose to continue studying Korean, I am choosing to be in this for the very long haul. I am choosing to stick with it, even when I think it’s pointless, even when I want to quit, even when it’s hard. Just like taekwondo.

Oddly, since realizing this, I feel like some sort of language-learning stress has been lifted from my shoulders. I’m not quite sure why.

Some people I know have told me I don’t need to continue in Korean. We don’t live in Korea, we’re not having kids, Good Man speaks great English…

But I think it would be disrespectful to Good Man and his family to not learn Korean. A few days ago I asked him, “Would we be together if I didn’t study Korean?”

“Yes.” He nodded, “But we would have many problems.”

I understood exactly what he meant.

Choosing Family
I checked my Cyworld page today to find a note from Sister. An exciting note about passport photos and plane tickets, wedding plans. It was made extra exciting because without looking anything up, I understood all but one sentence. Perfectly.

Tonight we had a video chat with Mother and Father (Sister was at the movies). Mother raved about my sweater. We talked about wedding plans. We talked about making Good Man exercise, while Good Man groaned, and I said, “어머니 2명 있는 것 같아.” It seems like you have two mothers.

A few weeks ago, Mother told us that Father wanted us to wear tuxedos and a Western-style wedding dress in the wedding. I asked father why he wanted us to wear them because we only want to wear hanboks. Father looked at Mother and they started talking. I understand about half of what they said, but I understood what was going on. I started laughing. Good Man looked at me. “Do you understand?”

“I think so. Your father doesn’t really care what we wear, does he? Your mother just blamed it on him?”

“Yeah, he doesn’t really feel strongly either way.”

I laughed. It was such an honest family moment, the mother and father playfully arguing. And while Good Man could have translated, it would not have been the same. Things don’t work as well in translation. Jokes don’t play the same way. Those honest moments—those moments that make a family a family get…lost.