Dear 8-year-old Jisu,

I can only imagine how shocked you are right now, realizing you’re the only person of color in your class at your new school.  Growing up in Flushing, Queens, you were always surrounded by people who looked like you.


Jisu Choi at 8 years old

I don’t know why you think speaking another language is embarrassing.  I know you want to fit in and be “white,” but that’s simply impossible.

Your rejection to speak Korean will cause you to forget it easily, and the Korean accent you once perfected will disappear.

You won’t be able to have fluid, conversations with your Korean family members anymore.  The relationship between you and your grandparents will disparage because of the language barrier.   Having conversations with Korean parents and friends will become extremely difficult for you, and you’ll always try to shy away from them because of your broken sentences.

The peers who once tormented you for being different will later applaud and admire you for your bilingual abilities.  I can promise this.

If you stop speaking Korean, the narrow-minded people who made fun of you for your culture might stop, but your Korean peers will later judge you for your 'whiteness.'

You’ll try to re-learn Korean, and you’ll succeed in reading and speaking again.  However, you’ll still avoid conversing in Korean in fear of being laughed at for your American accent.

Forgetting this language will only be a disadvantage for you and will later be your biggest regret in life.

As you continue to grow, you’ll carry a lot of anger and frustration because your immigrant parents aren’t like your friends’ parents.  You’ll catch yourself comparing your strict parents to their seemingly lenient ones.

Being raised with backgrounds and disciplines different from your friends will cause you to feel lonely;the answer, 'my parents said no' will become a frequent response for invitations to future hangouts, sleepovers, and events.

The struggles that come with the Korean identity you so desperately try to ignore will be one of your defining attributes–one you’ll learn to love and appreciate.

Becoming proud of your culture in the future will definitely be a painful and rather bumpy process, but it will result in strength and empowerment.  Writing this is almost comical, as the miniscule problems and struggles you face right now seem so heavy and unsolvable.

As your favorite singer right now–Hannah Montana– says, 'it’s the climb.'

Keep on climbing.

Love, 19-year-old Jisu

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