14 May 2024

선 (Sun)

He looks at you. Your birth-grandfather does. He speaks at you. And in Korean, you have no idea what he's saying, but he's being very serious about it, and you can hear your Korean name being said over and over again. The translator, a young, wide-eyed, half-terrified college student, looks at you, "Your grandfather," birth grandfather, you correct in your mind, "says that he specifically named you with one name, because he wanted you to stand out, be different." A near-crime when considering the Korean cultural same-ness aspired to by the entire culture, as a whole, especially when considering the time period in which you were conceived, orphaned, and transracially adopted. 

"Your Korean name is Sun?" a Korean coworker at the English academy where you substitute teach and part-time teach at during Summer/Winter Intensives asks after finding out that you have a Korean name. "Hmmm," the coworker wonders aloud, "Like this," she writes 선 on a piece of paper. "Yes," you confirm despite never asking for a dissection of your Korean name. "Ah, so like the root Chinese is the word 'nice,' I think," she giggles, almost embarrassed, not confident, or maybe too confident and is lying to you. You can't tell. Koreans, you find, are hard to read, still. 

For obvious reasons, the name Sun, in English was never a viable option to you, since, as in English, 'Sun' is a tremendous idea. In English, Sun is grandiose. In Korean, as far as you know, Sun is nice. 

So which is it, you decide you must decide. Or maybe, there is no decision to be made at all. You've circled the Sun as Sun for nearly one full lap (excluding the nearly-four years you lived as 선 in Korean, in Korea). As you ponder this, you begin to realize the enormity of your decision. This name-change is not something that was done willy-nilly, even though, the implementation of the idea seemed spontaneous. 

You haven't legally changed your name, because there's nothing to change. Your full legal name is Tiffany Kim Sun Camas. You dropped your white first name (cause you hate it) and your Korean last name (cause you feel no loyalties), leaving your given birth name and the last name legacy of the family who saved and raised you. You could do the paperwork to make the names by which you've decided to be called the only names associated with you, but a lot of people know you as "Tiffany," and that's not a problem for you. A year into deciding to use the name that your birth grandfather gave to you and you feel the weight of the name.

And you're not sure you can live up to it.

You even feel guilty for using the name, even though it is your own.

And you feel insecure at the thought of what other people might think about you using it.

Your birth grandfather either saw &or hoped for greatest within you. A singular-syllable Korean first name. You are something special by his logic. He decided to make you special. He decided that of all of the things in this world, he wanted to make you stand out. Go noticed. Be different. This is the man from whom your physical body stems, your blood, your genes. Someone, upon your birth, hoped for greatest upon you, determined that he could make you special, through your name alone. 

It's a lot to live up to. To become a mononymous person. 

And then, you were great. Being beyond your adopted parents' expectations. You thrived. All of this adoption trauma didn't really seem to affect you at all. You were a winner. You were great. 

But that was Tiffany. She's not Sun. And Sun is not Tiffany. They are two very different people, even though, they are obviously the same singular person. 

Nevertheless, here they are, Tiffany and Sun, now, Sun with Tiffany fading further and further from Sun's personhood. Nobody is quite sure who Sun is, yet, but Sun's different. Sun is more Korean than Tiffany could ever hope to be. Sun has a heavier weight to bear than Tiffany ever bore. Sun is emotionally more vulnerable than "Stone-Cold" Tiffany. 

But they both just want to be free. Of everything, really. The bodybuddy/lifemate excepted.