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  • Writer's pictureitallstartsintheho

Seoul to Soul, Part I

What is yellow on the outside but white on the inside? Twinkies. You probably heard of this famous American snack and may have devoured a few growing up. It's basically a yellow sponge cake with a creamy white filling shaped like an egg roll. I remember being in elementary school, eyeing them in my friends' lunchboxes. The Hostess snacks were wildly popular during food swaps. If you knew what you were doing, you could pick two out of someone's lunch for one Twinkie. It was either the Twinkies or Ho Ho rolled cakes. People had unique ways of eating the sugary desserts. Some would unroll the cakes or cut the cake to get to the creamy filling. The white fluffy center was always the most desired.

As funny as this may sound, I often associated my high school years as a Twinkie. Not because I ate them all the time or because my days were always sweet but because I described myself as a Twinkie.   Yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Don't laugh, but I thought I was Caucasian. I believed I was a white person, even though I am 100% full-blown Korean. If you looked at me, you would 100% identify me as an Asian person. (Yes, I had issues. )

It probably didn't help that there weren't many Asians in my middle or high school. I only saw people who looked like me at the Asian markets and restaurants and my Korean Church. My closest friends were all Caucasian. My best friend was a beautiful blond, blue-eyed All-American that you would see in your typical Hallmark movie. And for some deranged reason, I thought I was looking at a mirror when I was with her. We joined the Poms squad together. I ran for student council. I participated in all the school and social events with my friends. I tried my hardest to relate to them as much as I could. I didn't see anyone who had my skin color in any of my circles, and I was okay with it because, like the sweet white center of the Twinkie dessert, being "white" was most coveted, at least for me.

It wasn't until my first year of college that I started to familiarize myself with more people who looked like me. When we shared our backgrounds, some of us were raised so similarly that it felt like we were brought up under the same roof. It made me more curious about my heritage. The more I gleaned, the more I owned. The Twinkie image started to disappear when I began connecting the dots with my South Korean identity. Being a Korean American had a whole new meaning. 

Returning to South Korea this past January reminded me of my "Twinkie years" and my insecurities. Walking around with a sea of people with black hair, brown eyes, and yellow skin, I realized that I never repented for disowning my lineage. I saw my motherland with new eyes and with new appreciation. It was healing for my soul to be in Seoul and to clean out my past complexes.  

I'm thankful my children don't have my teenage insecurities and are proud of their Korean roots. My oldest son has a Korean flag displayed on his dorm room wall. My kids love to wear South Korean swag and always look for new designs to add to their wardrobes. My daughter hasn't taken off the necklace with her name written in Korean since she received it. They definitely don't have identity issues like I did, and no one can describe them as Twinkies, either.   

I have more posts to add to My Seoul to soul chronicles. The Holy Spirit revealed more about me on this trip than I originally journaled when I returned, so come back and find out what else I learned.

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