As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, join us as we share stories from our colleagues in the API Employee Resource Group. Hear from J Yun, Senior UI/UX Designer, as he shares his love of Korean food and its connective power to his culture.
When I was asked to share my story for the Asian American Heritage month, I caught a glimpse of myself frozen at a blank paper consumed by the feeling of guilt. As a 1st generation immigrant from Korea, I felt unworthy of writing about the culture that “I had left back home.”
This feeling of guilt—with a generous amount of “identity crisis” mixed in—is something most of us 1st generation immigrants are all too familiar with. There is a fine print in our pursuit of the American Dream. It reads, “Must relinquish your culture in order to fully acclimate to American culture. Possible side effects may include internal turmoil and a constant feeling of self-uncertainty.”
For a long time, I carried this with me. I even legally changed my name to something so simple that no one could ever mispronounce it. In order to “hide” my accent, I stopped speaking Korean completely—for so long now that I have to turn on the English subtitles to watch a Korean movie. To fully integrate with American culture, I thought I had to either erase or change certain parts of myself that made me who I was. In the process, I had lost myself somewhere in between a Korean boy and an American man.
Even through all of this, there was one thing I never gave up about my culture: food. Maybe because food is such a prominent part of Korean culture, or maybe because it has a way of healing one’s soul. Even in the most mind-bending times of identity crisis, a bowl of rice, some kimchi and Doenjang Guk could always remind me of who I was.
Enter the era of Postmates. I was suddenly given the power to summon any type of food with a push of a button. The kitchens of the world at my fingertips. Gradually, I let eating become a daily chore of decision-making. The very thing that kept me grounded and reminded me who I was had now become something I dreaded.
It was not until I joined OpenSesame that I was reminded of the relationship I had with food. One of the most exciting discoveries I made was the vivid celebration of food within the Asian & Pacific Islander ERG. I immediately felt right at home with folks of all Asian backgrounds coming together to, simply, appreciate food. Even further, OpenSesame not only provides space for this, but also celebrates it with us. I believe that this is why many of us feel such a strong sense of community here.
Now as I sit here at the entrance of the Asian Heritage Month, I am once again reminded of who I am and where I come from. No matter how far away I may be, Korean food has always been the compass for my soul to find its way back home. The smell of Gomguk as Omma (“mom” in Korean) dances her way about the kitchen on the first day of winter; the sound of freshly diced green onions mingling with salt and pepper as they burrow into the rich bone broth; the overwhelming sensation of being alive as each sip of warm, savory magic hugs you from the inside. These memories imprinted so viscerally into my core are the true treasure that no American Dream can promise, nor any amount of cultural acclimation can erase.