The day I let my mother go
My baby sister, I and mom were in a car that my brother was driving. The nice SUV he had been given 4 years ago while he was going out with a musical actress in Seoul during his university years; he felt the urge to have a car that he never desired before. The parents were happy, as Charlie was the first person to have a driving license and actually attempted to drive, like any other manly and reputable sons would do. We were driven by chauffers since we were born – my parents saw this a declaration of independence but not enough to challenge them and were happy their son was stepping up as an adult, if not proud. He didn’t want any Kia and wanted Audi or BMW instead which he felt he deserved. Dad refused to buy anything that would attract attention from others and my brother was bought a Kia while calling my dad a coward who didn’t know how to rule what he had.
We had just been to a family gathering after days of discussing and negotiating about the new house we were about to start building. My mother told my brother ‘thank you for driving’. I sunk. I don’t know what it was that made me not even sad or angry but rather shielded by an utterly chilling realization that I will have to let her go. I can only guess it was one of these – the acceptance that I will never be enough for her, I will never be myself and make her happy, and that I will be used as a negotiator, or buffer, or the secretary daughter who did things for the family because she has to. Simply put – what she needed me to be and what I was could no longer coexist. It created confusion in my identity and I could no longer bare to choose the same path that had made me struggle so much entirely of my life.
These descriptions sum up the roles I played within the family. Us, Ha’s, do not bicker – particularly to challenge authority, or to loving mother, or father who gave us everything he could and was never loved my his own parents, or to brother who is 3 years older than me yet held the authority that subdued my parents to smaller beings because he was the heir to the empire my grandfather had built.
The intricacies of mother’s lost love
When I asked her why it was that she bore children who were not male, whilst she wanted sons so much – she said with a sigh ‘because god chose you, you chose me’. Her sigh, her saddened eyes, the downward shoulders showed the femininity she embodied as the daughter in law, and head of a big household followed by at least 10 gathering (of approximately 40 family members) per year along with her job after helping hundreds of people as a social worker. The irreversible emptiness and helplessness for the choices she did not necessarily want – to have I and my sister, though we every now and then gave her happiness, never mounted to be enough for her shattering struggles.
When I spoke of ill or unfair treatment of I or my sister, she refuted ‘why are you doing this to me?’. These words used to silence me upon the realization that I was causing my beloved mom the kind of pain I refused to contribute to. This was a cycle of abuse, manipulation, leaving and coming back.
I never told people the truth why I left Korea for the UK when I was 15. This was it – leaving and coming back. At least I had somewhere to escape to. I loved her too much, perhaps more than myself because I saw no worth to love in myself, to not be in my life but she also gave me so much pain and selfdoubts that I had to get away to survive being myself. I also think this was an attempt prove them wrong that a pennisless human being could do great things, if not as a spare to the males that headed the family with their chins up high in the sky.
It still puzzles me that my angelic mom that everyone in the society admires, respects and speak no ill of, could possibly be so cruel toward my sister and I. I think of the stories upon stories of my father’s family and his abuse against her – perhaps not directed physically but emotional abuses. My mom had two miscarriages between my brother and I induced by emotional damage. She is so broken yet I believe the birth of my brother, the first child who is also a male, brought the shield that she needed from the family – one less thing to pulling her emotional hair about. She reflects much of her guilt also on my sister and I. For bringing us too early into the world – my sister at 8 months, and I 3 weeks earlier than expected. My mom was also severely medically depressed when she had us and had had rant to her mother’s arms leaving us behind at some point. I think we lost her love for us then – so much so that when her spiritual companion/advisor told to grant me a sum to send me abroad and she didn’t defend, and that I was to be given no room in the new house as I’ve never had & almost no longer a member of this family and she didn’t say a word, and when he also imposed it will be a cheap this if a sum of money would settle me abroad and I do not come back and she didn’t say anything without a touch of discomfort in his face or body.
Your and my enemy
Somehow, the more I tried to become anything other than me & what I thought would be useful for my family, I became their enemy because I had embodied qualities that my brother didn’t. When I finished my master, they were fairly proud up until they realised I had earned and learned too much and I would potentially bring my brother down for my own gains. They didn’t quite buy into ‘she will see the worse of your son’ up until I acted like an arrogant brat, as the spiritual leader calls it, and I am silly to be able to hide my so called arrogance, which others may identify as intelligence. I felt like I was dying and suffered from severe depression particularly when I was back at what is called home and because everyone wanted to put me down to let my brother live and did what his job as the heir. They decided to easily silenced and bury me for my brother and family’s pride/face.
I have always inspired to collect all attributes deemed necessary to be loved. I became a collage of the intentions of defying myself. I cried nights and days hating myself for not being that thing that is not me. I lost myself and I wanted to lose myself even more – to become someone else.
Do I love you too much?
I wondered if I was being too demanding and greedy with mom’s love and decided that was not the case. It is indeed true that mothers, according to the consensual observation in literature and any form of art and speech, are known to forfeit many and embody many qualities in sacrifice or love and care for their own children and family. Whilst one would argue these qualities are transparently universal in all parts of society – the extend to which these are demanded and required as much differs in one society to another. I have come to believe this particularly so having lived in two different cultures exploring their differences at least passively and second-handedly.
In Korea, I know my own mother sacrificed a great and has continued to do so for the sake of marriage. People of my generation would say otherwise and argue that those before them still had a choice. They did – they just didn’t quite realise that they did. One would say it’s their choice and their recognition, awareness and consciousness to blame, I beg to differ. Noone told them they could or should be themselves and they were condemned even to death for being themselves. So it would be unwise to even wonder other than this reason why our own mothers smother us with love yet despise the motherhood potentially because themselves have been squished, silenced, mushed and murdered for our sake. We equally didn’t ask for it but it was the thing to do for both of us.
Some of my friends have asked me why is that it has to be drastic. The simplest and most accurate response would be – so that I can live.
The forsaken relationship was even more strained by my brother’s rebellion and how much my parents saw me as a greedy child who is eager to just about anything to get what she want. One thing they perhaps never figure out about me is – I am obedient enough, and love them enough to never want to inflict any harm particularly when it comes to financial gains. I left when I was asked to work for my dad. I also left when I was told to be given a sum of shares in the fear that this would upset my brother and mother. I am also leaving again, because I have nothing else to give up but them now.
On the sunny day, as I was being driven to what is supposedly a beloved home, I was suffocating and decided to let my mother go because I realised that I could never be that person who wants me to be. She doesn’t know me and doesn’t want to know me. I am fairly outspoken; I don’t take bullshit from people; yet I am kind and fragile at heart. Perhaps I am too ambitious, perhaps I am too greed, perhaps I am not what they want. I could survive and patch us my broken heart anymore. So I told her, ‘I no longer choose you’.