It Started With A Mistake
Livia Pak, 71
Immigrated from South, Korea
"I felt like I was a stranger in another universe..."
“I moved to America when I was just twenty-two years old.” My grandma said. Coated with a thick accent, her words weaved between broken English and perfect Korean. Mother of two and happily retired in a suburban California home, she was the walking American dream of a 1970’s Asian Immigrant. As she continued talking, I observed her. Sitting on a chair in a striped sweater and white jeans, she had layers of wavy chestnut hair that framed her face like a curtain and long nails painted a translucent blue. She was wearing purple-rimmed glasses above her brown Bambi eyes, which wrinkled whenever she smiled.
“I was moving to America because my husband’s job. At first, I was so nervous and scared. I remember when I was saying bye to my mom in the airport. She was crying… I was too. I didn’t want to leave everything behind and have to start over in a new country. When I got here, I found out that the immigration people had spelled my name wrong on my legal documents. It seemed like everything was falling apart. I felt like I was a stranger in another universe. I just wanted to give up and go back to Korea. But I knew I had to persevere and be successful to make my mother proud.
“So, I realized that maybe my name being changed was a sign. It meant that I could be a new and better self in America. It was a sign that change was good and that anything was possible here, and that I had to take risks, so I decided to open up a restaurant within my first month of moving here! Well, one thing led to another and I ended up opening several, and cooking became my passion.” My grandma said while lifting her hands up as if for proof. The skin on it was grooved and creased from hours of whipping up delicious meals of tofu, noodles and kimchi. They looked like those of a retired piano player after decades of beautiful playing. Then, my grandma smiled and said “From then on, whenever I was feeling lost or confused, I always looked back to my name. It seems silly, but it somehow gave me hope. I accomplished everything I dreamed of in America and had so many great opportunities. I realized that I wasn’t a stranger in another universe, but rather a star. Tucked between millions of other stars. All twinkling with hope.”