By Grace, through love
Amidst all the minutest to the most grandiose of changes, one thing that’s kept rooted me is my name. I thank my family for giving me my name, my friends for supporting me, my teachers for pronouncing my name correctly, and finally, Christina, for embracing me as Grace, her mentee.
Dear outer Grace,
It’s me!—inner Grace!
As always, I was writing in our journal the other day, and something struck me: for eighteen years, you and I have been put together to spell out Grace Grace Han. You are the English word Grace; I am a translation of the Korean word Grace—Eun Hae. You are the outer Grace; I am the inner. We look the same when we write out our full name together, but you and I couldn’t be more different. You like shopping; I like saving money. You like sleeping; I like being busy.
I recently learned in my calculus class about these special pair of angles called complementary angles. They’re different angles that come together to make one. Guess who I thought of in that instant?
Us! Grace Grace, or Grace Eunhae—tomato, to-mah-to; potato, po-tah-to.
I’ll admit, we’ve had our differences in the past. With you being American and I Korean, we sure do have those moments of deep Socratic contemplation of whether to go for the kimchi or the pasta at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The thing is, at least we can bring something to the table, and like Dad, why not make the best of both worlds and have some kimchi-pasta? Yum.
As polar as we may be, one thing’s for certain: we’re both in loooove with words, to which people often respond, “But you’re Asian”. It’s what I call a forbidden love affair. I remember we reprimanded ourselves for not living up to the “Asian” standards—the ones telling us to be a doctor or an engineer. But guess what? Words can heal just as doctors do—after all, it was the loving words of our very own Han family that healed our battle scars from when we were bullied. And, it is with words I plan to take a stand because like in engineering, words devise sentences through the deconstruction, the rearrangement, and the craft of consonants and vowels. I remember all those sleepless nights we would spend absorbing and taking apart each word of stories we read. So, why apologize for not being the standard Asian and being Grace Grace as Grace as can be? I remember the first time we shared our dream with one another—you know, the ones we still hold onto. It was freshman year: you wanted to find a pink journal, and I wanted to write in it the stories of society-defying girls whose designation doesn’t determine their destination, just like the story of you and I. See? Even from the beginning of our time here on this mortal coil, we’ve only added to each other, never subtracted.
Outer Grace, I have something to admit: I used to always envy you whenever my name, Eun Hae, was auto-corrected into Eunice. In those moments, the keyboard clacked against my Korean-American pride, often eliciting thoughts of insecurity and a desire to change my name. And it continued to be embarrassing for me when teachers couldn’t pronounce Eun Hae, instead pronouncing it “Oon Hi” or “Ee-un Hey,” to which I always had the unwanted responsibility to say “my name is pronounced Unhye.”
But I’ve changed.
While it’s taken me a while to learn, I’m left humbled by the fact that, though we haven’t got it all figured out yet, you define me and I you. My foreign name with your common name, together, is a name that cannot be forgotten: Grace Grace.
Grace Han is a Class of 2017 mentee alum from Queens, NY.