Authentic Eagles: On 20-Somethings

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our struggles in the constant quest to appear perfect. Embracing our  truths can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations of being one’s authentic self at BC.

Sarah Gallenberg, Office of First Year Experience

Reflections from a 20-Something – "Boy Meets World" Style

After living a couch potato lifestyle while home for the holidays, I discovered that Boy Meets World is my guilty pleasure TV show.  Anytime Boy Meets World is on ABC Family, even if it’s an episode I’ve seen 14 times, I will sit through the entire thing and laugh at all of the cheesy jokes. I anticipate the shots of Mr. Feeny, sitting in his classroom or working in his yard, giving small tidbits of insight about the world. After realizing that so much of my life could be summarized in a 30-minute BMW episode, I decided that it serves as a great vehicle for my reflection. (And yes, some of these I stole from Buzzfeed.)

Before I reflect on the Feeny-isms, there are a few things you should know about me: I am a Korean adoptee, Minnesotan, wine and cheese enthusiast, Post-it and Diet Coke addict, recent newbie/groupie to the Game of Thrones universe, gluten intolerant, Twitter obsessed, former ballerina and hockey cheerleader, 20-something, cisgender female. Most of these things influence conversations with my friends, and may be relevant in my reflection.

Feeny-ism 1: You don’t have to be blood to be family.

At the age of 6 months, my parents adopted me: two white, Catholic, midwestern nurses. In my parents’ house, we follow staunch gender roles, eat lots of hot dishes and baked goods and say things like, “For cute.” We celebrate an interesting assortment of holidays including my airplane/arrival day, St. Nicholas Day and Korean New Year, and experiment with various ethnic dishes such as kimchi, lefse and goulash. Growing up in Minnesota, I got teased for being short and Asian, and kids asked me where my “real parents” lived. Walking down the street, I wanted to be seen with my dad more than my mom because he had dark brown hair, and I felt like I looked more like him.

In college, my friends understood adoption, but some still made jokes about Asians. We had a large population of international students from Asian countries, and my friends would tell me that I wasn’t a “real Asian” like those students; I was a “twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). I stayed away from ethnic clubs and organizations, joined a sorority and found other ways to fit in with the majority. I even dressed in horribly offensive ethnic costumes for fraternity parties feeling ashamed to be considered Asian-American or an adoptee.

Looking at all the changes in society and family structures has made it easier for me in some ways. I think losing the pressure to fit in or be “normal” has helped. Yet as an adult, I still get asked challenging questions. Do I want to have my “own kids” (as if being adopted has made me less of a child to my parents). Typically, I just laugh at this question. Children are several years away, if not decades. I can barely remember to feed my fish.  Mostly, I have learned what it means to be loved unconditionally, regardless of what genetic coding I have. My family, both adoptive and birth and friends who I consider family, is crazy and goofy and complicated, but it’s mine.

Feeny-ism 2: We live in a random and chaotic universe.

Truth. If you would have told 18-year-old Sarah that I would attend Saint Louis University, study English and communications, work in PR, decide I want to work with college-aged students, attend graduate school for higher education/student affairs, work abroad during graduate school, travel all over the world including Australia and New Zealand and move to Massachusetts, all before turning 25, I would have said something snarky or rolled my eyes (two of my default responses). Some of the best and most challenging experiences  I have ever had seemed random at the time, but taught me about who I am and who I want to be.  Living abroad was both the loneliest and most invigorating time of my life – and the first time I felt American. No one saw me as a representation of my race, but they heard me for my “American” accent. I met some of my best friends there, and we now live in Canada, Ireland, Australia and England – talk about random.

Other days I get overwhelmed with the chaos. Looking at the “isms” or social inequities/systemic problems in the world make me question the idea of justice and God in my life and in the world. I wish it could be as simple as putting on my Captain Planet ring and saving the world. However, last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a Lenten retreat, and it changed me forever. I met weekly with a Jesuit, and we had a wonderful balance of deep theological/philosophical conversations and personal prayer/reflections. This was the first time I truly understood how to start “Finding God in All Things.” I still struggle with big picture questions, but I am also able to appreciate more of the beautiful and random encounters I have with God.

Feeny-ism 3: It’s about the all-consuming power of love. And the inevitability of its influence on each of our lives.

Ah love. This brings me to my final Feeny reflection. Facebook is the bane of my existence. Literally. For a while, I thought I had the Good Luck Chuck syndrome – that terrible movie with Dane Cook. Every person I had ever dated in high school and college – or even kissed – was engaged/married/with child with the person they dated after me. It was a really dark and sad time for me, spent listening to emo music and watching the saddest movies ever made. I felt like I had to be in a relationship.  I joined Match.com for a while, and I went on some really terrible dates. At some point, it became less about living my fun, adventurous life and turned into this intense competition with everyone I knew on Facebook.

When I realized how stupid this was, I started doing things for me. I started finding hobbies (besides dating), visited friends across the country and eventually started dating a coworker. I stopped using other peoples’ happiness as a measurement of my own, and I realized that it was okay that I didn’t find my partner in college. More importantly, I learned about loving myself for the ever-evolving person I am.

Each day, I am learning something new about myself from those around me. I feel unsettled, scattered, lost, loved, joyful and excited about my future. But I live by Mr. Feeny’s advice for my future. “Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good.”

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