Forever Stranger — The beauty of being outside your comfort zone

I think a lot about the loneliness of foreigners as a foreigner myself. But truth to be told, I do remember many moments of feeling like a foreigner even in Korea where I was born and raised. We try to belong somewhere to fill up the emptiness, only to find out we alienate our inner self in the process. The difference was I felt more miserable about it in Korea. I was not supposed to feel that way in my hometown with my people who share the same language and culture.

Once I got to normalize my “foreignness” by being a foreigner in a foreign country, I took a hard look at this lifelong inner hunger. It turns out, I simply didn’t know how to belong to myself. I didn’t know with what kind of people my mind likes to be vulnerable, in what environment my mind likes to sing, and at what moment my mind takes a nap.

And I realized that the way to figure my mind out is to stay vulnerable and keep meeting people. I constantly put myself out of my comfort zone. I used to fantasize that I can form this one strong and consistent personality and present this to whoever, anywhere, and at any moment. We regard it as a symptom of one’s charisma. We wish to figure out who we truly are and exercise it before meeting anyone. But it’s a myth. Being this one mega personality everywhere is simply not possible. Humans were not made that way. There is a good reason why the nickname of humans is ‘social animal’. We all possess so many different sides, including the ones you never discovered — and we get to express them in the presence of others, depending on who we meet, and what environment we are in. It’s like we are puzzle pieces. We get to figure out how we are shaped by putting ourselves next to each other

So what I am trying to say is, that it’s okay to be awkward, it’s okay to feel disappointed, and it’s okay to feel upset. It’s not their fault, and it’s not your fault either. Maybe we are just wrong pieces together. Maybe we better try with different sides. Take this experience as a moment of self-discovery, not a failure. Don’t let it take you to the land of solitude and perpetual loneliness.

There’s magic in being seen by people who understand — it gives you permission to keep going. Self-expression sometimes requires other people. Becoming ourselves is a collective journey. -ALOK

There is a beauty in being a stranger. We often associate the concept of the stranger with loneliness. But I see becoming a stranger as the beginning of new connections. It gives you a clean slate. It allows you to be anywhere you never imagined, and meet anyone you never dared to talk to. Any accomplishment you get out of it can make you feel like the most powerful savage who just caught prey with bare hands.

2roommagazine is a community for strangers. The name “Two-Room” is a wordplay in Korean for “strangers/foreigners”; the idea is that if people have a room in the heart for their hometown, foreigners learn to build a second room for their new home and live the duality. They are the kind of strangers who know the power of being a stranger and carving out your own identity and destiny. Strangers who are not lost but purposefully out of their comfort zone. I was even more excited to discover them after I realized both readers and the editors are Korean women living overseas. I talked to the chief editor who lives in Berlin after having studied Psychology in Cologne. I had applied for the guest editor spot. At the beginning of our zoom call, she said “I was so excited to meet you. I have read your writing pieces and I thought your voice really resonates with the magazine.” My heart translated what she said as “I see you, girl.”

Our 30-minute interview lasted more than an hour. Our conversation was about the magazine, of course, but at the same time, it was about our voice, our self-expression, and our excitement for the chemistry we were feeling. The magic happened again at the first editor’s content ideation meetings. We were only strangers from Berlin, New York, and San Francisco who just met remotely, but I chatted with them as if I knew them for a long time.

Trying to become a writer has been my latest version of practicing the beauty of being a stranger. Because it meant putting myself in a new daily routine, spending more time searching for my truest voice instead of my colleagues’ work requests or my manager’s feedback, and being freaking vulnerable every day by putting or not putting my writing out there. Oh, and questioning yourself every moment “can you really call yourself a writer?” is one. I am no stranger to being a stranger having lived in three different foreign cities and still being called a foreigner after almost 10 years of living in San Francisco. But being a stranger in the “writing world” makes me feel like Sandra Bullock from <Gravity>, floating away alone in the space with a broken spaceship.

Luckily, I think I have just found my footing. I just had to float and float until I found my connection. The connection that encourages to be more courageous just by being there. The strangers who can see me right away.

In the latest edition of TwoRoom magazine, they asked the kids in twelve different cities the definition of happiness. One eight-year-old boy from Rome responded. “Happiness is helping each other. If we laugh together, it means we helped each other laughing.” I realize that’s the connection we all long for. No matter how different we are, how little time we share, if we can just understand each other, then we help each other. Then we are no longer strangers.

Thanks for reading! let’s stay in touch — follow me on Instagram @ juwon.kt

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A Foreign Girl in San Francisco | UX Design Researcher & English-Korean Translator

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Juwon Kang Taylor

Juwon Kang Taylor

A Foreign Girl in San Francisco | UX Design Researcher & English-Korean Translator

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