When I look at my two cats, Toro and Nero, I am reminded that pets reflect the personality of their owners. My cats and I have lots of things in common, and I was also born in the year of the tiger, which makes me a little more than kin to the feline family.
My cats and I are creatures of habit, not readily adept at familiarizing ourselves with changes in the environment. We like the comfort of tranquility, the solace of romantic solitude, and the occasional entertainment of visual and auditory excitement, such as watching movies and listening to music. We are so used to routine activities at home that an iota of deviation feels like the earth moving under our feet. But that doesn’t mean we are peevish curmudgeons sulking and skulking in the background of joy and laughter. We do things on our own, keeping things to ourselves, yet we need each other when we are alone. For example, when I feel down and out, my cats come next to me, especially in bed, and console me with their soft furry, puffy cheeks against mine with purring, which also puts me into a sound slumber soon. It’s incredible to realize that my cats know how I feel.
They say when you love someone, you become one. Or am I already onne?
Sometimes I wonder what if I had a different middle name. Would I have been living a different life – for brighter and better? Nominative determinism is not entirely superstitious because your name gives you an identity, an existence. My middle name is Joori, the first name used in Korea, while my first name Stephanie is my baptized Christian name, used in the church community.
Korean is a unique phonetic language of the Ural-Altaic linguistic family, which includes Japanese, Finnish, Hungarian, and Turkish. “Joo” means red, and “ri” means beneficial. My paternal grandmother named me after the family tradition of using the same first letter of the name according to the gender of the progeny. For instance, my cousin’s name, the daughter of my father’s elder brother, was “Joohyun,” meaning red wisdom. Then the grandmother was then in a cult of an angel called “Chulrikyo,” from which the word “ri” originated. Hence my name is a work of a family tradition and angelic cult.
My mother has recently revealed that I had no name for a year after the birth for reasons unknown. During the unnamed time, I was called “the baby.” A fortuneteller once told me that I should change my Korean name because it would bring no happiness to my life. Whether or not it is true, I don’t want to dwell on it because, anyway, I am not in Korea, where the spirits of the land may not/will not exert their supernatural concoction to frustrate my life to the extent possible.
Truthfully, in every mistake I am making and have been making and will make, I am yet to learn. Perhaps, such a cycle of faux-pas will continue until I meet a psychopomp on my final day on earth. Yet, I move on and march forward to whatever my destiny is. I will most likely be making the same mistakes over and over, falling again and again. Yet the resilient spirit is indomitable, and even fate cannot destroy it unless I voluntarily abandon it to the force of darkness. And I think it is this spirit of resistance against a series of failures that strengthens my will to stand on my feet even after the losses, which makes all my attempts all the more sublime in triumph over despair like Santiago uttering, “Man can be destroyed, but cannot be conquered,” in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.
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