Mixed Meal for a Mixed-up World
It’s still dark out. I feel myself coming out of a slumber, by a pull that is often stronger than my first brain—my stomach. As I slowly squint my blurry eyes to look at my phone, I barely make out that it’s 3 a.m. If it’s 3 a.m. here, that means it’s dinnertime on the other side of the world, in my motherland of beautiful Korea. I lay in bed, debating whether I should give up all hope of sleep. My second brain grumbles its opinion.
I pretend not to hear, as I close my eyes. My stomach has other plans. An image pops in my head. I can feel the warm heat of a stranger’s shoulder next to me. We sit, side by side, in a busy Gwangjang market stall in Seoul. In front of me, I can imagine a giant bowl of one my favorite dishes called bibimbap. If you grew up in Korea, it’s a dish you know well. But, I didn’t really grow up in Korea, and yet I am very much Korean. I was born in Korea and came to the United States like many other Koreans as an adoptee. Unlike many other adoptees, however, I was adopted as an older child at the age of seven. This means I came along with an invisible custom luggage set of memories. Many of the details have fallen to the wayside, as my memory seems to be catching up with my age, but my taste buds have not forgotten. Now, I really am hungry, so I move quietly out of bed so as to not wake up my husband, and I go sneak a bite of kimchi from the fridge.
Ever since I came back from my first trip home to Korea (October 2019), I live in two time zones, or at least often my stomach does. And, just like my stomach, my heart is as hungry for it, too. The colors, the smells, the essence of Korea; it lies in its food, or at least it does for me. It magically connects me to my ancestors and to my biological family, who I recently became reconnected with in March. It connects me through space and time to my umma, my Korean mother. She was a highly-regarded cook and owner of a restaurant. Perhaps that’s why I chose the name Bibimbap (Mixed Meal) for my handcraft shop.
Bibimbap translates to mixed rice, but for me it’s more than just a dish. It is a mixed meal that feeds far more than just my physical appetite. It also describes how I see myself—as a bit a mixed meal between my American and Korean influences. I was inspired to draw and paint from an early age. When I discovered silk painting, it spoke to me, in the very same way as a steaming heart-filled bowl of my beloved dish.
Silk painting paved the road for many other creative mediums later in my life. I have always been creating something out of scraps and materials I have around me. If there was one positive word I can use to describe myself, “resourceful” comes to mind, but only when my creativity and heart drives it. It’s always been a fickle relationship between creation and motivation.
Fast forward to my college days and I received my Bachelors in Industrial Arts, thinking it would be my gateway to being a paid artist—two words that admittedly seem often in opposition. I became a successful package designer for a high-end makeup company based out of San Francisco. Yet, despite having my dream job. I was severely depressed and unhappy. Ultimately, I left the graphics world when I realized all my creative hard work became beautiful trash to add to the landfills. I have slowly found my creative fire again by embracing myself as a fine artist and to create what is true to me.
Now, I do my best to create with consciousness. Currently, I’m offering wire-sculpted jewelry inspired by the plants and flowers that I remember from my younger days in Korea. I’m digging deep into the recesses of my memories. By offering a little of my own mixed-up meal for the heart and soul, my wish, is that it brings moments of unexpected joy, peace, or happiness in this crazy mixed-up world for others.
Kim Mee Seon was born in South Korea, adopted, and grew up in California, USA. She is an artist and owner of Bibimbap (Mixed Meal) online shop. She is also an activist and writer of the Tiny Lions Big World blog. As an artist, she works in multiple mediums but specializes in silk painting and wire jewelry. As an adoptee, she is committed to being an activist and advocate for other adoptees as well as children still in the system. Mee Seon is also a homeschooling mother to two awesome little people who remind her to laugh everyday.