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Goeun Park: A simple ‘what if’ changes everything

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Often, I wonder what would have happened if I stayed. Or left. Or said what I wanted to say or said what I should have said or said nothing.

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These “what if” situations stay with me longer than they probably should. As a compulsive daydreamer, hypothetical situations are quite literally food for thought. The act of closing my eyes and imagining possible scenarios is my one of my favorite (and most fruitless) pastimes.

Personally, it’s relaxing and rejuvenating to find a quiet corner and just mindlessly wonder. What would have happened if the Mayflower sunk? What if the Titanic didn’t? What if John Wilkes Booth had exceptionally horrible aim? What if art school didn’t reject Hitler? What if? I could fill pages and pages with these questions.

See, in physics and philosophy, there’s a concept called multiverse. Essentially, there would be an alternate universe for every possible decision we could have ever made. A parallel universe to every “what if.”

I must have been around 9 when it first struck to me how I would have been a completely different person if my family never came the States all those years ago. Of course, I’d still be me. I’d still have three moles on my right hand and a deformed toe and be everything that makes up me.

Yet, I wouldn’t me. In reality, merely 14 hours and a little over 6,000 miles separate South Korea and Minnesota. In my mind, they may as well be two different universes. Two different me’s.

Here in the United States, I’ve been defined by my difference in skin color, first language and preference of eating utensils. That sounds dramatic, I know.  But being a minority dealt a large hand in who I am and how I came to identify myself.

Since I was 9, I’ve periodically pondered an alternate universe where I grew up in Korea. There, I wouldn’t have spent so much time being uncomfortable in my own skin. I wouldn’t have been daunted by my accent and I would have a much cooler nickname than “The Asian.”

In an alternate universe, my name would be pronounced thicker and smoother, like it was supposed to. It would mean ‘good’ and ‘fair’ instead of simply being an odd assortment of letters that made silly puns and rhymes.

In an alternate universe, all my friends would have never met me. I would speak broken English rather than broken Korean. I would not stick out like a game of “Which One of These Things Don’t Belong?” on Sesame Street.

In an alternate universe, I wouldn’t be me. I would never have met my best friends and closest confidants. I wouldn’t have even half the opportunities that came with living in the world’s most affluent country. I wouldn’t be as patient and grateful.

I think everyone has several of these crucial, life-and-universe-changing events and go back on those moments. I certainly do. But today, I’ll try not to overthink the roads not taken. Today, I’ll focus on the world I’m in because in the end, this is the best possible of all my worlds.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and is attending college in California this fall.

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