a coincidental event that changed my speaking manner

June 03 2013

There was a girl in my junior high who had very pale skin. At the girl's school located in Seoul in the mid 1990s, when 'lighter' skin tone was considered very trendy nationwide, her flawless light skin was highly praised as an element of beauty. Her facial tone was actually so pale that I once even heard some girls call hers 'leukemic-pale skin'. Obviously it sounded like an inappropriate description, but for carefree young teenage girls, it seemed to be just another way of expressing their jealousy of not having that lightness.

One summer, I had a chance to go to summer camp with her as a group. On our second night, she fainted out shortly. She insisted on staying and finishing the 3-day camp with the rest of us. After she came back, she visited a hospital to get a check-up and was diagnosed with leukemia. She passed away after six months.

Her pale skin was a manifestation of the disease, and calling it 'leukemic' without knowing the underlying disease must have been a coincidence. I barely knew her personally. I have no idea what type of leukemia it was. But somehow, the phrase 'leukemic pale skin' stuck in my brain: Since then, I try to watch my mouth in a certain manner; I try not to use words that contain inappropriate meaning if there's any alternative option. I do not particularly believe that positive thinking brings good luck. But I tend not to use unnecessarily inappropriate words either.

Let's be nicer to each other. Above all, why not?

Hiye Shin
Brooklyn, NY

p.s. Congrats NYU ITP 2013 on our graduation. You made me see the world from a little more wider window than two years before. Thank all of you for having this amazing lifetime journey with me.

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