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Growing up as a lefty, you soon realize the many disadvantages of living in a right-hand oriented world. A dull pain rubs against your hand when you try to use scissors. You painstakingly learn how to jerk around a keyboard mouse with your right hand. You find yourself surreptitiously moving the eating utensils from the right side to the left side at restaurants.
For me, however, the most difficult aspect of being left-handed was dealing with the Korean cultural perception that lefties are inferior. During my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, as Korea suffered through years of poverty and war, individuals had to strive towards a certain mold not only for success but also for survival. Due to traditional superstitions, the ideal person was right-handed. In fact, the Korean word for “right” equates to “morally correct.” Whenever a left-handed child was born, the parents would do all they could to “fix” the child. As a result, I lived day by day under the watchful eyes of my parents. Without even realizing, my left hand would pick up the pencil, but with a quick harsh slap on the wrist from my mother or father, the pencil would swiftly jump over to my right.
Growing up, I often questioned my social place. Do I remain an outlier of societal norms (a lefty), or do I change myself to fit in with the “correct” people (righties), that my culture suggests is superior? Can I become a “popular” or even a mediocre guy by straying outside the societal norms? I didn’t know the answer to my questions, and only through experience did I finally find that I was happiest in a sweet middle ground. By not taking a definitive stance in most situations, I realized that I could perceive both sides and this came most helpful in arguments between friends. Throughout my middle and high school life, I acted as the mediator, resolving disputes safely from my shield of non-partiality. I was neither strictly original nor strictly conformist, but right in the middle where I could experience both sides of the exchange without detrimental effects.
In retrospect, I am grateful that my parents enforced such a stringent modification policy in our house. Most people are strictly “one-handed,” a choice which narrows their abilities in many different areas. Yet, because I was forced to alter the way I wrote, I was opened to a variety of opportunities. For example, one of the perks I enjoy now is that I can crunch numbers into a calculator with my left hand, and at the same time, write down the answers with my right. It is amusing to see my classmates having to switch back and forth from calculator to pencil, unable to effectively use both hands to handle the situation. Like the benefits of ambidexterity, knowing both sides of an issue is beneficial. Studies show that most people are becoming less oriented towards a single political stance, and perhaps because they are starting to see the benefits of neutrality.
By balancing right in the middle, I see the world from a different perspective – one which allows me to discuss different issues objectively without getting entangled in the “conservative or liberal, Democratic or Republican” debate. Obviously, the fact that I can write with both hands does not make me a more-rounded person. It is simply a small door that has led me to a middle-of-the-road lifestyle. Standing here, I can clearly examine the countless possibilities that have stemmed from my small modification.
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