I had a very relaxing Thanksgiving that involved lots of eating and movie-watching . . . as Thanksgiving should be. I’m currently procrastinating on completing a course paper for my Race & Public Policy class . . . and I’ve got to meet my group in two hours to go over our final presentation!!
That said, I must blog about something I’ve been mulling over the past two weeks or so. I knew that processing last year’s events would pop up this year at times when I wasn’t looking for it . . . .
I recently met a Korean adoptee who is just beginning to explore his identity as not only a person of color, but as a person adopted from Korea. For those of you not adopted, this may sound strange, but many adoptees grow up with no knowledge or recognition of this part of our identities that is glaringly obvious to the rest of the world. Anyway, as someone who also once thought of Korea as only a vague, foreign land relegated to dusty textbooks and embarassing otherness, I felt empathetic towards D., and I was only too happy to tell him about my experiences last year. I could tell that he’s curious but still feeling cautious about everything. He said that he wants to visit Korea someday and conduct a birth family search, but it will probably be a few years from now.
He asked me for some advice on finding adoption-related resources. I didn’t want to overwhelm him, since I know from my own experience that everybody comes to terms with these things at their own pace. So I sent him an e-mail with some links to a few books and websites that I think he might find helpful. He was appreciative, and it seemed as though this little interaction was just another happy diversion from my grad school grind.
However, I found myself thinking about my own foray into exploring my Korean adoptee-ness. I do firmly believe that everyone has their own pace, their own trajectory of development in how we deal with being adopted. No one should be forced to face the ghosts of their past before they’re ready. I know that I’m glad with how my life has turned out, with the discoveries I’ve made. And yet . . . .
Although I like to say I have no regrets, I think it’s possible to be happy with your life but still acknowledge a sense of loss and be sad at times for that.
I met a Korean adoptee when I was 21 and a senior at Creighton . . . but I avoided him (D.M.) like the plague. I didn’t start talking to him as a friend until January of 2001, which is also the same month I met B., my first Korean (born & raised) friend. She took me to eat Korean food for my first time, D.M. told me about Holt Camp, and the rest is history.
January 2001 is also the same month that my Korean mother died from cancer.
I visited Korea with B.L. (we stayed with B.) during the summer of 2001, but didn’t do anything with a birth family search. And as you all know, I didn’t meet my sisters and my family until January 2005, four years after beginning this whole journey.
It’s a very strange and indescribable experience to see your mother’s face for the first time in a photograph and to know that you’ll never know her beyond that–static, two-dimensional, silent.
I know several Korean adoptees whose mothers have passed away from cancer . . . Jane Jeong Trenka provides a beautiful re-telling of caring for her ailing mother in her book, Language of Blood. I read this after I met my sisters, and I realized what a harrowing experience it must’ve been to re-discover your mother and lose her a second time to cancer.
And still, if I could turn back the clock and somehow be able to meet my mother one day before she died, to be able to hold her hand and see her in person, face-to-face–I would do it in a second.
I wonder–if I had had more support in my younger years, if I had had access to the network and the community that exists now–might I have gone to Korea earlier? Maybe I would’ve gone in 2000? In 1999? What if, what if . . . . it’s such a frustrating game we play with ourselves. I can’t help but imagine possibilities of the past & future, although I try to focus on the present. I accept how my life has turned out, and I’m genuinely happy, for it’s made me who I am today, as cheesy as that sounds. But I passionately believe that international adoption must be entered into with great care, and adoptees must be given so much more support and resources than was given to adoptees of my generation.
And so, to D.–the guy I met a few weeks ago–I want to say so many conflicting things (although I’m going to let him explore on his own for awhile). I hope that he is able to go on this journey at his own pace, knowing that there is support if he needs it. But I also want him to know that the longer he waits, the higher the chance that he might meet his mother in a photograph, too.