Adoptees Unite! And Then Go Your Separate Ways…
I screwed up today. Well, maybe “screwed up” is the wrong choice of words; I used the internet in a way that we have agreed not to…
I was googling keywords to see if I could find my blog on the front page of any searches (which is probably lame, but I don’t know what’s cool anymore…) and stumbled upon a girl’s blog who had done a review of some Fynale Honoo circle lenses.
Like me, she was born in Korea, but raised abroad (she in Denmark, myself in the US). Recently, she went back to Korea, and referred to her trip as, “the most important thing that had ever happened in [her] life.” Curious how a Korean vacation could be of such monumental significance, I clicked on an article titled, “And I Look Just Like My Mother,” and began to read it aloud (because if I’m reading something, everyone has to hear it!). A few sentences in, my voice started to break.
Now, I am not a fan of crying. When I do cry, it’s Native-American-witnessing-a-duck-get-covered-in-hot-garbage style; it’s pretty boring. I find crying to be emasculating, something to which I’m sure fellow tomboys can relate. The point is that it’s difficult to move me emotionally. Okay, back to the story:
It was a story about meeting her biological mother, something I can relate to, having also been adopted. As she described waiting in the room for her mother to arrive, I felt an exquisitely visceral empathy – a nervous anticipation akin to an iffy AIDS test (is that comparison as insensitive as it sounds?). And when her mother entered the room and began to cry, so did I. It was emotionally consuming in a way that I’ve never been affected before, least of all by thoughts about my birth parents. But, all of a sudden, it dawned on me that my existence might emotionally affect someone I don’t know and may never know.
I’ve spent the rest of the day wondering what it would be like to meet my biological mother for the first time – to get a glimpse at my future-self in some twenty-odd years and to speak to a woman who had sporadically thought about me these past 25 years, as I had her. I wondered what I might say to her and if I might lie when she asked whether or not I’d had a happy childhood. Probably, but only because it’s a misleading truth. My past is what has made me capable of appreciating how happy I am now, and if there were someone out there feeling guilty or remorseful for giving me the life they did, it would hurt me – and not just my feelings, but my ego (sense of self), as well.
My life is exactly what I want it to be, something that would have been impossible had I been raised in Korea. I’m not saying that Korea is a terrible place, or that my biological parents are terrible people, but I would choose this life over any other, every day of the week. Sometimes, it’s actually terrifying to think that my life was such a crapshoot, but then again, I guess everyone’s is… Let’s not get into semantics; the point is, we should all be more thankful for the statistical anomalies that make our lives what they are, because without them, we literally would not exist (existentially speaking). To not exist, well, that would be death. Why would anyone want me dead?! (You excluded, Sir.)
AND, THAT’S what I would tell my birth mother.
But, alas! this is folly, as my adoption was, to the best of my knowledge, completely closed. The only story I’ve ever heard about my biological parents, which could have been a complete fabrication, was from my oldest sister, and it goes like this:
My mother was a middle-class college student. My father was an upper-class college student. My mother got pregnant, and my father’s mother was none-too-happy about this.
Some months later, I was born in the Gangnam district of Seoul (I’d never heard anyone mention it before the song, either), and my grandmother took me to the Social Welfare Society in Seoul. Because I would have been some sort of disgrace to the family, and I guess because she didn’t want any loose ends (smart woman 0_-), she insisted that I only be adopted to someone out of the country.
After a series of setbacks (adoption money being stolen/1988 Olympics bringing scrutiny on Korea’s international adoption policies), I was adopted to a military family from Alabama. My name was changed from Kwak, Jee-Young to Christy Jee-Young, and I began my life as a Southern belle after a brief stint in Wisconsin. The only keepsake I have from the orphanage (is this not the accepted term anymore?) is the
owner’s manual guide to Korean culture that came with me.
While I may very well never meet my biological parents/family, I take some pride in being a foundling; it’s very Beowulf. It must be a rare experience for someone to live with no preconceived notions about their “genetic” potential – no knowledge of their biological parents’ shortcomings or successes. It’s freeing, and in some ways, I think it’s a more accurate model of reality. We are more than our genetic destiny, and no amount of time spent with relatives (blood or otherwise) will divine our lives for us.
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