Archive for the ‘Adoption Philosophy’ Category

I am the line

25 Jun

I stand on a line, I can see my feet walking on a tight rope. To either side I see a different world. This line I want to break at my feet, it blurs, it bends, but there is nothing I can do to break it. I resent the line, I hate it, but again I love this line, this line becomes me even if it cries at me. The worlds at either side contain different versions of who I am. I can see them. If I trip and I fall I am not the line. I forget the line.

On one side I am the filial daughter who died when I was adopted. She half exists as a ghost of my former self. The thing is that I am that ghost, and I can claim her, but people never will see her as her. I can wear her name, her grown face, but people will say that I am not her. And perhaps I am not. She who would have been an actress, not a writer. She who would have spoken fluent Korean in a dialect that some Koreans disrespect anyway. She who would have been majority and not known what real love looks like because she never knew the line.

This version of me could blend in perfectly, she could know all the cues, be struggling with English and be married with kids, wondering on what treasures of America. She could have been popular in school because she hits all the traditional parts. And she might have ended up popular with friends. But I’m not her. I can never be her because she died.

The other side I am a fake. I’m taking the place of someone that could have been. Te daughter that my mom wished for. The white daughter who was Jewish. The one that was a mirror. I want to be her, but she is a ghost of someone who never existed in the first place.

Maybe she would have been more science minded… not stunted with math, have no interest in art, become a graduate at an Ivy League school like my adoptive parents did. Maybe she would have looked like them and had the same kind of health issues. She would speak fluent English, in the particular way that my mom taught me English. She could have been a scientist. She could have fulfilled my mom’s dreams as she repeated her behavior on that daughter too. Because she never existed, I can’t become her. I am the fake version of her.

I am the line. I am not the line. I don’t belong in either world. Free from it all, free from this room where people point and label and say what I am and what I am not, I find myself.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy


You Should Be Grateful

23 Jan

I adopted you because you were pretty and from a foreign land. I didn’t care which. The country was cheap. You were of the best breed I could find. I rescued you from the filth and decay of this land, festered with communism. I did you a favor. You should be grateful to me. I put a roof over your head when your birth parents could not. I held you in my arms and gave you warmth and clothes. It was because I had eternal love for you, that I know I can heal all your hurts. A parent does not need anything else.

Because the place you were adopted into was better than the place you were. All people should do as I did and rescue more of your kind from these countries of backward politics and despair. You were cheap and on the bargain shelf–you came as quickly as I signed the papers. Frankly, I don’t care about the country or parents that you came from. You know deep in your heart, you owe me a deep debt of gratitude you can never repay me. You can never repay me even after I die. You will tend my grave and cry because you should be that grateful.

And those who gave you up to me–clearly they were less fortunate. The life I will give you is great, and will be no match to the one they would have given you if they had the money. But they abandoned you anyway. Why do you think of your gratitude for them, when it is me that has done all of these things for you? For you will be properly educated–devoid of anything of that country before you once lived in. If you do not look me in the eyes, you must truly have a mental disorder–how can you not? If you speak a language I don’t understand–it’s your fault and the fault of your country, not mine. For they are beneath your new country.

I did this for the sake of the children, the children I was led to see by the great organization you should be thankful to, who placed you, that despondent child into my arms. You filled with a blood not of my own, a culture that your parents who abandoned you infected you with. What language have you learned before? Forget it. What skin color do you possess? I do not see it. It is you, my child, my rescued child that must forget all those past things for I know deep inside they will only bring you pain. For what I think and know are also what you think and know.

It is a favor I give to you, that you live in my place, with my love, with me. And then the world will say, what a wondrous person I am.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy



23 Jan

Jane Jeong Trenka said in her book Language of Blood that an Adoptee has ghosts. I liked this concept. The idea that the person you were when you were adopted died and the person you ultimately replaced also died. I think in a lot of ways these ghosts really haunt adoptees.

Because thinking of ourselves as ghosts who cannot be the child that died or be the child that never existed has a ring of truth to it. These ghosts are the expectations of the parents and society into who the person should be but never can be.

For me, I see it as people often see the ghost before they see me.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy


Adoption Ghosts

23 Jan

I saw my mom crying in the living room. There was a video playing with a woman’s uterus on it. It was explaining an abnormality that was genetically passed and caused by infertility. Mainly it talked about the pain it caused. It was painful to have because anything to do with the uterus caused pain–menses and childbirth. It wasn’t a video on the disease as much it was a video about the feelings these women had towards it. Their sadness and tearfulness over what had robbed them of what made them women.

Despite this it was information that first hit me and made me curious. I sat down in the door hallway and watched it with her. I asked her questions that I now know I shouldn’t have. She explained as she always did. She talked about the facts. I wondered if there was guilt. I only connected the pieces later and realized this was what my mom had.

She said during my questions that she really wanted to give birth to a baby. She was still fantasizing over it. This startled me. I was much older by then and hadn’t thought in those terms.

At the same time those events seemed to never happen. The video was filed in the video cabinet somewhere near her exercise videos and the Disney films that my paternal grandmother had sent.

She continued to complain about her period and how painful it was. I would think and realize it had to do with that video tape. She rejoiced when her periods stopped and when she went through menopause. She told her sister in NY that it was bad, but worth it. She talked to me about her estrogen injections warning me about the needles. But we never discussed the tape again.

In the meantime I took some of what she said. My subconscious played with it in forms of dreams. I was walking towards my parents in the living room. Their backs are turned towards me and then I see it. A baby boy–unnamed. The dream doesn’t offer how the baby got there, but it does tell me that this is their genetic child. I can feel joy and the knot of mixed feelings which include horror and the fear of replacement. Why did they need me anymore? This dream played again and again. I couldn’t reason with it.

But this was my encounter with my other ghost. This was the person I replaced when I was adopted into this family. I had killed them. I am a replacement for a child that was never born.

Because we never spoke of it again, this memory of my mom watching the video feels unreal. Perhaps I’m pushing it back like the little girl I was who pushed back her own memories. Coming face to face with this other self is never pleasant. They haunt me in revenge. They say perhaps I am not Jewish, because they would have been. They talk about things they would have been that I never can be. And sometimes I think that voice is right.

However, My brother never saw the tape. So I never know if he has the same ghost whispers too.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, Childhood



05 Feb

For me, I always had mixed feelings. I would feel deep love for Eomma and Appa, but at the same time I couldn’t quite bring myself to entirely forgive them. It took a long time to do. On the surface I’d forgiven them, but some part of the child me that was still Korean, that remembered and functioned in Korean culture couldn’t forgive them for what happened. She, too, forgave on the surface and loved, but she still felt hurt even if she pushed it back into her mind in respect for her elders.

I am the type of person to forgive many times, but if I am taken advantage of then I do not forgive easily. But the matter of forgiving became a matter of closure. I read many stories on adoption. And the people who succeeded in finding that balance between their various identities were ones who forgave their parents. Meeting them doesn’t close those wounds and sometimes people even find backlash.

Therefore, I knew I had to forgive them if I wanted to function and find other reasons why I wanted to meet them.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, Parents


“Rescuing” Children

05 Feb

I’ve read my own adoption papers many times–not just the papers the orphanage gave, but the papers that my parents have of their evaluation. I know it in detail, have read on the adoption process and tried my best to educate myself beyond that of the adoptee, but of adoption too. I know that some adoptees do and others don’t. But looking and facing adoption, the process, was also a way of looking at myself.

My brother’s and my papers stamp us with a serial number, a guardian and talk about why we were relinquished by appa, time frames, and all of the things we did. Such as eating habits, how capable we were of going to the bathroom, what we wanted most, our personalities, and ironically how well we functioned as Koreans in a Korean society. The serial number I think stands out the most. That case number is the same number I’ve seen on holocaust victims’ wrists.

The papers talk about how miserable we were. In the photo of myself I look so brave holding my younger brother’s hand. I would not cry. I will put on a brave face. I will be there for him. He’s the only lifeline I have left. When he’s not there I look so lost and miserable. But he’s the only thing I have and in that moment my mask is gone.

My brother was featured in a calendar too, about to cry–though this is contradictory to what the papers say. They say I protected him. I always cried. I was the one that held things in. I took care of him. I took care of him–not because no one else could, but it was my duty as an older sister. He was my mask.

The papers from my parents emphasize how happy the children will be to live in this luxury. Tabulating cars, financial report, how many classes they took, dates, signatures, times, consent forms, psychological reports, how the psychological reports went. The three cars really stuck out to me. Two people, three cars. My mom said they sold the third car before we arrived. These papers say to me that the case workers were looking for a place of luxury with stable parents–in another words a paradise of sorts. The numbers don’t stick out, just how long it took. My mom talked of the classes, but I know from that look on her face that they were not enough. Perhaps they weren’t truthful. She says they taught basics of Korean culture and some basic language skills. “Wash your hands.”

We were being rescued the papers say. We were miserable weren’t we?

On Jane Jeong Trenka’s blog she posted two videos. The advertisement from Holt which doesn’t look much different from sponsor a child and one from a passing student that filmed what he could. They are so starkly contrasting that I do wonder which is truth. How many of these children get to speak?

I often thought that I was being rescued, because that’s what reading all of that cold information without input from the child will do. The papers talk about me, around me and have words from Appa. However I recently realized that they are about me, but not from me. I wonder what that girl would say if she could say anything. Sometimes I can’t even remember enough to guess.

I don’t think I am ungrateful for being adopted. I was given something that not all the words in the world can describe. But I think the reason people adopt is fundamentally deeper than rescuing a child. There is something that moves them. Even if the initial reason is to “rescue” them there is something that they don’t have in words that they want to do for the child they are adopting–it doesn’t matter if it’s international or not. Adoptees also adopt as well, and I doubt they have such notions that they are rescuing a child from a cruel world and intentions.

But that reason has to be individual, even if it’s spoon fed. I think the reason comes down to the same reason. Why did they want to become a parent at all? Perhaps the reason is there.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy


Adoption Communication

19 Feb

I use the Internet a lot. It was my only source of sanity when I was in college–that and anime. It was the only way I could hang onto my identity as an Asian in a lot of ways.

I began to fall into Newsgroups. In some way I wanted to know what people thought of adoption. But the problem was that all I could see was Adoptees angry and Adoptive parents not in touch with adoptees at all.

This frustrated me. Adoptees just talked about their stories of how they were adopted, but not their every day experiences with being an adoptee. They wouldn’t face that they were teased or talkabout the million other issues that come with adoption. They said they were teased and talked in segments about how they were teased, but they didn’t get into how they felt. What they wrote was for other adoptees, not adoptive parents. They talked about the shock of going back to Korea and meeting their birth parents, but then the stories always told about how they broke it off with their adoptive parents or their birth parents without all of the emotion and roller coaster in between. This disconnect left me feeling like I really didn’t belong to this community. Inside of me, I had love for both set of parents. In different ways.

Adoptive parents in the same way didn’t sem to want to face the pain of adoption. I once talked to an adoptive mother about teasing and she acted like her son was ambivalent and it really didn’t matter that he got teased–that a thick skin would help.

The lawyers that posted in the group about how you could get children cheap even if you’re from a low income family resulted in me mailing him repeatedly. He agreed and then posted the same ad. This made me feel really disconnected here as well. I had gone to the trouble of telling him why it was offensive and he ignored me.

I lost faith for a long, long time that I even belonged to this thing called adoption. I had a need to express what I was feeling and the balance I was trying to strike so hard inside of myself. But there were all these holes in the community which didn’t give me hope.

The lack of communication between adoptive parents and adoptees I found scary. What was scarier was that there were no birth parents speaking out at all at the time. This is scary. How are we supposed to improve the adoptions that are happening now if there is no communication? Even if you hate adoption for everything it has done to you, I think we have a responsibility to talk to each other and prevent the hurt to the next generation at the same time as improving practices overall.

And this exact lack of responsibility in the adoption community made my heart ache.

So I began to take this responsibility over years. I began to do it to face my own adoption hurt and also to help adoptive parents understand their children. It took years of practice to get good at it and explain things from my point of view without losing the adoptive parent.

I also every few months search for the birth parent memoir I have always wanted to see. What it is like for a birth parent after the surrender. Not before. A memoir of the full thoughts and pain of the event. It’s not that I would relish in that pain, but I think knowing that there is a voice for birth parents too, helps out. It will help us as a community to unite our voice just that little bit more and accept more points of view.

I can’t say I moved the world, like Jane Jeong Trenka. I could only effect one person at a time, but somehow, I think that is enough. I am not here to change minds. I am here to put my voice out there and answer questions from one adoptees’ point of view.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, Adoption Politics


Hopi in a Tewa World

19 Feb

There was the story of the Hopi and the Tewa where Hopi are cursed to never learn the language. They will marry each other, but no Hopi will speak Tewa. The Tewa every time the Hopi child speaks Tewa tells them that they are wrong. The child never learns Tewa because they constantly think speaking Tewa the way they do is wrong. No matter what they do they can’t be Tewa and become Hopi. They are pushed toward being Hopi and learning Hopi ways.

Appa, my mom, my dad, all recognize me for who I am in some part. They know pieces of my identity like a broken jigsaw puzzle that I don’t have all the pieces to. I don’t know if I ever will be able to complete the puzzle. They often affirm my identity, my memories and emotions. I know I have some pieces in that stack of unfitted pieces that I just haven’t found yet. I feel content, the dharma of it washing over me as I put it together.

But outside of this family that I hold dear, everyone else is Tewa. They treat me as Hopi.

“You are not Korean,” that glare seems to tell me.

“We don’t recognize you as Jewish because you look Asian,” their actions tell me.

“You have to have initiation to be Jewish.”

They hide their shock to find that both my parents are white. Sometimes it doesn’t sink in for them until they see the picture and don’t even see my muted pride to have parents like them.

“I am trying to understand your culture,” a Jew once said to me, not knowing what they were saying.

Pity, sadness regret and telling me that I am not Korean, Jewish, American, adopted enough. I feel the sting of these much more than anyone else. I am constantly rejected by the cultures that claim me–that I feel it’s my right to be a part of.

I feel no anger over this. I should, I could, and I know there are people out there that tell me I must. But I have a unique view of the world. I am not rooted to my cultures. I am released from the constant worry if I am Korean enough, if I am Jewish enough. Even if the magnet pulls me back and I overcompensate, I often break free. There are things about me that are Korean, Jewish, American, adopted, from an interracial family, but escaping those, I see strength, not fear.

Unrooted from cultures I am rarely shocked by culture shock. I have enough culture shock of different kinds that even I still don’t recognize. I discovered that my culture shock was as long as thirteen years long. There are still things I experience as culture shock and then when I think I’ve settled I am shocked back into my Korean culture, scolding myself for not realizing the socialization that my parents gave is *wrong* for Korean culture. I find things I do are still Korean and have to remind myself that’s not American. I spend time in constant culture shock.

Tell me anything. People eat their dead. People drive on the opposite side of the road. Not everyone uses roman letters. Houses don’t always face the road. There are slaves sponsored and owned by American companies. (The United Fruit Company in Guatemala toppled the democratically elected president with the help of the US so they could keep shares. They closed in 2000, however later became Chiquita. Link is at the end.)

I cease to be surprised. I cease to say elew. I am Hopi in a Tewa world.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, General Adoption


I am not just…

19 Feb

I eat Chinese food while watching Japanese dramas. Sitting in my American mess sitting like an American while eating at my computer. Around me are English books and video tapes. Some of them are Japanese, some of them are writing books, some of them are design books, some are games, and some are cookbooks. I have projects scattered around me. A book I’m writing here, a book I’m editing there, drawings, embroidery, painting, languages, dictionaries, calligraphy brushes, calligraphy pens, A Bible–non King James Version even though I’m Jewish. Because it’s straight translated and I’m reading it like a novel. (A Super-raunchy novel.) Around me are different cultures, talents, creativity, and though this space is messy, it’s reflective of me in a lot of ways. I always have sooo much going on that people (outside of my own parents) say I work too hard that I never have a break. I research in my off time, draw, write, but I rarely ever *just* watch TV or *just* do one particular thing. When I draw, I listen to books, when I eat, I am absorbing culture and language through dramas. I’m always working on my brain somehow in some fashion. To everyone this seems like a scattered mess of unimportance. What is that stack of paper…? To me, that’s a novel waiting to be born. To that person, it’s a pile of scrap that needs to be thrown out.

I know this chaos. I become this chaos. I order this chaos and the chaos orders me.But as soon as I step out the front door, I will have labels placed on me. I am no longer a person living in a creative space with writer and creative sttached to me as I attach it to myself.

If I talk to an Adoptive parent, I become Adoptee. When I enter a classroom, I am student. When I sit next to a racist white male, I become to him, “Submissive Asian.” If I walk faster in front of an African American male because I simply don’t want to talk to him, I become “slow.” If I talk to my Mom. I become “Jewish daughter who is not adopted.” If I talk to my Aunt, I become Niece. If I talk to my grandmother, I become “adopted granddaughter.” All those labels are put on me as soon as I walk out into the world and have contact with it. But it becomes so tiring. The Code Switching is difficult and it feels like I’m fighting constantly with the world to see me as I see myself. Right now as you view this, you think I am adoptee. I am Korean. I am Korean American. But to me, I’m not. I’m human first. I’m Korean, adoptee, Jewish, daughter, niece, Korean American, International adoptee, and whatever else you want to label me, second. I am always human first. Does that intimidate you? I claim my humanity first? I am homo sapiens sapiens descended from a fine line of Homo sapiens sapiens. My materials, my dust, my atoms came from the center of this universe, just like you. Genetically, I only different from you by a maximum of 200,00 years. Considering the Billions of years of the universe and planet, you and I aren’t that different. Yet, you want to define me by one label, one set of rules, but to me, I am all of those labels and more. I am human, living, breathing in this space and I see you as human first too. Thinking, breathing with the same capacity for intelligence that I have, whether that be left or right-brained. This is the gift international adoption has given me and I wish you could see it too… but I’m so tired by being backed into labels I can’t live up to. I’m tired of being stereotyped, by people not seeing me as the creative force I think of myself, almost breathing it daily like it was oxygen, but as these impossible labels that have nothing to do with my centered self. Why can’t it be that when I view you, and I take you for human, though I may not like you I think of your humanity first, who you are in the every day. How you wake up, go to sleep, how you talk, move, act, move through space, how you view yourself, instead of “Mexican” only or “Black” only. You are all those things, shouldn’t we learn to reserve that judgment and stop the useless labeling? Because right now I’m tired of moving through such spaces. I’m tired of meeting people at the door of my sanctuary and have them label me in the instant they look at me. I’m tired of being afraid, and having to fight for who I am as I see myself. And this is how you free yourself from prejudice.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, Adoptism


Definition of Maturity

19 Feb

I see maturity as having four parts. One, Know yourself, two is to face yourself, three is to Stand up for yourself and four is to take responsibility for yourself.

This is for United States culture. It is not universal.

However, this doesn’t mean they will accomplish anything out of life. To do this they need to know society, their current place in society, their life fulfilling goal, how to get to that goal, and be willing to fight for the place they want to go.

This might seem an easy part, but I can spot the majority of the population, including myself and say that we often lack these things or lack this kind of focus. Some of us learn to be financially responsible, even build up families and never face ourselves emotionally or stop to look around us.

I work hard on taking responsibility and standing up for myself. Sometimes I’m not sure when to take action. I will admit that I don’t take physical responsibility of my surroundings that well. I take intellectual and emotional responsibility, yes, but I sometimes ignore the physical world as a result.

Sometimes we all just go through life completely lost and never accomplish what we need.

However, I feel I was forced to work through being mature a lot faster because if I wanted to meet Appa, then I realized from a young age that I had to know who I was and accept that part of myself. This took a good twenty years of constant work once I realized this. I felt that I had to do it faster than anyone else, which I think, sometimes alienated me from my peers.

I learned that I sucked at standing up for myself after having two bad boyfriends. After I had trouble standing up for myself and not finding the right ways of doing it in culturally appropriate ways.

Maybe adoption has given me direction and purpose to my life in its own twisted way. because I knew I was lost because of adoption, I felt that I needed to fix it and fill the gap just like my loss of culture. I needed to grow up mature. I needed to fulfill the promises I made to myself as a little girl and I fought with everything I had to get there.

I don’t think being mature means being perfect. I think it means the child we ere without filters or understanding on how to deal with the world, the one that had goals all along, is given direction on how to approach and do that properly, face people and situations within the cultural standards of society. That doesn’t mean a one hundred percent mature person by my definitions would be always likable. They can conduct themselves in an appropriate manner and still manage to insult someone or something they don’t like.

I don’t think either that a person stops maturing. I think people mature as they learn and grow more and more like themselves. That is part of maturing… becoming more like the person you really are without fear, deep-seated anger, and defining yourself by those emotions. You stop maturing when you are dead, or by Buddhist, Hindu and other reincarnation belief systems until you reach or we all reach a place like Nirvana. Forever making mistakes and coming back to try to correct them.

I think through adoption and forcing that maturity on myself, even as I mess it up at times and get lost, I have learned to grow beyond what I thought were my borders and limitations and see a greater world that’s far more beautiful that I originally thought. Maturity may be filters to understand the world, but understanding the world more and more only makes it more beautiful to me than ugly and that’s a gift I’d be willing to work a lifetime for.

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