Archive for the ‘General Adoption’ Category

An Adoption Story

19 Feb

I don’t own this story and I’m not sure it’s one for me to tell. But it is one that I extrapolate from circumstances and by extension that I feel sadness, empathy and sympathy for this person. This adoptee that was denied all those things while he lived. This adoptee that played and plagued into my relationship with this boyfriend I speak of. Because this person was my boyfriend’s brother.

In a way I feel like I should tell this story, not because this person was a good person, but that if no one cries for him, feels sympathy for him, and doesn’t learn from his experience, then tons was lost and nothing was gained. By the very nature that he was so angry and upset at the world, I feel that by doing this I am celebrating his life, but in no way possessing his life, making it up for him, or excusing his actions. I do not like telling other people’s stories of adoption. I do not like owning them, but I feel that I was in the best position to understand his pain just a little bit. And it was an important pain that he could not vocalize to the world. It is told through a double filter. So please excuse the gaps, the extraction and the unconscious bending of facts.

This adoptee was adopted as I was–out of thoughts of infertility. His parents were White Middle Class living in the suburbs of a major city in about the 60′s. As such, they were told to have a well-adjusted adoptee, you must never tell him that he was adopted. They kept to this.

At the same time the parents never discussed with their parents about adoption–it’s still something that a lot of adoptive parents do today in the United States, though it would be unthinkable in extended families. The father’s family–the paternal grandparents took adoption as a pawn to play with and spoke the words that can destroy an adoptive child’s mind as this adoptee was a baby. “If you don’t behave we’ll send you back to the orphanage.”

Of course, this was done out of the sight of the parents. This is an unimaginable thing to say.

Meanwhile the parents of this adoptee found out, Hey! They can have kids after all. They got pregnant. But from the report I have, they never talked to him about it–because he was to be considered as not adopted at all. That anger he felt accumulated from his grandparents and launched at his parents, would build and manifest because he knew he was adopted, his parents knew he was adopted, his grandparents knew he was adopted, but no one told what the other knew. So what could lie beneath the surface? But anger. Now there was a new child on the block. Their child. This child, he felt deep inside was replacing him. This child was the “real” child. So what did he say to this child when he first saw him? “Die.”

But there was no release for this anger he had inside. He’d been robbed of his birth parents, his birth family, his birth history, replaced by a child of his parents’ own in his eyes and told if he didn’t behave he’d be taken back to the orphanage. Perhaps he hoped by lashing out and hoping that this younger child–not brother–did die that he would get a chance to go back. Maybe go back to a place where a birth mother would love him and not replace him.

So he tortured this younger brother as much as possible in the hopes that this younger brother might go away. He might die off, but then it got worse. The parents had a second child, which they discussed among themselves, but not their current children. The anger mounted. What is an ideal family? Four members and a dog. They got a dog. So he felt he didn’t belong. He was, in fact, the fifth wheel.

More anger mounted. He lashed out at the world. He got in constant trouble, turned to drugs, violence and his parents didn’t tell him he was adopted, but he already knew.
They finally told him that he was adopted. But inside of him this unleashed the greatest anger, fear, and sorrow that he could not process. Years of it had built up in him and they were now all confirmed. But he didn’t know what to do with it. So he only became more and more angry because he couldn’t say what he wanted to say. It was the forbidden zone. Because his parents wouldn’t acknowledge his adoption, help him with his search for identity and self after this turmoil, his anger deepened into a lava pit. Always simmering.

So the handicapped space, he believed was right to park in. His brother’s toys, he had the right to break. Those black people, they’d robbed him of his jobs. His parents, had robbed him of true love. He was screaming inside with anger and pain because he felt robbed.

He could not take employment, but he could not take this as his fault. It was their fault.

He got married, had a kid, but he still could not find what he craved deep inside. He began to seek it elsewhere, ended up divorced, bounced from job to job.
He finally found his birth mother who was dying of cancer. He spent time with her. He found out that he had been born of this teenage mother in a diner. But she did not fill the void that he was looking to fill. No one could fill it just right. No one could get rid of that anger. It was a righteous sort of anger someone should understand.

No job lasted long until through his anger and his pain, his girlfriend and his wishes, he found himself homeless living with two dogs. Dogs knew affection and love–an unconditional sort of love. He didn’t need his wife, his child, his girlfriend. He wanted to know unconditional love. However, his dogs gave love to him, even if they were homeless with him. They stood by him. But they could not fill it–because he wanted it from those around him. His birth mother had died. His adoptive mother had given up on him. The father he was angry at had died. The grandparents he so admired–ironically the ones that had said those words had died. No one cared.

But he was hungry and tired. Living in a warehouse, half-starved, he found some nuts, which he knew he was allergic to. But hunger overcame his judgment and he ate them.

His ex-girlfriend rushed to his side, but they found him too late. He was in a coma for a month. His adoptive mother had washed her hands of him in frustration of his anger, unquelling. She did not, in fact, understand the depth of his anger. And would not come to see him. His ex-girlfriend would not let her. And so he died in a coma, knowing only the unconditional love of his dogs.

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Posted in General Adoption


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



19 Feb

I woke up and my head hurt royally. I started to see things that weren’t there. It was like a movie playing in my mind’s eye. I could see flashes of things that I knew belonged to me, but I didn’t physically remember. I screamed for it to stop. It hurt so much and the more I tried to control the flashes the more it hurt. Over and over again. I was crying and not even connecting it.

Exhausted, I got up and went to my computer. I asked a group of adoptees online about it and related the story.

I also asked Appa if my memories were true. He verified it for me. Every single last one was verified for me. Except one. But I think he lied to protect me. Because the memory is insistent and keep surfacing again and again as vivid as the other memories.

It took me a while to sort out each one. I originally thought I was going nuts. But I learned from other adoptees that they had also had such feelings and moments. What makes it hurt is the invalidation other people give towards the memories. What makes them surface is like anything else. There is a trigger for the memory. For me, it was seeing Appa’s face on camera.

The fixations I had as a child made sense once I sorted the memories out. The fixation towards Korean houses with white outer walls, the fixation on Farmer’s Markets where there were tents and cement, the fixation on apples in baskets with flat slats, the fixation on tent tops without sides. The feeling like there should be something there, but you don’t know why. The feeling like you are supposed to remember, but you have no actual memory, so for some unknown reason, you just stare and stare at it. You actually feel happy near it, but you don’t know why. They all started to click and make sense.

I learned from another adoptee that what one should do during these flashes like photographs is to watch them, let them flow over you, don’t fight them. This made the flashes stop. And I began to enjoy the scenery, and realized for the first time in a long time that I had broken the barrier of the orphanage. I was seeing good things too. Like love, and respect and I had a piece of Korea with me.

I still get fixations. I got one while watching a Korean drama. I found myself staring at a Korean wall surrounding a traditional house. My mind kept saying, “The wall is wrong. The wall is wrong.” “It should be all white.” Then a flash happened again. I began to see my maternal grandmother letting us into the house’s gates. Then pain started to set in a little. It took me a minute to remember to let it wash over me. It went away.

Incidentally after I let them wash over me, my Korean language rejection was a lot less severe. I had broken my inner fear and I saw a gift beyond the pain. Childhood memories of the love Eomma and Appa and my birth family had for me.

These things I never tell my mom because she invalidates them. I don’t give her the power by never telling her about it.

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Posted in General Adoption


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.


Heart Memories

19 Feb

The heart remembers what the mind forgets. I firmly believe that now and I didn’t believe it before. I thought that emotions couldn’t help you remember, but only could trigger memories.

Since as I’m writing this I’m in the middle of going to Korea. I’ve been remembering the love of my parents–all of them. I’ve been keeping Appa close to my heart. I’ve forgiven Eomma, because I can’t do less. I’ve been thinking of the good and the bad, but how that in the end they still are family, no matter what language they speak.

And then I fell asleep. In a dream I heard a voice say, “Your birth parents are outside.” It was some kind of reward, I felt. And I see them there. The background is blown out like it was increased by one hundred fifty percent in Photoshop. I see a dirt road–dirt roads fill my memories and dreams even though I know this is probably false. And both of them are standing there. Appa is in front of me to my right and Eomma is to my left. At the beginning they are dressed weirdly, boots and things, but at the end they aren’t. I can see a white blouse on Eomma at the end. Appa says something like, “Thank you very much…” in words so clear I can hear it as if it were English. I say, “Thank you” in Korean this time. I hug him, I can feel his form. Eomma says “Thank you.” which sounds like English and I say thank you formally back in Korean. I hug her and the dream ends.

What strikes me about this time over all other times I’ve dreamed of them is that I can clearly see both of their faces. I can see their expressions. Appa has updated in my dream to look like he now does in the photo he gave. He no longer has hair. Eomma looks the same somehow. She’s still pretty.

Though I know it’s not true, some part of me can’t imagine that I am taller than Appa. There is some part that wants to be shorter than him and Eomma. That’s why I am shorter than them in the dream. I know it’s false, but this is why I believe it came from the heart, not my head.

Also all of the entourage that I know will be at the actual meeting of Appa weren’t present. There was no translator, my mom wasn’t present and my brother wasn’t there. At the beginning of the dream I thought of them, but being a dream of the heart, and not my head, I don’t think they were in that part of my heart.

Before I ended and before I woke up with that feeling of longing fulfilled, I had a small flash of me standing in between them looking up at them both. Perhaps it goes back to a time when we were happy, because I was short in the flash. I was holding both of their hands. My brother was also absent in this flash.

Where I couldn’t get past the chalkboard because I was convincing my head to dream of them, it was my heart and my feelings that remembered.

I know it’s weak, but I cling onto these dreams. But I firmly believe I could not wish for them to be outside the door like if I wished on a shooting star, on dandelion seeds blowing in the wind, or even if I found a magical lamp. I want to earn this right. This is something too important to merely wish for. I want to work hard for it and have a story to tell. Because while the heart can remember, wishes can still vanish like dreams.

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Posted in General Adoption, Parents


Language Rejection

19 Feb

I find myself at times, even though I know French, Japanese and have been learning a bit of Mandarin (Taiwanese version) that my brain will entirely reject all Korean.
I know Korean, and fairly well, but occasionally I can’t seem to speak it, think in it, and I get a backlash like I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s psychological, I think. I found myself doing this today too. I was forced to think in English grammar for most of the day, and when it came to remember Korean, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put myself in the mind set. Especially since others around me kept calling me “American” and rejecting part of the Korean that I established.

At the same time I find myself sometimes finding it really difficult to think in English. Sometimes I can’t transition between Korean and English–in fact this is the hardest transition in languages I have. I can transition between French and English and English and Japanese (though it is a bit of a stretch), but English and Korean I have troubles with.

I only can think this is a psychological rejection of the baggage of what comes with the language. The hardest times I have transitioning seem to be when I want to melt into one or the other.

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Posted in Adoption Politics, General Adoption


Stress Before the Trip

19 Feb

I thought when I said the word mediation, it would happen. When I said I wanted to delegate responsibility, I thought it would happen. I was so wrong.

My April is turning into a bit of a hell. I have to babysit my adolescent parents, cater to my Mom’s insecurities (which I really want to give up, it just wears me out). Deal with an AWOL brother. And try to refresh all of my languages before I go. Trying to explain these things to adults that have never been truly responsible is like trying to explain to a baby how the physics of the universe work.

I have many things to smooth over and they aren’t letting me delegate the tasks. They are being lazy and turning back towards me and when I ask them to do it, they take that inch and move it a mile. It frustrates me to no end. I ask them to get the dates set up to go to Asia, but then they won’t come out this way to discuss the details of the trip. I had to argue for them to come this way.

My Mom is still talking about Korea negatively and Appa wants me to become fluent overnight. Then I have to sort out Eomma’s stuff on my own because my brother is AWOL.

Where I want to have some semblance of sanity, I have none. Where I want to let go, I’m not able to. I see this as a huge car crash, and what’s worse is I have so much things to do before I go and I’m helpless to get through all of them without some support. I’m quickly feeling like I’m put last above everyone else’s desires. Perhaps I haven’t asserted myself enough, but seriously I have limitations! And I’m reaching mine very quickly.

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Posted in General Adoption


Getting Ready for my Trip

19 Feb

I had been waiting for this for 20+ years and the only way to get to Korea was to use my parents–I had no funds after being drained by my last boyfriend and failing to become financially independent. I had to wait through the renovation of the attic when they renewed their mortgage, I waited through their 3,000 dollar speakers, I waited in college when she said we might go, and then I tried to save for it when she kept being wishy-washy. Then I waited more… and then I got to go on May 2, 2008. This is the account from that time:

This is kind of surreal, like I didn’t really experience this. That something will happen to prevent me from going on that plane to Asia. Maybe I’m just not thinking straight and I’ve imagined this whole thing up.

I prepared a whole lot. I have support system for all three countries, people to take care of me, and I’ve made an effort to learn all three languages necessary for the trip. I still don’t feel satisfied, but I think I’ve tried my best.

I the past year I’ve learned Korean, brush up my Japanese and taught myself basic Mandarin. God bless the subbing community for dramas… I couldn’t have done it without them. Dramas have saved me a lot of heartache on this trip.

I wish my Mom wasn’t so scared before this point and she hadn’t made so many excuses about why we shouldn’t go. But I can’t change the past or her. So I’ll take what I have. But now I’ve arrived at this point, I’m going to make the best of it. I’m not sure how I’ll get along with my parents on this trip, but I’ll do my best.

I’m excited and packing. I’m even shifting my internal clock to Korean time. I hope it works!



22 Feb

I insisted to my parents that we should go to GOA’L. This is an organization that helps adoptees. I wanted to get them a translator so when we met Appa, they could understand what he was saying. I thought this would help. And since the translation was free, I thought this would be a good idea.

What I didn’t realize was that my mom was getting more and more wound up. After asking my brother to meet Appa, and after I had started to act more and more Korean with a lot of effort, exchanging cultural notes. She became a lot stiffer. And since she became a lot stiffer, my Dad had a compulsion to protect her from everything, including me and my brother, even if it meant alienation.

So when I asked them to come to GOA’L with me to pick up a translator, I think this broke my Mom. My mom who really didn’t want to face the fact that her children had to be shared with someone she had never met. She had to meet other adoptees like me and confront the fact that she took children from another person. GOA’L seemed to represent that for her–all the issues that she never faced in the adoption were sitting right in front of her.

The nearer we got to GOA’L and the more I was happy to finally find the place from the subway station, the more my mom stiffened. She seemed to hate this country that was stealing her children, only her children one by one. What if on this trip, I decided to stay? I could feel that come from her. A desperation and an anger that we were leaving her, despite the fact we’d been adults and found a place in the world, she could not deal with it.

So by the time we got to GOA’L, she was so stiff in the chair and her back so straight that it was visible that she really didn’t want to be there. As the person there talked to us, (I know his name, but I’m trying to be fair), and talked more about adoption, the loss, gave us maps, the more I could see that she was breaking. And he talked about how I’d talked to him before and I could feel a wave rising within her. She was about to break. I tried to signal him that it was not the best thing to talk right now about adoption issues.

I calmly called my brother and got him the information and got them the translator after coordinating with my mom. I knew at this point that it was going to blow up, deep inside of me, but at the same time, I wanted to believe that even for a second they could handle this–they could handle facing my adoption, the country that they adopted from and one of the languages of my heart. I wanted to believe it so hard and tried so hard to believe it hat I was willing to delude myself that it wasn’t going to blow up.

I could feel my mom saying that I couldn’t leave today. The same air of control I felt from my last boyfriend sprung up and I knew it wasn’t going to be alright.


Why did you adopt me?

25 Feb

I often wondered at that time after Building 63 if my mom’s reasons for adopting me were as she told me, “Because it was cheap and we knew other people who had done it.” Even if I corrected that and told her the hateful things she said during my childhood about my adoption, I couldn’t really understand why she would do it.

The infertility we were forbidden to talk about, I knew that a lot of the loss and reasons she did the adoption was because she didn’t have a choice. I think in her heart of hearts she still wanted the child I could never become and I ultimately replaced. But to me, that was not a good enough reason to adopt.

She said a few times the reason she adopted was because my Aunt already had children–and it must have been painful for my mom to know that my Aunt could get pregnant and so quickly while she never could. My grandmothers didn’t help either, and often pressured her for children. She also told me that my Dad wanted children. But everything in her behavior told me that she really didn’t want children. She’s stiff around children and sometimes I can feel a resentment from her. Maybe a lost childhood to a mother that criticized her when she was out of bed and then depressed for the rest of the time.

My mom would irrationally compete with me as well, which I never understood. It was like a score board for her–I never understood the competition she tried to put forth in absolutely everything. My skin was darker, one point for me. My eyes were Asian, one point against me. I got along with her mother and put a lot of effort into understanding her mother, one point for me. I didn’t allow my mom to tell me not to wear jeans to her mother’s place. One point against me. A constant score board of extremes.

So when I pointed out the evils of adoption–because nothing is inherently good or bad, she wouldn’t accept it. One point against me.

By the end of Building 63, I wondered really heavily why they really adopted me. Was it really the obligation that my mom felt towards fulfilling other people’s wishes? After the trip I wrote her a letter pointing this out and cried when she never said the words I wanted to hear so much, “I wanted you. I wanted you in my life.” I ruthlessly deleted the e-mail and blocked her because I couldn’t deal with it.

An obligation. An annoyance. A duty. I felt all those things from her. I felt that me and my brother were there for show. Like little dolls for her to parade and then when we were inconvenient we were filed away for later use. I struggled against her walls to try to understand why she was like this. But when I got to her core, I found a mountain of fear and walls surrounding the fear. She didn’t know who she was and finding it out was not an option for her.

Despite understanding all this pain, and in doing that forgiving her for her shortcomings, I could not stop hurting. I struggled against my thoughts of Eomma and made sure to separate them out. I struggled hard to understand my Mom and why she would not accept her larger self–the mother and her father before her. And the events as they told them. And accept in a way that did not make her a victim, but made her wiser.

I also tried to understand my Dad and why he had become that codependent on her. I realized that he resented me a lot–maybe subconsciously, because while I was deflecting for my brother I was also deflecting for him (by accident) and now that I was not around, she was using all that nervous energy of not knowing who she was in a country that would not allow her marijuana to calm her down, she was using him in the way she used me. I quit being the punching bag.

I wondered why he wanted children with her if he knew she couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t get rid of the doubts I had about the reasons they adopted and I started to question if their love was true love. Especially when they would not allow me to refer to them to what they were to me, my Mom and Dad. They called each other to me by their names instead. I found that hateful and I couldn’t get past it.

Why did you adopt me if you wanted me for just a tool or an object to one up a person that is not going to raise me? I thought it was for love. I thought you wanted a family more than anything. Why can’t you answer that way? Why can’t you say that no matter what you wanted me and really mean it without me prompting it out of you? I started thinking those doubts where I had none before and I could not stop asking those questions to myself even if I couldn’t ask them. The silence ruined everything.

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