Monday, March 25, 2013

A Place in This World

It hasn't been until the last year or so that I've begun to dig deeper into the part of my identity that I so boldly wear on my face, but ignore otherwise. I'm nearly considered an adult now. It's time to put on my big girl pants and confront myself. 

At the beginning of the month, I received the translation of the latest letter my biological father had written to me. I had all but forgotten about it until tonight. 

Well, that's sort of a lie. I didn't quite forget, but after a cursory review of it, I didn't read any further in depth. I read it the way I'd read a story about a stranger's life, and then promptly dropped it in case it would start to sink in that it was, in fact, not about a stranger. 

A couple of weeks later, I had a conversation with one of the staff members here about what I've been struggling with in terms of reconciling my 'too Asian to be white and too white to be Asian' issue as well as a bit about my apprehensions in visiting Korea to meet my family. She put me in touch with another Korean girl in LA who was a fellow at the school a few years ago. 

Nervously I composed my first email thinking, "What the fuck am I doing? Am I just going to pour out my life story to this poor unsuspecting stranger? What am I even trying to accomplish??" Thankfully, she was perfectly accepting and was, mercifully, better at directing the conversation than I was. 

After the exchange of several emails and a phone call, she sent me a list of resources for Korean adoptees. In this list contained a 4-part essay addressing several issues faced by Korean adoptees in the U.S. (If you have a moment, check them out. They're good for a different perspective. And for those of you who are close to me, they're another way to understand me. What's Your Name?When Adoption Became VisibleDating Inside and Out, and Return to the Motherland)

Shit. That's me. 

I read each part, and then read them again. "Holy shit," I thought to myself. "These are my thoughts and feelings written out by someone else." 

As I was reading the third essay, I came across the quote, "As much as I know my birth mother gave me a better life by putting me up for adoption, and as much as I'm grateful for my adoptive parents for doing so much for me… Do you ever feel like no matter how much someone will love you, there may be a day where they'll just leave?"


Looking back over the last 29 years, there's never been any question by me, or those who love me that I have a deeply embedded fear of being abandoned stemming from the adoption. A few people have brazenly suggested that, because I was adopted as a baby, it doesn't really affect me. 

Sure, right. I wasn't 11 years old. That unquestionably comes with its own set of obstacles. That said, who thinks about the ramifications of being inside a mother who is profoundly depressed and anxious for 9 months? About being born and instead of being surrounded by excitement, joy, and love- being met with disappointment, sorrow, and regret? About the first 3-4 months in an orphanage where no one knows if anyone responded to me when I cried?

The people who were supposed to love me forever rejected me the moment they saw me.

It's something I've been working on, and though I've come a long way, I know I still have a long way to go. Thankfully, I am blessed to have a few who love me deeply and have spent years by my side gently coaxing and convincing me that I'm stuck with them.

Love changes everything. It might be slowly, but it brings light where there was none.

After processing what I read, I remembered the letter from my father. After nearly a month, I finally went back to actually read it. 

"...And when I gave you over to Holt Child welfare agency I requested that your name be sent to America with you. However the employee changed the name I gave you "HyoJin" to an American name against my request. About the circumstances regarding your adoption... I was the eleventh generation of a "Kwon" and being the first born and without a son, my great grandmother threatened that if you were a daughter that she would force me to take a concubine so that it is why we eventually chose to send you off to be adopted, not because we had no money to perform an abortion. That isn't correct. I sincerely hope there is no misunderstanding about this."

(The files the agency sent with me said the reason for relinquishment was that my parents couldn't afford to have me abort. It also said I was the third girl. I was actually the fifth and final attempt to have a boy.)

The weight of the Korean culture forced my family to send me off into a world where I would spend many years struggling to find a place to belong. 

Day by day, moment by moment, I am finding my way into what I want for myself and my life. I'm learning what's important to me, and in a weird way, such a brutal form of rejection has been a blessing. It has allowed me to pull close what I know I want in my life in spite of the fear. I have a family who, in spite of our many years of distance and heartache, have been growing closer as times goes by, and a few precious friends who are not scared of my past or the parts that are still vulnerable and healing.

I haven't found that place that feels like home yet. Maybe I never will. Maybe this journey is home, and once I realize it, all my years of searching will find a place to rest.


  1. Dear Haiku, I read your story through Tiny are definitely not alone in this journey to find that place that feels 'home'. Thanks for sharing, being open and honest about your journey in this life.

    As someone who moved from one country at 19 to a place completely different in culture, values, geography etc, I can understand that strangeness of being neither of one place or another.
    With Indian ancestry that goes back 6 generations, I no longer have a linguistic connection with Indians and having left the place where I was born, living here in Canada feels somewhere in-between with relative scattered all over north america. There is no 'back home'.

    What has been dismaying is the realization of how families by birth relations became strangers, indifferent to each other and how some choose the ones they want to be close to.

    Life is an interesting series of experiences....and love, kindness and courage lives everywhere...

    1. Hey there- thanks for reaching out. It's been amazing connecting to others and hearing their stories. It's helped to keep me grounded and teach me to fly in spite of my fears and apprehensions. "Life is an interesting series of experiences....and love, kindness and courage lives everywhere..." So true.

  2. I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your heart felt post on the Tiny Buddha. Reading your post here as well definitely struck a cord inside of me. I'm so glad I came across your blog as I'm now your newest reader. Looking forward to your future posts.


    1. Hi Michelle, Thank you for connecting. I was too scared to put myself out there for years, but have finally been experimenting with it... I'm so glad I did because I've been making connections with people like you who have so much to share. :)