Try three steps back with one step forward.
That’s exactly how I felt a few days ago.
Last Saturday, while at a park I ran into three really nice women who instantly identified me as “Korean.” They began questioning me on what I knew about the language and culture and each time I answered with a half-ashamed “I’m working on learning.” After realizing I knew very little about South Korea’s richness, they invited me to attend their Korean church the following day. Although at the time I was enthused (mainly for the food afterward…), the enthusiasm soon turned to reluctance.
I felt that it was too soon to 1) be in the church environment again and 2) be around other Koreans.
Nonetheless, when I woke up the next morning, I convinced myself to go because I knew that if I didn’t just ‘get it over with,’ I never would. January would turn into February, February into March, and on and on.
So when 12:20 pm rolled around, a friend and I jumped into the car and headed to the Korean church for their 12:30 pm service. I was a little anxious, but was able to keep calm by continuing to talk and make jokes.
That is of course, until we pulled into the parking lot and searched for the entrance.
As soon as we walked inside all of the anxiety I had been working so hard to keep at bay came on with full force. The pastor came up and greeted us, followed by the three women I had seen at the park the previous day. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming, but when you want to make yourself invisible, super friendly and welcoming is the last thing you want. Especially when they hand you a “first time visitor” card and request that you fill it out. I remember looking at the card, trying to figure out how to politely say “actually, I don’t want you to know anything about me…” when my friend took initiative and said that she’d fill hers out first. So following her lead, I filled it out too, however I must admit that I wrote somewhat illegibly with the intention of people not being able to read it…(filling it out counts for something, right).
Thankfully, once the cards were filled out, the woman who was waiting on them left us alone in our empty pew.
After we were alone in the pew I tried to get myself to relax, but to no avail. I began breaking out in hives, and in between squirming around in my seat to not-so-ambiguously scratch, I began to notice that I was actually surrounded by other Koreans, people who looked like me…for the first time ever.
Then, as a familiar song began to play (one that is often played at my former church), everything became too much to handle. Something about the merging of the two contexts/environments, my adoptive parents (church and the accompanying sentiments) and my biological parents (other Koreans), left me with a sense of urgency that I had to find my biological parents.
And with such urgency also comes the disappointment surrounding “what if they can’t be found?”
This is the point where I started tearing up, became really nauseous, and realized that I needed to get out and far, far away from the church.
When I got the okay from my friend, I rushed out of the building, completely ignoring the nice woman at the door who was trying to say something to us, never turning back.
Cool experience, huh? As you can imagine, the rest of the day was a bit rough. And I have no intention of going back, ever.
There’s my three steps back…
but thankfully, I think I might actually be moving forward…slowly.