This is so hard.

Someone got to talk to my birth mom, and that someone wasn’t me.
I hate that so much. (And I’m not the type of person to use the word hate.)

Some person that I’ve never met before, a complete stranger who knows nothing about me, was responsible for pleading my case.
A person who does this for a living and has surely become desensitized, if only a little, was responsible for that which meant  everything to me.
I had no control.

And now, communication is closed.
Hope for the future has disappeared, easier than it came.

Anxious the bird lost from the flock
The sun sets and still it flies alone,
back and forth with no place to rest,
As night wears on, 
it’s cry grows sadder.
T’ao Ch’ien, A.D. 416


Denied Existence

To say that the past 24 hours were rough would be an understatement. In fact, during the night I kept waking up, hoping that the events of the day were a nightmare and that life was still okay, just to realize that the events were indeed my reality, and that life was far from okay. In between the cycle of restless sleep, waking, and sobbing uncontrollably I realized that this must be what people talk about when they refer to being in hell.

I awoke to a dream that reminded me of a place that still holds my thoughts captive, forcing me to remember everything– the joys, the hardships, and everything in between. It was a dream where someone from a different country came to the US, found me, and said “come back. we love you and miss you so much.” This forced me to examine the question “why?” yet another time, still finding no adequate answer.

In addition, although it wasn’t my birth mom in the dream, it was close enough to immediately take my thoughts to my birth parents and how much I was wanting, no craving, to hear those words from them– words that let me know that people loved me, unconditionally and forever.

In the beginning of my birth search, I protected myself and kept thinking  that if people gave me up, then they didn’t want me, end of story. However, as the search progressed and I began learning little details about them, I slowly let down my protective barrier. I began to read about how life, as factory workers, would have been. I began to have empathy for them. I began to understand their decision. I began to love them.

And in between all of these beginnings, I pieced together an imaginative narrative that I foolishly allowed 80% of myself to believe– one in which my parents wanted me back more than anything else, revealing that they never wanted to relinquish me, but were forced to given the structures at play. It was a narrative in which they loved me back. Reading letters from Korean birth mothers where many of the mothers described how they looked forward to the day where they could be reunited with their child made this narrative real, believable, and attainable.

In addition, I began thinking about what the words used to describe my birth parents (active, social and gentle) meant. These words describe people who I love, so well, that I automatically projected their personalities onto what I would hope my birth parents would be like. To me, this meant that they would want to be reunited with me. That was the only option.

This imaginary narrative that I allowed in created what tiny bit of hope I had left, which was enough to get me through even the darkest days.

Yesterday this hope, what had become my life support, was completely cut off.

The woman at the adoption agency called me to inform me that Holt Korea had contacted her with news on my search.

(Cue dramatic music)

They haven’t been able to locate my birth father, but they have made contact with my birth mother. Apparently, numerous telegrams had been sent to her, all of which went ignored. Being persistent, they kept sending her telegrams until she finally responded. Her response? Pure denial. She claimed that she didn’t know what they were talking about and that she had never had a child. She denied my existence. Still being persistent, the agency continued to send telegrams until she was forced to respond again. This time, she acknowledged that she was the correct woman and that she had given birth and relinquished a child, but she made it clear that she had a family, didn’t want any communication with me, and never wanted to be contacted by the agency again. My adoptive mother was right all along: my birth parents didn’t want me and didn’t love me. I really was a mistake.

Doing my best to stay upbeat and repress thoughts that were quickly overtaking me, I pressed the woman at the agency for more information– what does she know? do I have siblings? what exactly did my birth mother say? I didn’t even care what I would hear, I just wanted some indication that my birth mother cared…at least a little. I needed my dandelion in the spring.

The response was essentially along the lines of ‘you can find that out when you review your file in Korea.’ Everything in me wanted to yell at her you have my information right in front of you! This is my information, my past, my parents…not yours! You’ve made me pay just to see my file and now you’re withholding such fundamental knowledge from me? How can one human being do that to another? Instead, since I was beginning to fall apart, I just politely said “okay, thanks” and hung up the phone.

As unbearable as not knowing was, at least I could still hold onto the thought that maybe, just maybe my parents loved me. That someone loves me.
But as it turns out, I’m unlovable.

And now I have nothing left.

I feel so stupid for even thinking that they would want to know about me. 
Of course they wouldn’t.

Happy Birthday, Joseph Campbell

“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.” -Joseph Campbell

Today marks the day, over a hundred years ago, when Joseph Campbell was born. He had his fair share of conflicts and struggles, yet worked them all out in a brilliant way– a way that would influence every generation since.

An avid storyteller, Campbell told the story of all of us, from the people who came before us to the people we’ll never meet. He told the story of our struggles and resolutions, our desire to experience life, and our quest of living out the hero’s journey in our own lives. He told the story of compassion.

While reading this book, the author mentions Campbell and describes an adoptees journey in terms of a hero’s journey. The following passages are those that directly relate:

When adoptees set out on the search, they are answering what Joseph Campbell describes as The Call: the first stage of the mythic journey in which the hero ventures forth from the familiar world into the unknown.
The journey is the adoptee’s heroic attempt to bring together the split parts of the self. It is an authentic way of being born again. It is an act of will; a new dimension of experience. It is the quest for the intrinsic nature one was horn with before it got twisted out of shape by secrecy and disavowal. It is a way of modifying the past, of living out the script that might have been. It is a way of taking control of one’s own destiny, of seizing power. It is a way of finding oneself.
Yet we must not forget Campbell’s warning that the hero’s journey, for all its glory and liberation, is on the razor’s edge. The hero will have to go into a dark forest where he will be confronted with a series of trials that challenge his courage and ingenuity. The hero can never let down his guard: the glorious road to transformation and growth is strewn with death encounters and survivor-like experiences. The adoptee’s journey can be a time of chaos as well as wonder. There are no safe parameters. No way of staying in control. As they stagger through a dark no-man’s land between two states of being-the born and the unborn -adoptees are elated one moment, devastated the next.

Currently, I’m in the dark forest, doing my best to look forward to the day where the sunlight finally makes its way through the trees.

(I’m failing so far.)

Gregor Mendel and Punnett Squares

The other day I was thinking back to some of the uncomfortable events of my childhood, brought about solely by being adopted.

Right away, I thought about science classes and learning about Mendelian Inheritance and filling out Punnett Squares. Although I normally loved science class, I always dreaded the time of the year when we talked about genetics. (This still hasn’t changed.)

When instructing me on how to fill out the Punnett Squares, given my “situation,” the teacher(s) always had me guess. Simple activity turned to disaster? Check. Not only did this activity bring up the issue of adoption, which I convinced myself didn’t exist, but it also left me feeling inadequate and ostracized from the rest of my peers. What other kids knew for a fact– what they saw reflected in themselves every day– was something that I had no idea about. The guessing that my teachers instructed me to do was a reality that I lived with, and one that I tried to ignore. I wonder if they’ll ever understand how hard that simple exercise is for an adopted child.

Filling out the “family history” section on various forms was always much easier because people didn’t expect you to guess on it. Once you said “I’m adopted,” they would move on, no questions asked. After all, what questions could they ask? This isn’t to say that it was easy, as the blank space became symbolic for the void in your life, burning into your mind and leaving you feeling exposed to everyone. Accompanying the feeling that you were exposed was the feeling that you didn’t belong, an imposter merely holding the place for someone else.

Along with these recurring experiences, were the usual occurrences that accompanied being an individual with a race and ethnicity that differed from the majority, mainly racial slurs.

I remember a period in middle school where two of the “popular” guys constantly yelled ching chang chong through squinted eyes when they saw me on the bus. Thanks to being actively involved in clubs, I became good friends with one of their future girlfriends and almost immediately the taunting stopped. After this, I always had plenty of friends and was liked by (most) everyone. I was social and completely different from the quiet and reserved introvert that I am now. In hindsight, surrounding myself with friends was my way of shielding myself from those who would have otherwise insulted me.

I wonder what this admittance says about my character, both then and now?

It’s. Everywhere.

Within the past week I’ve had two notable encounters which left me wanting to run far, far away, but instead having to stay in place and put on a friendly, happy front.

The first encounter was at a house concert, where Tom Conlon was playing. All was going (relatively) well until he started talking about his search for his grandfather that he only met once. He went to the country that his grandfather was from and diligently searched for him, searching public records and knocking on doors. His search had a happy ending, a satisfactory resolution.

And as musicians do, he wrote a song about it, with lyrics like “do you ever think of me,” “every question seems to be overstepping,” and “give me one hand up before you leave me, without a history unknown and alone.” These are the lyrics that managed to creep into my consciousness, as I assure you, I was doing my best to imagine I was somewhere else– anywhere else.

After playing the song, which to me seemed like some form of strange and unusual punishment, he described how having to search for a family member left him feeling utterly demoralized. Yeah, that sounds about right. During all of this, I thought about leaving and getting as far away from the place as I could, but not knowing exactly where I was, and given my tendency to collapse under trees, this wasn’t a viable option. So instead, I stayed and pretended everything was fine, even though on the inside, I was dying.

The second encounter occurred while on the set for a television show.

During the break between the first and second interviews, the host and guests of the show further explored the complexity of the topic at hand, off the cuff. Although nothing was being recorded, their mics were turned on in the production room where I sat, alone, and awaiting further instruction.

And then it happened.
They began talking about adoption.

The guests, who happen to be very significant individuals when it comes to policy making/changing, began talking about closed adoptions and how they were a necessary part of the system in order to protect everyone involved. Protect everyone involved? Yeah, right. Everything after this is a blur, as the force of their words crushed me. I felt like walking into the studio and thanking them for being complicit in creating the hell that I’m experiencing. But, I’m not that impulsive person, so again, I sat through it, struggling to remain unphased, intact, and smiling.

Having to hold yourself together during moments like these kills your soul.

This is the best way I can describe what things feel like right now: it’s a constant struggle to remain fine on the outside and function as a normal person, when inside I just want to run away to the middle of a forest, curl up into a ball, and be forever free.

There’s a passage from Mockingjay that also describes things really well. The main character, Katniss, is referring to Crazy Cat, a “game” where a cat chases around a flashlight’s beam. (If you’ve ever played with a cat, dog, or small child, then you’ve probably played a similar game.)

Crazy Cat becomes a metaphor for my situation. I am Buttercup. Peeta, the thing I want so badly to secure, is the light. As long as Buttercup feels he has the chance of catching the elusive light under his paws, he’s bristling with aggression. (That’s how I’ve been since I left the arena, with Peeta alive.) When the light goes out completely, Buttercup’s temporarily distraught and confused, but he recovers and moves on to other things. (That’s what would happen if Peeta died.) But the one thing that sends Buttercup into a tailspin is when I leave the light on but put it hopelessly out of his reach, high on the wall, beyond even his jumping skills. He paces below the wall, wails, and can’t be comforted or distracted. He’s useless until I shut the light off.

Reading 한글 (Hangul)

Every week I dread the two days of the week that my Korean class falls on. Although a small part of me is enjoying learning the language, the larger part of me feels apathetic toward it all.

Why learn a language when you may not actually be able to use it? If I knew for sure I could be reunited with one or both of my birth parents, I would be pouring all of my efforts into learning Korean and nothing else. But spending the time and energy to learning a complicated language is only going to exacerbate the disappointment if I find that a reunion won’t be possible.

Not learning the language yet is something within my control; it’s one of the only protective barriers that is available to me.

Although I have to admit, knowing how to read Hangul has been a little beneficial. When I was looking through my adoption records again, I realized that for the first time, I can read my name. It was a bittersweet moment.