SEARCHING FOR SEOUL 2
I've never looked around the supper table and wondered why I didn't resemble my parents. I never had another sibling tell me that I was “adopted” with a snicker and cruel tilt of the lip. I've always known I was a choice my parents made.
People are usually amazed when they realize that I was just a couple of months shy of my seventh birthday when I came to America from South Korea. I was so “old” to have been adopted. Didn't being older make it rougher for me to adjust? Make it more difficult to assimilate into a comprehensively strange new world? Didn't my parents have a more challenging time raising me? One would think I’d have more emotional baggage than a baby orphaned at birth. A blank canvas would be easier to embrace than one with seven years-worth of impressions from another world; impressions which might be better off erased.
I see now that I had the advantage of understanding that my circumstances were improving when I was finally adopted, while being young enough to unreservedly shut-up the memories which may have interfered with my ability to fit in with my new family, in my new country. My subconscious stepped-in and pushed me toward survival and because of this, I've never intentionally walked through my life as a victim of tragic circumstance.
But time can change a perspective, plant different desires. I’m older now and standing at the threshold of my past, asking my seven-year-old self to let me in, to give me a glimpse of what it is that I do not know.
The closer I become to my best self, the more I realize how important those lost years are to my continued growth as a human being. I can acknowledge now that there are deep wounds rooted in that initial act of abandonment by my birth parents that have caused fractures in the apparently smooth surface of my life. I want to understand the damage it’s done so I don’t inadvertently wound the relationships I care about or pass those same hurts onto my future children.
So, I’m writing the story I've always told myself I’d write in the hope of understanding my story better and engaging with people like me who've never quite felt like they've belonged anywhere despite their best efforts and their beautiful lives.
photo by Ehud Neuhaus