adoptee blog

One World, One Heart, Two Families

We are all united in this journey of life. There is a sense of interconnectedness we all feel when we share stories and hear others’ stories. There’s comfort in knowing no matter who we are, or where we’ve been, we are all in this together.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea and my life’s foundation was created in Missouri, where I was adopted as an infant and raised in a small town. The journey is ongoing. Feeling different, feeling the same. Knowing I look different than my family, forgetting that I do. Questions about my identity, acceptance just as I am. Feeling white but not Korean, feeling Korean but not white. Two different cultures, one world. All co-exist. And everything in between.

I’ve experienced the journey of loving adoptive parents in America and the journey of reunion with my biological family in Korea. Over a decade ago, medical health concerns activated my desire to search for my biological roots to learn about my medical history. I found my birth family in a relatively short time. Reunion was far more challenging than I could have ever prepared myself for. As a child, I remember thinking if I just met my birth family even once, they’d answer all the questions that plagued me as a child. My naive and youthful imagination conjured up many blissful possible scenarios of us meeting, and they were far more pleasant than reality. In reality, the reunion brought on a multitude of complexities and new questions. Many of which will never be answered. As a child, I thought freedom would come from the peace of having my questions answered. I now know freedom and peace does not come from an external source or answers. True freedom is knowing I can fly with or without these answers. The answers and/or lack of answers no longer weighs me down. Subscribing to this weight would mean giving up a life of joy and peace to be at the mercy of unanswered questions. Peace is a choice. It is a choice I embrace even as I navigate my relationships with my two families and embrace both with gratitude and grief, certainty and uncertainty.

Living life through my perspective an an adoptee is my perspective of life since I was an infant. My experience with reuniting with my biological roots has heightened my sense of compassion for every individual, adoptee or not. It is what inspires my interest in community and connection. Everyone, at the end of the day, wants to feel seen and heard and supported. And, at the end of the day, we are all connected in some way.

After years of questioning why I am here and if I have a true place in the world, I am grateful for the peace that comes with knowing why I am and that I do. I am invested in increasing awareness about adoption and in sharing the power of transformation. It is for everyone. We all have a purpose. And while some parts of my life were once riddled with reluctance, shame and confusion after listening to so much external noise then subsequently questioning myself, I have befriended this entire experience as an adoptee. We are very close friends...the ups and downs. The grace, the madness. The confidence, the inner child. The surviving, the thriving. The two families in this one world. The ongoing journey and navigation, entirely supported by listening to my inner voice and heart, wherever I am, all over the world.

Building from Scratch

Sharing my story is important because as adoptees we often feel like we don't belong, we feel alone and misunderstood, but we have such a strong and beautiful community, we are not alone, we have each other. Furthermore, my story is love and boy do we need more of that in the world.

I was born in Maceió, a coastal city in Northeastern Brazil. I was the third child of a poor family. Gilvania, my biological mother, was not financially able to care for me, and opted for international adoption after Jose, a social worker, introduced her to the idea. He reassured her by telling her he knew this great family in Canada that had adopted in Brazil twice already. Jose had met my adoptive family a few years prior when he was forced to seek asylum in Canada as a political refugee. Wanting to learn French, Jose had chosen University Laval in Quebec City where both my parents were studying at the time. They became close friends and through conversations my parents expressed their desire to adopt some day. Fast forward to 1987, my parents were getting ready to adopt their third child, they had adopted twice with Jose’s help and thought they would switch things up for their third one and were considering Bolivia. A phone call from Jose changed everything, he called my parents to tell them about this woman he had just met Gilvania, she was pregnant and had decided that adoption was the best course of action for her unborn daughter. My parents agreed and started the process. 

Several months later, at four months old, I was landing at Quebec City Airport with my new dad and a new family waiting at the gates to greet me. In the course of one flight, everything was different, I left a family behind, a way of life, a culture, a language, and simultaneously I gained all of that back differently. Let me just say that I applaud my parents, raising four adopted kids is no easy task (they adopted one more after me). 

The first years were really difficult, not all of us got along and we all had our set of challenges along with very explosive personalities. Four adopted kids in one household is a lot, emotions were flying high, and there was a lot of anger from all the unanswered questions we had in regards to our unknown pasts combined with not having the right words and tools to express how we felt.

Building a strong identity and having a strong sense of self is what I found most challenging growing up, especially as a young adult. I overcame that by traveling around the world by myself, there's no better way to know the person that you are than by leaving with a suitcase to some foreign places with only yourself to rely on. I am proud of the woman I built myself to be. I still have my moments, mostly when it comes to intimate relationships, I have an ingrained fear of being abandoned and I am continuously working on that. Little by little, I am letting people in closer.

When I was 19 years old, I traveled back to Brazil with my adoptive mom and one of my brothers. It was my first time back as an adult and it felt surreal to be there, everything from the smells, the taste of the food, the sights seemed familiar. I felt like I was at home, yet I was treated like a foreigner and that was painful at times. At that point in my life, I had already made peace with the fact that I would never get to meet my birth family. Well it turns out that I was wrong. On this trip, I was able to meet them. I still don't have the words to describe how it felt. It felt like a dream, I had to pinch myself to realize it was really happening. I first met a cousin and an aunt who gave us my mother's address, and there we went, knocking on her door unannounced. She wasn't home, so we called her and explained to her who we were and she just said "Don't move, I'm on my way". The next day, she organized this huge BBQ Brazilian style called “churrascaria”. There, I got to meet everyone except for my father. To this day, I am still in touch with them, we talk on occasions, it's amazing aside from the language barrier, it can get difficult, but I am currently learning Portuguese.

My present relationship with my adoptive parents is great, but it wasn't always like that. The older I get, the more I appreciate them and the more I realize that human beings like them don't come around that often. They are the most selfless people I know and also the strongest, most resilient. They passed onto me amazing values, and taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. 

Overall, adoption has impacted my life in many ways, some good, some bad. I feel like because of the way my parents raised me, I was able to define the woman I am becoming on my own terms. Adoption made my identity stronger, because I worked for it, literally. I had to build my identity pretty much from scratch. Since I never really had strong roots and never identified to a specific group or culture, I was able to create my own and identify to a broader group, human beings. With that being said, I always felt a sense of duality inside of me, and at times feeling like I didn't belong was hard. 

In the future, I hope to live under the sun, happy and at peace. I want to be creating and contributing to making this world a more loving and positive place.