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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.

Searching for Roots

I was born in Incheon, South Korea. I was placed in an orphanage after birth and stayed there until I was 6 months old and then flew to the US to my adoptive parents. Unfortunately, I have no memory of the orphanage, but the records that I received with my adoption file seem to state that everything was fine. A couple in Minnesota adopted me when I was just 6 months old.

Early on, I got along with my family very well, but unfortunately my adoptive mother lost her battle to breast cancer when I was just 7. 

I grew up in a small town in Minnesota, and there were few Asians growing up. I was just another Asian face in a sea of white faces. Being in a transracial adoption was very hard and it wasn't until recently that I really had a firm foundation to my identity.

My parents raised me not to see color, but I wish instead that they had raised me to believe that seeing color is okay and that it’s not something bad. It was always hard to identify as a person of color because I was raised in a while family, so it almost felt taboo to identify as anything other than white.

My adoptive father lost his battle to ALS a year ago. It has taken a lot of therapy to work past all of the issues, especially my adoptive mother dying when I was 7.

I had a history of self sabotage that I never really assumed was related or even an issue until the last couple of years. Currently though, I have maybe weekly or bimonthly contact with my stepmother.

I have not reunited with my birth parents. I went searching for my birth mother in 2018 and currently I am at a dead end. As of right now I do not have any information on my birth father.

However, I enjoyed being able to travel back to South Korea and learning more about my heritage. I want to return to Korea and learn to speak Korean. I would also like to continue with my birth parent search.

I want others to know that other adoptees aren't alone and that we all have similar experiences.

Strength and Resilience

As adoptees, our stories begin in another land -- they begin with immigration. Our stories may be different from that of most immigrants, but as immigrants, we share the strength and resilience that are necessary to uproot ourselves and begin a new life in a foreign land not of our choosing.

I was born in CheChon, South Korea. I have a biological brother who is a year and a half younger than me. We were both placed in an orphanage in the city that we were born in. I don't know who my birth parents are. I am currently in the process of finding out more about my adoption story and about my birth parents.

My adoptive mom couldn't have kids of her own because she had ovarian cancer. She always wanted children so both her and my dad made the decision to adopt. They went through Holt International for their adoption process. One night at dinner, they received a phone call from their case manager that they had a brother and sister that they wanted to place in a home and asked if my parents would be interested in adopting a brother and sister that they wanted to keep together. Before, my parents could say yes, they talked about it while keeping the case manager on the phone. They agreed to adopt both of us without any hesitation.

I was adopted on April 7, 1988. I was five when I was adopted. The first year, I had to learn a new language and acclimate to my new surroundings and to my new family. I was too young to comprehend that I was being adopted. I was told by my mom how scared I was when I first  met my new family. I didn't talk. They were surprised because they were told that I was outgoing and talkative but that first initial meeting I was shy and apprehensive. My mom also told me how that first night in my new home how I cried going to sleep.

My family made sure that both my brother and I adapted very well and made sure that we were being taken care of mentally, emotionally and physically. I don't recollect any prior knowledge of my adoptive family. My parents did receive pictures of both my brother and I along with medical information and our background as to why we were placed in the orphanage along with other information about both my brother and I. My relationship with my adoptive parents growing up has always been a good one. They have supported me in everything that I have ever done.

As I grew older, I began to struggle with my identity. I've always known that I was adopted and a person of color. That was something I struggled with. I would communicate to my parents how I was dealing with these things and they listened and it was hard on them as well that I was going through this period of questioning who I was. My dad past away when I was 25 from cancer. My mom and I had a rough patch after he died but now we have reconciled and she has been the one constant person who has been there for me during my struggles of anxiety and depression and living a life of sobriety.

Adoption has made me see the world differently and how I love people. As an adoptee, I feel that I am more of an inclusive person and more accepting of others because of my parents and how they opened their home to both my brother and I without any hesitations.

Besides adapting to my new surroundings, the one challenge I had to overcome and still work through is fear of abandonment. Even though I love people, I am always worrying about being abandoned and left behind. I am grateful for my small group of friends who help me through this. Fear of abandonment is one of the causes for my anxiety. I get anxious when I feel that I am not heard but more so when I am alone for long periods of time. I allow myself to spin in circles by questioning myself about whether my actions were right or wrong or whether I did or did not do enough, or whether I said something wrong or not.

For a long time, I have allowed fear and my anxiety to hold me back from achieving my purpose that God has planned out for my life. The one area I am proud of is my heart of hospitality and willingness to serve people and meet them where they are at in their lives.

My biggest dream is to own a house and open my home to a family/individuals in the refugee community and live life with them. For most of my life, I have had a desire to go into ministry and living life on a daily basis with people in the refugee community is where I am called to serve. This year, I have enrolled in a discipleship training class to help jump start and fulfill my dream. My other dream is to write a book one day. However, my two biggest goals this year, are to visit Korea and to get my ESL teaching certification.

As adoptees, society forgets that we are immigrants as well and our stories often are forgotten and untold. As an Asian-American, I've become more aware of who I am and how I fit into the immigration story. There is a lot of pain in my immigration story. Yes, I am someone's daughter but I am still treated as an “other” by society. I am still being marginalized. My voice isn't often heard. My face is often not seen. I am in this constant tug-of-war between where I am from, who I am as an Asian-American woman, and how I belong. Being torn from our roots is something that all adoptees experience. We have a need to seek the truth about where we're from even though it may be impossible to do so. I hope to find my birth parents and I hope that they were both okay.