Different, Not Deficient

I was born in Uijeongbu, South Korea. I came to the U.S. at six months and moved to a small, rural town in Tennessee.

My dad was a pastor from an even smaller farming town in the state. My mother was an advocate for people with special needs from Memphis. My older brother was a blonde-hair, blue-eyed domestic adoptee three years older than me. My younger brother would be adopted seven years later from Hong Kong.

We were the only Asians for a few counties, minus the small Chinese family who ran a local restaurant in the next town.

My family was pretty conservative in thought and beliefs.

Growing up, there never seemed to be room for error in academics, morals, or our public actions. Not only did I stand out because of my ethnicity, but also because I was the daughter of the main Southern Baptist church's pastor.

All I really cared about doing was pleasing my dad and representing the family well. I never wanted to acknowledge that I was different.

To me, different was deficient. I never talked about it.

Occasionally, though, someone would tell me to go back where I came from or ask me how much I cost, and the thought of being different just kept coming back.

Adoptees are masters of balance and fluidity. We learn how to move in and out of situations like chameleons, constantly shifting. For me, I stopped caring what others thought when I realized I didn't care. It's been rough between my entire adoptive family and I for about five years now.

During my sophomore year of college, I started becoming more and more interested in my adoptive parents. As I hung out with my Korean friends and their families, a deep longing for something stirred.

December of junior year, I began the search for my biological family. By that August, I had heard about the death of my birth mother ten years ago. My father didn't want any contact, and my mother's younger sister had been looking for me since.

The grieving process has been long, and I want to just call it quits. Right now, it's the only connection I have to my birth family.

I try to compartmentalize a lot of my life, and it has hurt a lot of people. As much as I want everything to flow together like a lot of people's, I don't know if people are as ready as they think to make room. I'm also just growing up, and I need some kind of space to call my own. That is such a luxury that I have been able to afford the past four years. I live in a town about an hour away from my adoptive family and I’m working to move across the country one day.

I'm proud of the fact I'm still here and thriving.

I'm proud of the fact that things haven't turned out as well as I wanted, but I am still hopeful that everything will be okay.

My story isn't the only one out here, and perspective is more beautiful when it comes full circle.

I just want people to find their voice and share their story.

We are all like a body. We need each other to survive. Sure, a limb can be severed. It will die on its own and the rest of the body will not function at 100%, but the body will still function.

I'm not proud of everything I've said or done concerning my adoption experience, but we haven't seen a lot of open international transracial adoption experiences that went well. I know that we are strong people who have gone through more than we let on.


I know that we work hard to be known and know the culture that let us go so many years ago.

I think it's a harder situation when it's an infant being adopted.

I wish adoptive parents were better prepared. There's not an excuse anymore like there might have been in the 90s.

My goal is to let myself breathe since I'm done with college. I wasn't sure how to handle all of this while working on a B.A., but I'm taking a gap year before grad school to relax.

Hopefully, I will go to graduate school in a year to get my master's in Family Systems and then a Mediator's license.

I want to work to create a space for adoptees, adoptive families, and agencies to improve this paradox through critical dialogue. I hope to be on better terms with my adoptive parents and to find peace with my biological family.

I used to not be able to look in the mirror without being disappointed or somewhat annoyed that I wasn't something better.

I didn't think it mattered who I was since there seemed to only be room for certain people in my town.

It's been painful to go through this process of disillusionment as a young pioneer on a subject that most grown, educated people would never approach.

The reality is that we have to form movements, organizations, panel talks, and yell just for people to hear that there is a downside to their savior complex.

There is something lost when 'forever families' form out of paperwork, money, and plane rides.

Adoption isn't wrong or bad, but it hasn't been done well. It has been in the favor of the adoptive parents and agencies in most cases.

The suicides occurring due to mental health issues have gone unnoticed.

We learn how to survive instead of thrive with the people who paid $40,000 for us to have the 'better' life.

At the end of this, I still believe there is hope. There is something between my parents and I that is still there after so many tears shed at 3 AM in a lonely apartment. I have the luxury of faith in a bigger God who ordains all and knows all.

I'm fighting the desire to become too drunk on grief and forget about what has kept me alive all this time.

I'm sharing my story because who else will? I'm sharing my story because life has to be about more than just surviving as one of the marginalized.

We are different, not deficient.