The article that I linked recently seems to have opened a part of my mind in a way that made me squirm—but in a good way, I think.
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There are several adoptees I have encountered who have arrived at conclusions that agree with one another regarding their personal reunions with their biological families.
There seems to be a concession that they will never have the relationship with their biological parents for which they might have hoped.
They attribute this realization in part to the cultural and language barriers and also in part simply due to personality differences and more poignantly due to the lost years for which nothing can compensate.
Even without the language and cultural barriers, the post-reunion journey is often less than an ideal process.
It’s not simple or easy to try to build a relationship with one’s biological parents after a lifetime of absence. You can’t pick up where you left off, because most often you never began. And if there did happen to be a beginning, it ended abruptly and with great distress.
On the other hand, there are also a few adoptees I have encountered who seem to be doing very well in their reunions. They are not as distraught over the language and cultural barriers. They seem to be adjusting incredibly well, considering the circumstances. They are content despite the absence of a shared language. They appear to be forging lasting and healthy relationships with their biological families.
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I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, not surprisingly, I feel conflicted.
Quite honestly, in my mind, I have always imagined that, with time, my relationships with my Omma and Appa would naturally improve and grow as we learned to cope with the language and cultural barriers.
It is not that I imagined that such a process would be without obstacles, but rather that we would nonetheless continue to make progress, even if slowly and excruciatingly.
Honestly, the thought never dawned on me—that is, under the presumption that we would continue to agree that we wanted to remain in a relationship—that our relationship would not then continue to grow and mature until ultimately we would break through barriers and overcome differences to finally reach a deeper, more sustainable relationship.
Of course, I have always imagined that such a process would take years and years, possibly even decades.
But I had not really thought that we would hit a point at which we could get no further—that is, again, as long as all of us were continuing to forth effort, as long as we did not give up.
And now, of course, I begin to wonder and ponder, what if we do hit a stalemate? What if we get to a point where we are unable to get any further?
I suppose I’ve just assumed that as long as I keep doing my part and as long as they keep doing their part, we’ll eventually get “there.”
Of course, I could grow weary and exhausted and decide I do not want to do it anymore. They could change their minds and decide they want a stalemate. But, at least for my part, I do not imagine myself making that kind of decision…not after searching and waiting for seven years.
* * *
On the other hand, I do relate very much to what Hopgood and other adoptees have expressed as far as the seemingly permanent sense of displacement.
I tried making jap-chae and kimchi kim bap and o-ee (cucumber) kim bap the other day, and I literally began crying during the process.
I know, seems pretty pathetic and overly dramatic.
As usual, I don’t even really know how to put into words what I was feeling.
I just know that I felt such a pressure and such a burden while at the same time feeling compelled and determined.
I simultaneously did and did not want to be learning how to make Korean food.
I wanted to rebel and throw down the seaweed and noodles and all the chopped vegetables and scream I hate this! I hate Korea! Why should I have to learn these things?! Why is this so hard?!
Yet in the same moment and in the same way, I could not stop myself. I felt compelled, driven. I wanted to finish it. I wanted to get it done. I wanted to make it work.
Not because anyone was forcing it upon me, but because something within me could not stop pushing ahead.
So I kept chopping and I kept rolling, eyes blurry with tears, lips shaky with uncertain smiles—amidst a mixed harmony that can only be made when both laughing and crying join together in a joyous kind of misery.