Wednesday, April 29, 2009

one Degree of Separation


So, back in a previous post, "holy Moley: An Update," I mentioned that the woman who works here in America for Dillon International as the Director of Korea Adoptions was visiting Korea last week?

I just received an email this morning.

She met with my birth father face to face.

They talked with one another. It seems in depth.

They also took some photographs of and with my birth father after the meeting.

I felt elated, shaky, restless as I read the email and gazed at the photos.

Butterflies are still fluttering in my head and gut.


Something that I suspected was also confirmed--my birth father's wife and children know NOTHING about me.

He wants to tell them eventually. He said that he thinks his son will be understanding, but he is less confident about how his wife and daughter will respond.


A deluge of indescribable emotion inundates me, of course. I can't even identify its various currents and directions right now. I just know that it is washing over me.

It feels simultaneously pleasant and ominous. The way I used to feel when I was a little girl swimming out in the open ocean off the shores of the Philippine Islands.

I would take in a deep breath and pull myself under to peer into the pristine and brimming ocean water. I could feel my body drifting and would have to tread to hold my place.

The majesty of it all captivated me with such beauty and marvel.

And yet a gnawing unease would run through my body as I felt the vastness of the uncertain and bizarre ocean waters pressing in against me.

I would have to jerk my head above water before it overtook me.

And although even then, it still felt as though something was sucking at my heels, there was also something wildly adventurous and addicting about the thrill of imagined danger and the endless mystery of a deep, dark unknown.


Except now, it is not imagined. And there is no jerking my head above the water.

I have thrown myself in, if not be overtaken, then at least to no longer dread drifting and floating out into those uncertain and bizarre waters sucking at my heels.


In May, the Director will be visiting Korea again. During that time, she plans to meet with my birth mother face to face.


Like I said in the previous post--although we're at only one degree of separation now, it at times feels as though the separation remains a vast chasm, while at other times, it feels all too close.

Nonetheless, those who were once lost and estranged from one another are now being given opportunity to draw near and to overcome that which may still, at times, seem insurmountable yet does not fail to give the hope of healing and reconciliation.

Friday, April 24, 2009

frequently Asked Questions

Really the answer to each one of the following questions could easily be expanded upon and could each become a post in and of itself. Maybe at some point, I will expound.

But for now, this is all that I can churn out.

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed and find myself flailing and gasping for breath beneath the behemoth of intellectual and emotional stimulation that this whole process plops on me. I know it's inevitable. But like they say, I've got to eat this thing one little bite at a time. Or else I'll choke.

And seriously, at this point, I can't eat a thing--first I've got to work my way out from underneath it all...Besides, who wants to eat a behemoth, anyway?

I'd rather befriend it, hop on its back, and see to what far parts of the world it takes me.

Why did you decide to search?
That's a whole other post really. But to be concise, because I wanted to know the unknown, the why. Is it not natural to want to know one's origins? For the same reasons that families know their genealogies and tell stories about their great grandparents and ancestors, I wanted to know what happened, from where and who I originated.

How long did the search take? About six & half years. I initiated the search in May of 2002. I got the phone call that my birth parents had been located on January 7, 2009.

How do your [American] parents feel about all this? They are very supportive--albeit, naturally and understandably, a bit apprehensive and protective. But what parent would not be? They love me and just don't want any harm to come to me. Yet they understand my need, my drive to want to know and to make the connection.

What's your post-reunion plan? Er, well, I hope for a long-term and healthy reconciliation. But I'm only one factor in this very complex and complicated equation. Ultimately, I cannot control or determine what will happen--I can only decide and control how I will respond to and deal with what does transpire.

Do your [Korean] parents speak English? That would be a negatron. No. They don't speak English. And I don't speak Korean. I'm trying to learn, but, er, that's gonna take some major time and effort. And I have my doubts and insecurities about ever actually mastering the language enough to be fluent.

Do you have [Korean] siblings? That would be a positron. Yes. Four half-siblings. Two on my Korean mother's side and two on my Korean father's side. But at this point I am getting the impression that they know nothing about me. And I do not know whether they will know anything about me in the near future. It's beyond complicated. I also have an uncle and an aunt on my Korean father's side, and two uncles and two aunts on my Korean mother's side. Again, I am not clear as to their knowledge or stance regarding the situation.

I'm sure there are other questions that I'm just not remembering right this moment. If I think of any others, I'll be sure to feed the behemoth.

the Boy in the Stroller: How not to react


I knew better than to drink a cup of coffee at 9 o'clock at night.

Now, it's after midnight.

My mind is racing, and I'm starkly awake when I want to be soundly sleeping.


A conversation took place back in March on a Friday night between my husband and a woman.

I had been debating whether to write about what transpired.

But what the heck. I'm up and feel the need to throw it out there.


In some ways, it was to be expected. You don't set up a "booth" on a sidewalk advertising that you have found your birth parents and that you're trying to meet them in Korea, without anticipating that you might encounter an array of questionable reactions. (To read about that experience, see the pertaining post called, "the Sidewalk")

Why I ventured to engage myself in such an idiotic activity--I don't know. Most likely, absolute desperation, and perhaps an eccentric lapse of logical and consequential thinking. What's that called again? Oh yes, impulsiveness.


The woman asked my husband, "So, your wife has found her birth parents, and she is trying to meet them in Korea?"

My husband replied, "Yes, that's right," expecting a supportive congratulations and best wishes.

The woman proceeded by practically yelling, "Well, my son is adopted, and he is a gift! And I don't care if he ever finds his birth parents!"

She might as well have slapped both of us in the face and saved her breath. I personally would have preferred the concrete hand print on my cheek over the intangible pang in my gut.

She stomped off, as she jerked the stroller that held her young son, and disappeared.


My heart still wrenches and plummets when I think of the young boy in the stroller.

I will probably always think of him now and in the years to come--wondering what fate came upon him as a result of growing up in such an environment. I cannot call it anything but hostile and ignorant.

Maybe I'm wrong to make such a conclusion without knowing this woman or her background. Maybe she was just having a bad night.

In all honesty, though, I get the feeling, if that's the case, then every night is a bad night, if you know what I mean. May her mind and heart find better understanding and enlightenment, if not only for the sake of her son.

My heart is with that little boy, and I hope and pray that he will ultimately find his way.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

After Losing Freedom, Immigrants Face Losing Custody of Their Children

What do you think about this? (To read the article, simply click on the title.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

nine More Weeks


We officially received confirmation of our airline tickets.

Only nine more weeks.

And we'll be shaking out our wings to take flight over and across the ocean to a land called Korea.


Mike and I have been watching videos posted on You Tube of different Korean apartments, the outdoor markets in Seoul and Busan, and of course, city fashion. I caught a few more videos this morning of Insadong, Namdaemun, and Itaewon.

The set up of the bathrooms in Korean apartments is quite noteworthy. The bathroom IS the shower (one of many videos: I realize that this is a space-saver and in some ways, quite practical, but if the places at which we're staying have this set up, it will certainly require some adjustment on my part.

And I'm, well, a little perplexed on how you keep things dry--like your towel and the toilet paper--in a set up like that...? I guess storing such items in the bathroom makes less sense when the bathroom is the shower?


But nonetheless, I like new settings, and as odd as it may seem, I'm excited about experiencing the seemingly quirky and idiosyncratic characteristics (simply because they are not to what I am accustomed) of a country and culture that are still new to me and yet a part of me.

Viewing the videos of the outdoor markets in both Seoul and Busan excited me and made me all the more eager for the following nine weeks to pass quickly. Some of the cuisine definitely makes me a little nervous and squeamish, and yet equally fills me with impatient anticipation for the ensuing adventure.


My husband said the other night that he feels like we'll be flying to Mars.

I laughed and said, "It's just another country."

And yet quite honestly, I can completely relate to what he is feeling. Although I may be able to blend in superficially, I am still going to feel like the one nut in a basket of plums, if you know what I mean.

No worries, though. Really, I guess that'll be nothing new for me anyway--I've spent most of my life being the nut around here...

Smile, wink.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I am walking around in the darkness
up some kind of 90 degree angle.
the math sounds impossible,

but that is just what makes it possible--

in a place like this.

I like to say that my face has character,
"it is well-traveled," I believe I have written
in some other attempt to avoid acknowledging
that I am beaten-down and torn.

(it is the discarded furniture that the euphemistic
qualify as having "charm")--even charm will
age beyond. the reach of euphemism--

so, I buy these labels and
picture boxes and
tiny, round glass jars.

to catalog proof of my humanity:

I tend to claw and ravage
like a starving animal.

something primitive still ticks. and. tocks
in the darkness waiting to be filled among--
the neurons and

where mystery jumps the gaps: you will feel me
with your microscope and tweezers

I am only matter
collecting in your beaker,

vapor rising from
your Bunsen burner.

but the light you poke into the darkness
cannot find its home here.
because the math. here. is impossible--

the absurd and uncooperative angles. inspire
alone the simple--

who cannot be deceived
by the trickery of the
inflated and the greedy calculations of the
man who loves to think we can conquer


I will keep living among the impossible
where my face will continue to gather-- character.

and perhaps, one day, I will no longer
require proof of my humanity--

I will lose my labels and
picture boxes. and
tiny, round glass jars.

I will find no darkness. no gaps.

I will find the eternity of

the simple.

Friday, April 17, 2009

holy Moley: An Update


So, the airline tickets are being purchased. We're simply waiting on a confirmation of the flight itinerary from the Tour Coordinator.

We received a packet about a week ago that included luggage tags, various brochures and pamphlets of information, along with the itinerary for the twelve days we'll be in Korea.

It's a good mix of activities. I have been told, though, that I can move at my own pace, and that should I need a break or just some time to rest and process, I am in no way obligated to participate on any given day.

We will be visiting an orphanage and a home for unwed birth mothers.


A tentative date--the day after we arrive in Korea--has been set for the first meetings with each birth parent.

I think I'll be keeping Kleenex and Puffs in business for the months to come.


Just a few random things I have recently been learning about Korea :
  1. US beef jerky & honey are coveted items.
  2. Gift-giving is a very important tradition.
  3. Don't ever write a living person's name in red.
  4. The word for the number "4" is the same as the word for "death." Therefore, often the number 4 is avoided similarly to the way that the number 13 is avoided in the U.S.
  5. Wearing all white would be a little weird (the color worn at a funeral).
  6. Korea has a bullet train that goes from Seoul to Busan in less than 3 hours!
  7. It is rude to wave someone to you with the palm up. Palm must be facing down.
  8. It is sweltering, spicy hot during the summer months.
  9. I like the language but get easily frustrated & hyper-emotional when trying to learn it.
  10. Hugs are not the norm.
  11. The idea of being surrounded by all things Korean still makes me nervous & overwhelmed.
  12. Harley Davidson has a major following. Check out this commercial:
  13. You need to buy a voltage adapter if you visit. (This one is a bit more obvious & common sense).
  14. The flag is called "Tae Guk Gi." (For more info on the flag visit:
  15. I'm still struggling with conflicting, push-pull sentiments toward Korea.
  16. I know I've learned more and will need to learn more, but that's all I can think of at the moment.

The woman who has been my primary contact and mediator for the past seven years, Dukkyung, had mentioned that she might have the opportunity to visit Korea this month of April.

She told me that if she did happen to make the trip that she planned to talk with each one of my birth parents while she was there.

Well, she's there. Right now. I'm not sure when she is scheduled to talk with each of them. Or if she has already.

What am I thinking?

WOAH. That's what I'm thinking.

Only one degree of separation is what I'm thinking.

It's borderline weird and wacky, I know--like people who go to some exhibit hoping to touch or at least gaze upon some article that is believed to have once belonged to a "saint" or those who attend an auction to bid on a pair of sandals once strapped to the feet of Ghandi.

I can't help it. But I'm thinking, when I speak with Dukkyung, I'll only be one person away from each of my birth parents. When I meet Dukkyung in L.A. and shake hands with her for the first time, as we board the same airplane on our way to Korea, I will be shaking the hand of someone who has met my birth parents, who has exchanged meaningful words with both of them.

Of course, don't worry, I'm not really that far out there. I don't think my birth parents are "saints," and although I respect Ghandi's life, I wouldn't pay millions of dollars for his shoes--he was after all just a man--albeit, a man who did some extraordinary things. All I'm saying is that I'm trying to keep my head and heart straight--I'm not intending to go bizarre and kooky by putting anyone on a pedestal and "worshiping" those who were not made to be worshiped, if you know what I mean.

But I am a sentimental kind of person. And in the same way that I hold onto to certain photographs and items because they symbolize for me the emotional and personal connection I possess for those who mean the most to me--Dukkyung's return from Korea symbolizes that I am just one step closer to coming into contact with the ones for whom I have searched and wandered for so long.

No matter the outcome--these lifetime unknowns are finding some answers. And some is better than none, in this case.

I am so anxious for her to return to the States--to hear all that she has to say.


Oh, one other thing I don't think I've mentioned...if I have, I'm sure you'll understand...

When my birth father first got the news that my husband and I would be traveling to Korea this summer, he responded with such eagerness that he said he wanted to meet us at the airport upon our arrival.

I was certainly encouraged by this information.

For obvious reasons, we're going to wait to meet in a setting that is more private, intimate, and controlled than an international airport.

Nonetheless, I was happy to know that he was so eager to greet us. It gives me hope that we will all be able to work through this complex, delicate set of circumstances in due time.


This is really happening.

Oh my.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Korean commercial for Harley Davidson Motorcycles

I could not resist posting this, particularly knowing now that my birth father has owned a Harley for over 18 years.

I've always associated Harleys with middle-aged white men. (I don't mean this as a socio-political statement, and obviously this commercial shows that Harleys appeal to some other demographics of which I was not aware--besides, I've always liked Harleys myself, and I'm obviously not a middle-aged white man. Ha.) But because of that association in my mind, seeing this commercial just was not quite what I expected. I never knew Harleys appealed to this demographic. But I dig it :)

Just click on the title of this post, and it will take you to the commercial on YouTube.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009



I feel a lashing-out coming on.

It's late. I feel angry.

I don't want to think about it. But I know I need to think about it.

I don't want to feel this. But I know that I must.

Not because someone else is telling me that I should.
Not because I feel pressured or forced.


this is who I am.


Those forbidden thoughts can no longer remain oppressed. I cannot ignore them any longer. I can no longer deny them their fair acknowledgment, lest I continue to deceive myself.

This is the only way to merge.
Albeit messy and taxing.
The off-ramps have been moved or closed.
The on-ramps are congested and under upheaval.

I'm on this interstate now. For better or for worse, I'm going to wherever it takes me.

A high speed chase or a ride through the countryside...

I'm in the driver's seat, making my way toward that infinite horizon.


Who would I be? How would my life have been different?

I cannot help but ask myself such questions.

But there are other questions, ones that I fear to utter, even in the privacy of my own mind.

I feel like a betrayer. A traitor.

I mean no disrespect. It is not a sign of ingratitude.

It is inevitable.

It is simply inherent to such circumstances in which adoptees find ourselves. We did not choose these circumstances. We did not choose to find ourselves caught between two worlds.

We can only choose what we will do now.

It is only natural that we would wonder, is it not? It is only natural that we would some day find again those questions that lost themselves in the fear of being misunderstood, rejected, stifled.

(So I stifled myself.)


I don't want to stifle myself any longer.

But I almost do not know how not to stifle myself.
I am expert and well-trained in the sabotage of suppression.
And yet it seems to be leaving me.
I seem to be losing this art in place of finding another, perhaps.

I still have so much to learn. So much still to understand.

I still have yet a voice that I have not found. How I fear finding this voice, and what it might utter should I set it free.


I hear a distant whisper.
Drawing nearer each and every moment.

NPR Talk of the Nation: Why did you opt for an international adoption?

THE STATS: Ya, baby! We have reached the goal!

Oh ya! I am honored & humbled to be able to announce with the deepest thanks & a giddy heart, that due to the outpouring of gracious generosity & kindness of over 100 individuals, we have reached our goal!

I would not feel right without giving proper thanks to those who have given of their hearts, time & resources to help raise the money needed to begin this journey of a lifetime.

In the most true & literal sense, it is because of the kindness, generosity, and sacrifice of EVERY individual who has contributed that both Mike & I will be able to travel to Korea this summer to meet my birth mother & birth father for the first time.

(Note: The following list is in alphabetical order. Also, there may yet be more names added--even though we have reached the goal, I am overwhelmed to learn that there are those who still wish to give!)

Angela L
Angela S
Bill & Vicki
Charlie & Melissa
Clint & Meg
Clint & Noelle
Daniel & Seyoung
Dave & Jennifer
Edmond & Amy
Eric & Mary Anne
Evan & Sara
First Friday
G. Sharma
Gabriel & Heather
Il & Angelica
Jason & Nanyana
Jeremy & Lisa
Joe & Laura
Joe & Lindsay
Joey & Debbie
John & Rachel
Jon & Amanda
Josh & Megan
Josh & Nikki
Justin C
Justin S
Karl & Chandler
Keith & Lisa
Kera & her family
Kerry & Ginger
Kerry & Terri
Kevin & Shenita
Lali & Melinda
Lew & Ann
Marco & Erika
Mat & Sharon
Melissa RS
Melissa SS
Melissa T
Mia & Mads
Mi Anne
Mike & Haeyoung
Mike & Sandra
Mike & Yvonne
Nikki D
Quentin & Shirley
Rick & Tina
Rob & Margaret
Ryan & Amanda
Ryan & Reagan
Sam & Naini
Sam & Theresa
Scott & Marisa
Scott & Patricia
Search Party
Simon & Julie
Tim & Anne
Tim & Donna
Tim & Pam
Tina & Terry
Vince & Zane

I am deeply indebted and feel a great sense of responsibility.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

the One and Many


I still feel and live in so much conflict. I experience such an intense mix of emotion when I think of the practice and issue of adoption, more specifically trans-racial and inter-country adoption.

At this point, I feel as though I am neither in support of or in opposition of adoption, but remain somewhat neutral, if not more in conflict and unresolved on the issue.

I know that to many the idea of taking in someone who has no one is a very noble and loving thing to do. And in another way, it is neither noble nor loving, but rather what we should do, and at times, all that we can do.

And yet, how do I personally feel about inter-country and trans-racial adoption? Again, it seems like a very noble concept. From the days of the Israelites, taking in foreigners and “adopting” them as your own people was taught as the right and good thing to do. Overcoming cultural barriers and choosing to love a person regardless of differences whether superficial or deep within has been purported as a noble cause for ages.

And yet the hurt and tragedy, the loss that comes, that I personally am experiencing firsthand makes me question all of it.


Yet would I have rather been left without a family so that I could grow up in the land of my birth? Would I have rather been scorned and mistreated as an illegitimate child so that I could remain in the culture and language that first bore me? Honestly, I do not know how to answer such a question—because such an inquiry seems, well, ludicrous and irrelevant, at this point in my life.

Asking me such a question is basically akin to asking me whether I would have rather grown up with my Korean family over my American family? That’s comparable to asking a five-year child to choose between living with mommy or daddy in the case of a divorce. It’s ridiculous and absurd. The kid should never have to make such a choice. He or she does not want to live with mommy or daddy. The child wants to live with both.

Forcing a child to make such a choice means having to reduce and break apart each parent into pieces of pros and cons, rather than viewing each parent as the whole individuals that they are. Human beings are not made up of pros and cons. We are not pieces to be divided into keepers versus throwaways. We are whole beings—living, breathing, feeling beings.


Culture and language are hot topics these days. Preserving and cultivating one’s cultural heritage and origins are the popular things to do these days—almost trendy. Being ethnic, and even more so multi-ethnic is the hot thing, the cool thing. The more multi-ethnic a person is, the more unique and individualistic you are in the eyes of observers. You get the “super-cool, super-ethnic” label. All bow down.

It seems an arbitrary and odd thing to me. This overemphasis on culture and ethnicity. Not that we should not value culture and ethnicity. Not that we should not cultivate our origins. But there grows this increasing tension in our global community between the teachings of our common humanity and our uncommon individualism.

On one hand, we are taught to embrace our fellow man with blindness to color, ethnicity, language, etc. In other words, we are taught to overcome the cultural barriers that so often divide us from one another. And yet on the other hand, we are taught that we must acknowledge from where someone came—that we must not only accept and embrace their differences, but we must have a detailed understanding of these differences as they define who the person is. To lack such an understanding is often characterized as primitive and ethnocentric.

And yet, here we encounter, again, this tension between being taught to let go of ethnocentrism while simultaneously being taught to hold on to ethnocentrism.


Now, of course, a primary point I am trying to make is that it does not have to be either/or. But rather, it can be both. We can do both. We can equally appreciate a person’s ethnic and cultural origins while also embracing who they are regardless of or because of those origins and differences.

Where we disagree, this is where we must learn to tolerate and accept. Where we do not necessarily disagree but rather agree or at least meet with interest and appreciation, we can embrace and cultivate those origins and differences with harmony and gratitude.


With all this said, I still cannot come to a hard, solid conclusion regarding inter-country or trans-racial adoption. To proclaim that one way is indubitably right or utterly wrong does not bring me comfort or resolution, but rather troubles me even more so.

Indeed it grieves me deeply that I do not know the language that my birth parents speak, that their culture is one that I will have to learn and make efforts to understand. But is that enough for me to say that I wish I had not been adopted into the American family that I have known all my life as my only family?

In my mind, these are absurd questions to ask myself. Not that I cannot ask them, but more so that to proclaim that I scorn my adoption because the family into which I was adopted came from a different land and a different people than my original place of birth, to me personally, would be utter hypocrisy and reverse discrimination.

I have not always been accepted or treated well here in America due to my differences in appearance, and have experienced equal inner turmoil for similar reasons. But then to reject those same people for having treated me as such would only be to repeat that which has caused me pain and suffering over the years. Then I would have learned nothing and changed nothing through my experience, but rather would only project and perpetuate such suffering and hardship upon others.

It would seem to me that to reject those who have rejected me is nothing but revenge. And I cannot do revenge. Revenge is the progenitor of generations of hatred, bitterness, faction, war, and ignorance. It exacts nothing but hostility, animosity, and suffering. It breeds only destruction and death of heart and soul. It has nothing to do with peace. And peace is all that I seek. I grow weary of anger and rage, of warring and shaking my fists.


Mother Theresa’s words help me to endure and remember truly what it means to persevere in love, “I have found the paradox in life that when I love until it hurts, there is no hurt, only more love.”

Naturally, when we hurt, we want to make it feel better. And so often, we do so in ways that seem right and good with sincere intentions to help alleviate not only our own pain but also the pain of others. And yet, equally so, there is often a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.

What works for some may not work for others. Relativism does not apply to all situations. For example, murder is murder. Rape is rape. But in the case of adoption, it is a much more complex issue. Indeed, there are those who commit much wrong in the realm of adoption. Abuses take place and people are exploited. But to lash out against all for the wrongdoing of others is when we can often end up "throwing the baby out with the bath water" or "pulling the good crops up with the weeds."

We cannot allow the dark and calloused hearts of some to overshadow the loving and sincere hearts of others. When we allow fear to reign, we stifle love. When we allow hurt to overtake us, we kill the only force that can save us—love. And I realize that even love can be distorted and perverted—that many have committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of love.

Even more compelling reason to beware and exercise caution and humility.


Not surprisingly, multiple and complex issues call for multiple and complex solutions. We must realize that our individual experiences influence powerfully the conclusions upon which we arrive.

But as stated, experience is a very individual thing. And we must be careful not to be presumptuous in thinking that our experience is truth for everyone. It may be for some, but we tread dangerous waters when we insist that it is truth for all. In the end, we may end up inadvertently yet tragically drowning those we think we are attempting to help.

We must seek out wisdom with humility and not only an open mind but also an open heart. It is a vast and wide ocean teeming with a rich and varied array of life—some designed for the deepest and darkest depths, others must remain close to the surface, and still some in between or near the shore. To force one creature to live where the other dwells could be its death, no matter how sincere or how lovely the intentions.


The problem is not culture or language. The problem is human.

It may be true that for some it would have seemed more ideal for them to remain in the country of their birth. I, myself, cannot deny the pang that shoots through my own heart whenever I encounter American-Caucasian families who have adopted a child of a different ethnic background. The pang emerges from a flood of emotional memories of all the hardship and difficulty I faced as a not only a trans-racial but also an inter-country adoptee.

When I see a young trans-racial adoptee, I see all my life’s pains flash before my eyes and heart—and I hurt for these children. And I only hope and pray that their parents have the humility and compassion to try to understand and draw the child out.

And for others, it would have seemed more ideal that they were adopted into a family and nation of a different people. And here, I also must admit that I cannot deny the deep sense of love and gratitude I possess for my family. Their blood somehow runs through my veins, even though we are not of the same genetic makings. And I cannot imagine my life without them. Even the thought of not knowing them provokes the deepest panic and sense of despair and dread.

One could say that I feel this simply because I fear abandonment, simply because I am clinging to all that I have ever known. Even if this is so, it still does not nullify the truth for me that I cannot live without them. They are my family, my blood.


So I am both. I am many. We are both. We are many.

And the inner turmoil and conflict that I feel over adoption is one that will never find absolute resolution. I will always grieve the loss of my first culture and language. But that grief does not cause me to forsake the family that has become my culture and my language. I must embrace one without letting go of the other.

And really, the problem is not losing and maintaining one’s origin. The problem is much deeper, and hence not easily solved.

It is not simply on a global scale that discrimination and rejection take place. It happens to everyone, even those within their own people. The small kid whom the bully taunts (even the bully himself is rejected). The overweight kid whom everyone teases and ostracizes. The kid who talks with an impediment. And list of those harangued and hurt goes on.

And it’s not only in childhood that these discriminations take place—we all know that, unfortunately, playground politics extend into adulthood.

Most apparent and relevant, the unwed mother marginalized and alienated by her family and society. Of course, the deeply embedded ideologies that perpetuate and prop up such negative and destructive stigmas are obviously a bit more complex and pertinacious than what happens on the playground—but so are the consequences and effects on the individuals and societies involved.

So, is the solution to this to just keep everyone separated within their own kind, so that no one ever feels excluded or “different?” Is the answer to surround oneself with people only like oneself? That will solve all hurts and pains?

That is why it is a problem with human nature, not culture or language. The darker parts of our human nature are what lead to the pain and suffering we experience not only as adoptees but as any human being who finds himself or herself in a situation in which he or she is “different.”

“Keeping them separated” only breeds more contempt and ignorance and prejudice. Again, we encounter these conflicting notions of simultaneously wanting to abolish such segregations of those who are different from one another versus perpetuating such segregations of those who are different from one another.


Really, there is this ideal concept that there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, Korean nor American, and so forth—but rather we are all one.

Is this still a concept that people value? Or has it been consigned to the realm of anachronistic idealism? If indeed, people still believe in such an ideal, then let us not grow weary in pursuing its application and practice.

Can we not work to educate people, to teach people to overcome the darker parts of our humanity that drive us to treat one another with discrimination and prejudice, rather than giving way to collective and self-perpetuated segregation from one another?

Don’t get me wrong, we need people who will be advocates for causes both small and large, both specific and general. But I think to be effective and to keep things in perspective, we would benefit to remember the larger picture—so that we do not make the mistake of becoming insular, un-relatable, and out of touch with the realities of the overall cause for humanity as a whole.

When advocating one cause for a human right, perhaps we would benefit to keep in mind that our one cause is just a singular piece of the whole cause for humane living and treatment of others.

As I have quoted before, a character in Chang Rae Lee’s novel, Native Speaker, reminds us of how we must remember to think, "I ask that you remember these things, or know them now. Know that what we have in common, the sadness and pain and injustice, will always be stronger than our differences."

So often, we get so caught up in the cause of our people, our group, our suffering, so much so that we forget that we are not the only ones. We forget that “the sadness and pain and injustice” can work to bring us all together for one another rather than against one another, if only we would stop for a moment to remember this truth, that is indeed, a truth for everyone.

Our pain and suffering is not only ours alone, but it is the world’s. It is through our personal pain and suffering that we can learn to feel compassion, sympathy, empathy not simply for ourselves but for our fellow man and woman on the other side of the world or just down the street.

The hardships we face, I believe are meant not only to draw us inwardly but to draw us outwardly that we may relate to and reach out to those around us. If only we would do so, not simply to those who are the same, but to those who are different, perhaps at first glance, but upon deeper observation share similar turmoil if not outwardly then inwardly.


As Emily Dickinson wrote, and as I have quoted before,

"I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."

Her words, to me, capture so simply yet poignantly what it is that we can do with the life that we have been given, and in particular with the sufferings and toils we face. We can share them with one another to comfort and ease one another when we grow faint or weary.


As Americans we have this false and strayed notion that we must be a self-made man or a self-made woman. This is absurd and pure lie. Who of us would be here had we been left to our own selves, in both the practical and abstract sense?

Clearly, we all began as infants, utterly helpless and completely subject to the will and kindness of others. Left to ourselves, certainly we would have perished.

Furthermore, as we struggle through life, who of us would be where we are today without the help of others?

Whether it was a parent close to us, or the countless faceless individuals who paid their taxes to provide our public education or pave the roads that enabled us to travel to our private institutions? The construction workers who built our facilities, the financial aid workers who processed all the paperwork through the echelons of bureaucracy? The warehouse worker who loaded the textbooks onto the truck? The teacher or instructor or employer who believed in you?

The farmer who grows the food to nourish our bodies and minds? The grocery store clerk who helps us to purchase that food? The factory workers who produce the circuitry for our computers? The list of acknowledgements is endless.

Sincerely, who of us would be here without the other?

We like to tell ourselves that we need no one. We like to persuade ourselves that we have made it here due solely to our own hard work and efforts. Yet perhaps it would be more true to acknowledge that we stand where we are due not only to our individual hard work and efforts but also as a result of the collective hard work and efforts of nameless others—again, not a case of either/or, but of many.

If we think we are anyone due purely and exclusively to own effort, we deceive ourselves. This is the definition of arrogance and ignorance. And such fruit is short-lived and easily rotted and embittered, and ultimately leads to downfall.

We are here because of one another. If only we would reach out and humble ourselves that we could hold one another up in our weaknesses and spur one another on in our strengths.

Then indeed, we shall not have lived our lives in vain.


I am here due to the effort and sacrifice and love of not only one but of many.

Unwed mothers & their children in Korea