A fellow Korean adoptee who has also met her biological family asked me recently, Do you feel any different…?
Although the question may seem a simple one and the answer obvious, it is actually an incredibly profound inquiry.
* * *
In short, I feel worlds different.
I am never going to be the same.
I traveled to Korea as a person I thought I knew. I have returned as someone new and unfamiliar. It is as though I am unknown now even to myself. I must make my own acquaintance.
I feel as though I have undergone this irrevocable and life-altering transformation. Yet no one else can tell. No one else can perceive it.
I found an unknown life and secret identity that have belonged to me yet eluded me all these years. Now as they try to find their place within me, I simultaneously fear and welcome their emergence.
* * *
I feel as though I am of two worlds.
How do I reconcile the differences? How do I merge the two?
In some ways, neither place feels like home. In other ways, both feel like home.
* * *
Perhaps it is as though one had been born blind, until one day you awoke and could see.
It is both beautiful and horrifying. You are overwhelmed. You almost do not know what to do with yourself. You have grown accustomed to perceiving, experiencing and interacting with the world in a certain way. And then suddenly, everything has changed.
* * *
Ultimately, I do not know how to put it into words. I feel as though my world has undergone seismic shifts and drastic transformation, but I do not know how to express it.
I stare at the photos of each biological parent; I cannot even begin to comprehend what has happened—what is happening.
These are the people who conceived me and gave me life—these people whom I have not seen until now, these people whom I have never known until now. They changed my life in profound and irreversible ways, and yet I have not known them or seen them until now.
* * *
I feel lost still.
I do not know what to do with myself.
I feel peace now that I do not have to wonder about the identities of my birth parents. I feel fortunate and relieved to finally know, to have some answers.
And yet I still feel unsettled and restless.
It is not that I expected this to cure anything or to suddenly make all things well.
I didn’t know what to expect quite honestly. I’m simply trying to figure it out along the way.
It is still amazing to me. It is still a dream come true. And yet, it is not a fairy tale. It is not a happily ever after.
It is a happy ending to a seven-year search in the sense that I am happy to find my biological mother and father.
But it is far from being the end. And with just as much happiness that has been stirred has come just as much emotional turmoil.
* * *
My Omma wrote a letter to me recently expressing still so much grief and longing.
She had to watch me leave, not knowing when she might see me again. She wrote that she felt as though she was losing me all over again.
She said she went to the doctor, because she thought she was having heart problems. The doctor said she was fine.
But I understand as much as I am able.
Her heart is still broken. And it is not the kind of broken that any doctor can treat. It is the kind of broken that never finds sufficient remedy or cure.
It is the kind of broken that may mend but will never fully heal.
Yet somehow, I would rather feel that I am broken than harden my heart and never know pain.
To quote a Juliana Hatfield song, A heart that hurts is a heart that works.
I know it’s cliché and a bit melodramatic, but I can at least take comfort, now, in knowing that my melodramatic proclivities as well as my affinity for the sentimental originate not from some random abyss but rather have their origin in the people I now know as Omma and Appa.