Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I take it personally

[Originally written on 4.19.2010]

This past weekend, I visited with an adoptive parent group and a group of mentors about my adoption experience. I was very refreshed by their openness and their willingness to listen. It is uplifting and consoling to know that their are people out there who want to get it, who are willing to open their minds and hearts to take the time to educate themselves. High five.

When I encounter parents and others who are so willing to make efforts to learn and to understand, it also makes me question why there still remain so many parents and people in general who refuse to do the same. It's comparable to, say, the well-known fact that driving while drunk is incredibly hazardous and potentially fatal not only for the drunk driver but for those on the road with him or her--but people, against their better judgement, still choose to drive drunk anyway. Despite the statistics, people make the choice every day to get in a car while intoxicated. They choose to ignore the very real and known facts and consequences of doing so.

We're all human, and we've all made poor decisions, even when presented with sound knowledge that such a decision might result in harmful or detrimental consequences to ourselves and those around us. Yet the idea is that we hopefully learn enough from such mistakes to begin to humble ourselves in order to listen, even when we'd rather not, because we know that someone else might have wisdom that we do not.

I know I can sound like a broken record, but I repeat myself hoping that those who might doubt the insight that adult adoptees offer will eventually begin to listen.

I think part of the reason I have such a hard time when I encounter adoptive parents who do not acknowledge the losses of being adopted and all the grief and pain that inherently accompany such losses is that I take it personally.

It’s not easy, you know, putting your heart out there. Discussing the difficulties I have encountered as an adoptee is not necessarily what I’d describe as a fun and heart-warming experience, especially when I encounter folks who seem to consider my experience an anomalous or unfair representation of the adoptee experience.

I take it personally, because it’s as though their refusal to acknowledge the reality of the trauma their child has experienced is a refusal to acknowledge the truth of the experience of all the adult adoptees that have been brave enough and vulnerable enough to shed light upon the otherwise neglected hardships of being adopted.

It’s almost as though these people are calling me, and my fellow adoptees, liars.

With the abundance of adult adoptee blogs not to mention the myriad of resources available that educate and address the losses and unique issues faced by adoptees, I find it almost insulting and certainly patronizing when adoptive parents choose to turn a blind eye and believe their own ideas over what is actually true.

And it’s not as though I didn’t once think like some of these adoptive parents or the general public. If you had spoken with my fifteen year old self, or even a few years later had a conversation with my twenty-five year old self, you would have walked away thinking that I had no desire whatsoever to know my biological parents, and even more so that being adopted had caused me no harm or issue.

Despite what you may think, I did not always think the way that I do now. And the way I think now is not because I’m an apple that went rotten.

So, what happened? Why has my mindset changed over the years?

Er, well, first of all, I grew up—literally. This means my brain metamorphosed and developed dramatically, and hence my capacity to understand and process complex human thought and emotion eventually developed with it.

As I have mentioned before, the capacity of a ten-year old versus a thirty-year old to process the implications of his or her adoption are literally developmentally and physiologically different.

Although the capacity increases with each year of development, the maturity to process it all takes years to develop.

I matured.

I allowed myself to think what had seemed unthinkable to me before. I allowed myself to feel what I had once believed was untouchable.

The other thing that happened is that I began reading research, studies, books, adult adoptee blogs that helped me realize that I was not crazy for feeling and thinking these things. Reading the books and blogs did not somehow change my mind, but rather helped me to understand what I was already feeling.

I didn’t conjure these thoughts and emotions up from some imaginary place. They were always within me, but buried and latent like a dormant volcano.

It’s true each adoptee responds to his or her adoption in his or her own way. Certainly, we are not cookies made from a cookie cutter. But there are basic truths that characterize the adoptee experience—and one of those crucial, fundamental truths is the truth of loss, and all the grief and pain that comes along with it.

Why is that so hard for parents and family, friends and strangers to acknowledge this?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quotes from Adult Adoptees

"And as unique as this circumstance is, is it where we really want to dwell? Forever agitated? I want a normal life. I had a somewhat normal life, only I was unaware of what was causing me pain. Now that I’m aware, I want that life back, knowing it will be a richer, more informed life. While I will never deny that I’m adopted, It doesn’t mean I want/need/should-have-to live in Adoptoland."

-girl4708, "fatigue," at her blog, Hello Korea!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lost Daughters: Visit This New Blog

Stop by this new group blog, Lost Daughters, where female adult adoptees (including myself) share our thoughts and experiences regarding adoption.

Excerpted from "About this Blog":

We are female adult adoptees. We bring to you our thoughts and experiences as people who live adoption each and every single day, spanning ages from 20's to mid 60's. We come from a variety of walks of life, world views, religious views, political views, as well as types of adoption, countries of origin, and countries we currently reside. We cannot claim to be completely inclusive of every adoptee woman who lives adoption--how can we? Every adoptee is a unique individual with their own thoughts, experiences, and story to tell. But we try our best to bring you a variety of experiences with the near 20 adoptee authors we have blogging here.

While we are all different, we share at least one thing in common: we are all daughters, lost to adoption.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hamster in a Wheel

At times, it starts to feel like we as adoptees are hamsters in a wheel--thinking we're getting something done, but in reality getting nowhere, and in the meanwhile, folks are watching our every move sometimes for research, other times for what they call enrichment, and still other times for a form of educational entertainment, not unlike a reality TV show (and I don't make that comparison in a complimentary way).

But what can I say? In part, I open myself up to it--no one is forcing me to blog my heart out. I do it of my own accord. However, I will say that, of course, I did not choose to be an adoptee. And if I could un-choose it, I would.

It's this odd contradiction--I both despise and embrace being the hamster. Aka, I both despise and embrace being an adoptee. I despise it, because if I had a choice, I'd choose not to be an adoptee. But because I can't not be an adoptee, I choose to embrace it--that is, to a certain degree.

I embrace it as much as I'm willing to talk about it via blogs and the cyber world. But in "real life"--every day life outside of this cyber world adoption community--it's almost like my secret identity. I rarely talk about it to a soul, but I FEEL it every day, I DEAL with it every day.

Another part is that I simply don't want to be "the adoptee." I am an adoptee, but I am not ONLY an adoptee. And yet, there is this constant tension of wanting the hardship and pain of being an adoptee to be recognized and acknowledged and yet also wanting it to be forgotten.

I both want to belong and not belong. I feel dizzy even trying to explain the constant back and forth and tug-of-war that takes place in my mind.

As I wrote in an email to a fellow adoptee:

To add to that for me personally, I'm also still generally insecure, even at 36 years old--I still never assume or believe that anyone would even want to know me...So, a lot of the time I don't attempt to initiate, because I often feel that doing so would be adding a burden to that person's life...furthermore, I loathe being boxed in or identified with any one particular label, and yet I also long to "belong" in some small way...if I've figured anything out about my adoptee experience, it's that it's full of contradiction...

As I share thoughts and experiences like the ones above, I know I often direct them to adoptive parents. I think in part I do this, because I think they need to know--because, well, their kids are going to grow up to be adults who just might think critically about their adoptions one day.

I know AP's can feel a lot of pressure from adult adoptees, but adoptees feel just as much pressure, if not more, to perform and be a certain way. I figure the least an AP can do is give an ear to adult adoptees. Maybe that's presumptuous. But, hey, if it's not presumptuous to assume that a child would want to be removed from his or her birth country and people to live in a foreign country among foreign people with a set of strangers...

...Not that one presumption justifies another--exactly, I think you get my point...

But setting aside AP's and other adoption community members, really I wish your every day person would listen. I wish the every person I encountered could read adult adoptee blogs so that conversations like the following didn't feel so laborious and uncomfortable:

"Is your mom Korean?"

"Uh, well, no, yes, I mean [oh crap, here we go], uh, [awkward smile] I'm adopted [inward rolling of my eyes at myself for still fumbling and not knowing how to handle this question]."

"Oh, really."

"Yeah, but I reunited with my Korean family two years ago--"

"Oh. But your adoptive parents are your REAL parents, RIGHT?"

"Oh, right, yes, of course [churning, sinking feeling in my gut]. I mean, well, I see it as I have four parents, or well, six or seven if you count all my in-laws, but really it's very complicated, it's hard, it has been quite a journey--[cut myself off, I'm such an idiot, why do I even bother?]"


Chances are, though, even if your average person was to read this, he or she might still shrug shoulders and say, "Huh?"

But I guess it would be the effort and thought that would count for something--comprehension would be like the cherry on top...or really, maybe more accurately, it would be like finally getting to eat my spaghetti and sauce with a fork in my hands instead of with my mouth while my hands are bound behind my back. That's messy and hard to do--you get up from the table even hungrier and more frustrated than when you began...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quotes from Adult Adoptees

"Adoption is like a gift that is unasked for."

-Mei-Ling, "Would They Want this" at her blog, Exiled Sister

Friday, June 10, 2011

This Sucks: G'OAL losing government funding

G'OAL is getting cut off at the legs if not completely dismembered. This is incredibly disillusioning and makes me more than irate. Go Korean government. How I love to hate you:

G.O.A.'L closes its doors: What can Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare be thinking?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Evolution of an Adoptee: From Certainty to Ambivalence

As an adoptee my perspective of adoption, and international adoption in particular, has evolved drastically, albeit slowly, over the past several years.

I don't view adoption like I used to view it.

In my earlier years, I was basically a "poster child" for adoption. I would speak at adoption agency functions or at churches touting adoption--I would tell my story to pull on the heartstrings of the hearers--tears would trickle down cheeks--hoping that they would respond by wanting to adopt internationally.

Now I feel sick to my stomach when I think about the way I allowed myself to be used.

I'm not necessarily saying that agencies or churches purposely or manipulatively "used" me, but I will at least say that on certain occasions I was coached on what to say and how to say it. I was specifically told to edit out parts during which I spoke about my difficulties as an adoptee. Eventually, I learned simply to self-edit out the "darker side" of my adoption experience when I spoke at these functions.

And that makes me feel even more gross.

As I have forced myself to think critically about my adoption experience, my ideas about adoption have certainly evolved from positive to ambivalent. And as this evolution has taken place, I find my adoptee identity not as fully embraced by those who once embraced it, whether fellow adoptees or adoptive parents or friends and family. But I have learned that I can only accept this--it's inevitable, at least at this point.

The major point of divergence with many of these folks is my stance on international adoption. When it comes down to it, I am not an advocate for international adoption any more. But I once was. And hence, subsequently, this has led to discord at times.

My reasons for deciding to shift from "advocate" to "un-advocate" are complicated and many. And I have written soooo many posts trying to explain all the reasons, sometimes with success, other times to no avail.

But to share yet another practical yet poignant reason--words from my Omma and Imo:

"Thinking of my grandson, my eyes filled with a tear. As a mother, I should be there and help you recuperating but I can not. I'm really sorry...We can't speak each other's language so we can't talk on the phone..." -Omma

"I'm really sorry for you and your mother. I can't imagine how hard it is to have each other in mind and miss each other for that long time. It's really sad that we can't call each other because we can't speak each other's language even if we miss each other so much..." -Imo (maternal Aunt)

[I received the above words via translation, obviously, in letters written by my Korean mother and Aunt.]

If the above words are not reason enough to make us question International Adoption, then there's no point even bothering to share the host of other reasons...

Yes, I used to speak with certainty about how "lucky" I was to be adopted. I used to say with certainty that I had no desire to seek out my Korean origins and that being adopted had no ill effects on me or my life. And I said it all while smiling sincerely, because at the time I meant it all.

But, then, I had to go and peek inside that box, or open that door, or look over the wall...

And now, I linger in ambivalence. Now, I weep and hurt over the mess that adoption forces me to live.

Although I have an amazing life on one side of the fence, on the other side, I live a life filled with a seemingly relentless grief, sorrow, and aching.

Walking that fence is a balancing act to state the obvious--and I fall and crack open my head on almost a daily basis.

But, I also get back up, wipe away the blood, and hop back onto the fence, albeit dizzy and whirling, because a decision to choose one life over the other feels false and deceptive.

I will continue to evolve, no doubt. But I imagine it will be from one form of ambivalence to another. The only resolution I've come to expect these days is the resolution that I'll never be resolved...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Quotes from Adult Adoptees

I am mega short on time these days. And my blog shows it.

My brain and emotional energy are running low these days. So, I'm going to siphon off some from others.

Hence, from time to time, I want to share "Quotes from Adult Adoptees." These quotes will come from emails, conversations, blogs, etc. (I may also at times share quotes from other members of the "adoption constellation.")

Here's the quote:

"One of the biggest issues I had with my parents was that they were making a truly vanguard choice in going that route... & then they promptly forgot [how convenient for their WASP-y asses!] that they had effectively bought two little Asian kids & painted them - via naming conventions & pure, unadulterated hope - white, & assumed no one else would notice the incongruity." -Katie, Korean Adoptee