Korean Adoptee

Being Adopted was a Recipe for Success

Even though many people viewed growing up as an adoptee with a negative stigma, I always viewed it as a blessing. My life as a Korean adoptee was a gourmet cocktail, combining different cultural and family experiences, finely crafted with the deepest of care to create the life experiences I was meant to have. I always knew that in a deep sense. I couldn’t imagine being raised in a traditional family. Even in my own adoptive family or biological family, I knew that my experiences would have been so much different if I had a traditional upbringing in either family– without being adopted. As a Korean adoptee, I was exposed to two different families and two different cultures. I was exposed to Two Adventurerstwo different parenting styles, family traditions, and belief systems. I had the opportunity to pick and choose the good qualities I wanted from each of them. Having two families also meant that I had two sets of family drama. That was difficult at different moments, but it still made the patchwork quilt of my life. And it made me a stronger person.

My adoptive mother’s core personality and my core personality couldn’t have been any further polar opposite of one another. But I always really valued how my adoptive mom balanced me. She was super mellow, easy going, and indecisive. The complete opposite of my super energetic, fast-moving and extremely passionate personality. Balance is good. Especially because I tend to be a little bit of a workaholic. Growing up I always appreciated her laid back spirit. With my hyper overachiever extremely dedicated personality tendencies, I counted it as a blessing to have a mother who showed me unconditional love, support and acceptance rather than to be raised by someone who was driven to the point of being critical, judgmental, and hard on me. I think being raised by someone with that type of personality could’ve easily set me over the edge since I was already so hard on myself, even as a child. This easily could’ve been the case in a biologically-related family setting where I would have been raised by people with the same intense personality traits as my own.

Knowing that my birth mother committed suicide, I wondered if that was something that she struggled with too– feeling as driven as I did, but without an emotional outlet or an unconditionally loving family. Which eventually could’ve easily led to too much pressure for one person to handle. Ever since I found out the tragic way in which my birth mother died, I always counted that as confirmation that being adopted into this family was a gift– from God, maybe even somehow orchestrated by my biological mother beyond the grave, to give me a fighting chance at leading a successful and happy life free from the pressures that she endured and which may have inadvertently led to her untimely demise.

I always knew that my adoptive mom showing me unconditional love was the single most important thing to shape me into the girl I am today. And this was something I always guessed my biological family was incapable of based on the story I was told about how my birth mother was cut off from her family, and the way that I was estranged. The unconditional love and acceptance that I received from my adoptive family was a powerfully driving force in my life and is something I will always be grateful for.

xoxo

happy tuesday!

 

Robbed, Destitute—But Coming Back Swinging!

Had a really tumultuous weekend in my hometown. Was in town helping a friend of mine with a photo shoot for a fashion spread in a national girl’s magazine he shoots for. We were shooting two models against the backdrop of an old abandoned fort in Baltimore County just past Miller’s Island. The shoot was grueling with mishaps happening at every turn. We were working hard all day to make sure the shots were incredible. Thankfully in spite of all of the issues that arose, the shots we captured were amazing—truly stunning.

Sometime within the course of the photo shoot, someone shattered the passenger window of my friend’s car to steal some of my most prized possessions: my wedding rings, my favorite Kate Spade weekender bag, my designer handbag given to me by my mother for my birthday, make up and clothes that I curated with care, my glasses carefully selected and fitted by a boutique over multiple trips to NYC, and my treasured special edition iPod. The thieves also used my credit cards to charge over $500 worth of gas and merchandise as well as taking the cash and checks in my purse, my phone charger, and my car keys.write pic

In spite of being robbed of over $7K worth of some of the most expensive of my most prized possessions, I was most heartbroken over losing the journal that was tucked inside my Kate Spade bag. I was writing in this lovely space over the past year. A small pink notebook with beautiful gold lettering on the front with the words, “Write” inscribed on the front. This tiny token probably only cost $15. But to me, it was a priceless item that cannot fully be replaced. I’ve had so much personal growth over the past year and each milestone was documented within the pages of my little pink journal. I was also in the process of writing a series of children’s books—and had just completed a concept web outlining the backbones of each book in the series of 7-10 books that fit the theme. These inspired ideas came at a stroke of genius moment just one week ago while late-night writing at one of my favorite coffee houses after a long day. It was one of those monumental moments where the ideas were flowing, and I felt so energized to get the project going that I began making plans to collaborate with illustrators and publishers to get these inspired ideas out there. My journal also had pages of sketches for clothes I recently designed during other moments of inspiration. I was working toward creating them for events this year. I also had painstaking notes on trip details and options for traveling to a few destinations to celebrate my milestone birthday this fall, which took mad time and energy to research and plan. All of which I enjoyed and loved doing at the time—so for me, this journal was a patchwork quilt of pieces of my life that I loved. It documented these moments of insight as they happened. And it contained exciting plans for the future.

The county police officer was invested in trying to help me regain what I lost and to identify the suspects. After the shoot, my friend and I went back to his place to determine a plan of action. Thankfully the hair/make-up venue used their shop-vac to clean out the chards of glass scattered around the passenger side before we drove home. They were able to clean about 90% of the glass. The drive was pretty crazy as some of the residual small chards of glass still crackled in the side of the door as we went over bumps or made sharp turns. Each time the car accelerated, both of us kept forgetting that he no longer had a window and instinctively pushed the window button to try to shield ourselves from the wind. Upon each attempt, we both cringed hearing more grass cracking in the slit where there should have been the smooth caressing sound of an intact window closing. Thankfully, we made it to his house without any more mishaps. I decided to go out to unwind and connect with other people. I decided to drive back to my mom’s house to shower and change since I was super muddy from the shoot. That’s when I realized those tools stole my damn car keys, so I was stranded with nothing but the clothes on my back without access to my car or cash. Nothing I could do about accessing the car that night. Everything was closed. car window

I was super dirty from shooting outside at an abandoned fort all day. So, I showered and washed the clothes I was wearing. As I stood in the shower washing the last of my make up off, I felt pretty stripped of everything I held dear. Without any cash or cards to replace any of the items that were stolen—I felt pretty destitute. Sounds pretty dramatic, but it’s truly how I felt. Grr, I was going to have to go out on a Friday night without any makeup on.

I decided to still go out despite that I felt naked and destitute without any of my usual things. And I met up with some really great people. So weird to have nothing but the clothes on my back that night. No money, no credit cards, no car, no purse, no makeup, no dress clothes, no favorite shoes, no phone. But I had friends. And that was nice.

So crazy but this moment of destitution actually sparked some painful memories of the feeling of abandonment and destitution related to being abandoned as a little baby when my birth father gave me up for adoption. It was painful to make the connection as I stood there in the shower and reflected on how destitute I was when I was left as a little baby to fend for herself with nothing but the clothes on her back and a small box of toys. I realized that since I was able to bounce back from that, I was sure I could bounce back from this.

I’ve learned so much from this experience. May sound cliché, but these moments really did remind me of what was important. Do I need to have the best make up, the finest clothes, the biggest engagement ring? No. Do I really even need more than a little food and water? Not right now.

The night I was robbed, my husband was able to work with my friend and I over the phone to help me devise a plan of how to get a new set of car keys. And the next day my friend Sean and my mom spent the time to help me get my car towed and get a replacement set of keys programmed at the dealership. I am so grateful for their TLC. I couldn’t have done it without them. Being completely purseless, my mom spotted me money for food, the tow, and the new car key. All of these kind gestures made me really think of how truly grateful I am to have such wonderfully loving people in my life who care about me. If I didn’t have them around, I truly would have been in a pickle. I am so appreciative for all of the people in my life who I know I can truly trust and count on in moments of need, namely my mom, my husband, and my friends.

I think that holds true for my adoption story too. While I was left with nothing material apart from the clothes on my back, I was placed into the loving care of my adoptive mother. She was always a huge source of love and support, and without her I would be truly lost! I am convinced that it was her unconditional love for me that gave me the confidence I have in myself to be the strong woman who I am today. I don’t let her know how much she means to me as much as I should.

Losing such precious things reminded me of how fleeting things are, and how important it is to savor and enjoy the things you love in your life—because nothing lasts forever. This past year I invested a lot in myself. The things that were stolen were so painful to lose because I loved them so much. Makes it easy to think it may be better not to care about anything at all. But at the same time, I think it’s better to love something for a while to then lose it than to never put yourself out there to love anything at all.

After traumatic things happen like this, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to question whether or not I should’ve done something differently. Should I have traveled to Baltimore, gone on the photo shoot, left my bags in the car, or the list goes on. But I think that when you put yourself out there and take risks and do amazing things, some bad things are bound to happen in the process, and that’s just life. I would much rather live a huge life and have things happen than to stay reclusive and lead a small life where nothing really happens at all.

I can rewrite the ideas in a new journal. After all, the journal itself is only a written expression of thoughts that I myself created—and thank God, I am still here. So, I can create something new. Conceiving the ideas are the hardest part of writing. Once the idea is conceived, it’s fairly easy to rewrite –especially for something as memorable as an idea conceived during a stroke of insight. And I can buy more beautiful clothes and handbags. There is a silver lining in everything. I am allowing myself the space to be mellow, chill, and sad for a time, because this experienced sucked!!! But after that, I am going to use this angry passion for the things I lost to fuel a flame to recapture everything that I lost and held dear or to reinvent them in a fresh new way.

This loss was a personal attack trying to keep my spirit down. But it’s done the opposite. This loss actually fanned a flame for the things that I’m really passionate about. It’s pissed me off. But in a good way. I feel so incredibly fired up that I feel even more energized to fight even harder to move forward with the things that I planned in my journal. I feel so incredibly stoked to write that I can’t even stand it. I am going to redesign the garments I sketched and create them to love and show off and cherish. I am going to recount and rewrite every detail of every memory from my previous journal that I still want documented in a beautiful new journal, or incorporate them into a book I am working on—which was even better. I am going to pick out gorgeous new clothes, and who doesn’t love that?? I am going to buy new makeup that I love. And I am going to use this as an opportunity to redesign new rings to fit the personality and style that I want to convey in a fresh way, rather than to try to duplicate my previous wedding rings. I have a few jewelry designers in mind, so will be a fun new endeavor that I am excited about. This is a fresh start.

I am not the type to just take things lying down. This terrible thing knocked me down, but I’m gonna come back up swinging. For a while now, I’ve been burning to do a long distance race. Don’t know what it was, but I felt an immense desire to run over the past couple months. And this trying experience tipped the scale and inspired me to commit to training for one. I don’t know what it is about pushing yourself physically that makes you somehow stronger and your enemies weaker… but it does. And I’m ready for that.

I’m not going to let these criminals ruin the things that I love and the things I cherish in my life! I’ve got too much going for all of the things I’ve set out to do!

Just thinkin’ out loud. Hope these thoughts hit you right.

Sending my love, prayers, and positivity out to you! Send ‘em back to me, please! I’m gonna need them this week. < XoXo

 

Korean Adoptee Meet up in St. Louis

Within the past year, I joined a couple of Korean adoptee Facebook groups and met the most amazing adoptees from all over the US. It was in one of these groups, that I met April—a really lovely soul. This beautiful girl was abandoned in a marketplace in Korea when she was 5 years old. She still remembers her grandmother releasing her hand for the final time. She can still taste the salt of her tears and feel the grit of the dirt and her hair as the wind blew these across her mouth. April still flashes back to this moment when she hears her own beautiful little daughter cry for her. Such a profound moment in her life. Definitely something that has been a part of her past. But, April has not let the hardships she’s faced define her. She is stronger for her experiences. But she doesn’t dwell on them. She is one of the most incredibly loving, open, funny people I’ve ever met. She is married and has two beautiful children. Her family lives in St. Louis.

Last year, April began opening her home for Korean adoptees to meet up from all over the US. I had the most incredible time meeting up with the best girls and guys last weekend at April’s house. All of whom were Korean adoptees, like me! There were a bunch of Korean adoptees from St. Louis and the midwest, including Michigan and Ohio. A few from Texas, and my friend Gina from LA. It was so much fun to share similar stories of growing up in white families in white neighborhoods and to hear all of their European last names. I told everyone how I recently jokingly told someone she could call me, “Hey you!” and the woman thought I was telling her my Korean name: “Hei Yu.” Others had similar funny stories.

Some girls reunited with their birth families already. Many discovered their entire back stories were wrong. This can definitely shake a person to the core and is something that many adoptees can relate to. One girl reunited with her birth family and decided to spend a couple of years in Korea to get to know more about her Korean heritage. Another girl just started the process of searching for her birth family, so she’s really nervous about how everything will pan out. A few people shared that they never had a strong desire to reunite with their birth families, and they are okay with that.

We went out to a Korean karaoke bar and laughed when only two out of twenty of us knew enough Korean to work the controls. Thankfully, we were all okay singing out to English songs. There was kimchi. There was soju. There were beautiful Asian features. We were as Korean as it gets for Korean adoptees.

april, gina, me

I brought two pairs of shoes with me that I’ve been trying to give away for the past 6 months. They were two sets of gorgeous pumps –one metallic chrome and one bright turquoise. I haven’t had any takers because no one can fit into these gorgeous heels—my feet are very small. I even posted them on an online Facebook yard sale in my area with no luck. I brought them to this gorgeous group, knowing most of my Korean girlfriends would have similar frames. When I brought my shoes out, I immediately found new owners for these bombing shoes. So funny how such little things can make such a difference in normalizing my own petite features.

This meet up was so incredibly meaningful to me in my own personal journey. It’s amazing to think that I’m in such great company in my own personal experiences. So nice to feel the camaraderie and warmth of other Korean adoptees.

It’s amazing to me that in our shared experiences we all had an instant bond. I love getting to know new people and sharing stories. It definitely creates a special community where one can really feel that she belongs. One of my newfound friends described our meet up well by saying, “I have a tribe, a place to belong. It’s something you can’t really explain in words… it’s an experience. One I truly treasure.”

 

#mytribe #adoptees #koreanadoptees #stlouis

The Day I Reconnected with my Biological Family

Exactly one year ago, I embarked on an adventure to reconnect with my biological Korean family. We were separated when I was adopted at 9 months old. It had been nearly 3 decades since we last saw one another. I didn’t remember anything about them, and had no idea of who they were, or where they were. I didn’t know if they would accept me, or if they even knew I existed.

In spring of 2014, I watched a documentary about a handful of girls who were adopted from China called, “Somewhere Between.” One of the girls was able to reconnect with her biological family in the film. After seeing this documentary, I was inspired to seek out my biological family no matter what the outcome would be. This journey to search out my biological family has been a completely daring adventure of Lord of the Rings proportions. During each step of my journey to search for my bio family and to reunite with them, my heart felt like it was pounding outside of my chest. I had never been so nervous about anything in my entire life.

In searching for my biological family, I was met with obstacles along the way. I knew that my birth mother died when I was about 3 months old. This was reported to my adoptive mother when I was adopted. I never knew how she died. Growing up, a part of me always wondered if it was due to complications during childbirth when I was born since she died when I was only a few months old. This is something that weighed on me not only for the emotional implications of thinking I could’ve contributed to her death but also for fear that I may be at increased risk for complications during childbirth for my future children. Growing up, I was unsure if I would ever know the answer to the questions I had surrounding my birth and my birth mother’s passing.

To start my search, we solicited my birth mother’s death certificate, which reported her time and date of death. It also reported her cause of death, which was suicide. It was the first time I ever knew the tragic way in which she died. Her death certificate listed her father’s name and an address. I mustered up every bit of courage I possessed to visit the address and knock on the front door. After knocking, I waited. And no one answered! I was extremely disappointed. But, I wasn’t ready to give up! So, I knocked on the neighbor’s door and asked if anyone knew my family. That lead to an older neighbor passing on an old phone number that was given to her 10 years prior from my biological aunt when my family moved away.

She wasn’t sure if the phone number was still active. So, I cold called the number, and a woman answered. I held my breath as I asked her if she knew Ae Sun Lee (my bio mom). My heart stood still when she said, “Yes.” I spoke with a determined conviction to drown out the quivers in my voice, as I said–“This may be a surprise to you, but I’m her daughter.” I still remember sitting on the floor of my spare bedroom with all of my notes spread out on the floor with Korean phrases, notes on leads, and questions to ask. My husband was doing P90X in the living room. When he heard me talking to a live person– he came to the doorway to see if the phone number was legitimate. As my aunt was talking, I just looked up at my husband and nodded. We had found them.

My aunt said, “We were looking for you. You have cousins! A lot of cousins, and I’m sure they all want to meet you.” Very few moments in my life could compare to how relieved and happy I was in that moment– to hear not only that my bio family knew about me, but that they wanted to meet me.

“You have some older cousins who remember you.” This news was incredibly supririsng in the best, warmest way possible. Growing up I was told that my birth mother was cut off from her family before I was born. So, I imagined her and my bio dad out on their own with no family to speak of. I assumed that since they were ostracized from their family, it was possible that no one even knew about me! Like a lot of Korean adoptees, I found out that my entire back story was wrong. And in fact, there were aunts and uncles who remember me as a baby– and a few of my older cousins, too! This was incredible to discover, as I had no idea these people even existed. But, they knew about me!

Before my reunion, it was like the first 9 months of my life were veiled with a blackness– the kind of blackness you see with your eyes closed. In reconnecting with my bio family, instead of seeing dark nothingness, I see people– faces, and smiles and hugs, and people taking care of me during the first nine months of my life. It’s truly an incredible blessing to have more of a complete picture of what my life looked like as a little baby. I am incredibly grateful for the ability to know this information and to get to know these parts of my life that I thought were lost forever.

#reunionshappen

Best of luck to all those still searching…

xoxo

rm

Fighting Back and Defying Gravity as a Korean Adoptee

I’ve been thinking about the forces in the world. There are forces that can build us up and inspire us to be better. And there are forces out there that try to bring us down. These forces exist just as much as gravity exists. We can’t see or touch gravity, but we know when we step off of a cliff, it’s a daunting long way down. And we can see the effects of gravity on an older person’s vertebral discs which shrink over the years due to this constant push of gravity on their spines. These forces are real. Every day we enter a a duel against these forces of nature and against these spiritual forces that try to thwart our human potential.

As adoptees, we have had to face more than most people have even before we learned how to walk. We are already feeling the effects of life’s gravitational pull as young babies before we have even learned our first words. Everyone must battle with these forces. The weight of the world. The weight of these unseen forces, sometimes seeming to tear us apart.

Last year I went through a tale spin of emotions after reconnecting with my bio family. I was processing such intense emotions that I felt like I was being split apart. There were days where all I felt was anguish. There were tears– lots of tears. It took a toll on my marriage. It was a tough summer and a tough year.

After coming out of this year on the other side, I am happy to say that it can get better. And you can defy these forces. Here are a few of my victories:

  1. Last summer after reuniting with my birth family I reconnected with some friends from high school. We had so much fun hanging out and catching up. I felt like I had gained some of my teen years back. In these moments, I learned how to defy time.
  2. Last summer I started aerial dancing. It is the most incredible dance/sport/art I have ever practiced. I love it! It takes a lot of strength just to be able to climb to the top let alone to perform the actual skills. With each climb, an aerialist must wrap one leg in the silk, create a shelf with her foot for the other foot to stand on, wedge the silk between her two feet, and pull her body weight up for the next grab. Then, repeat the process. At first, I wasn’t able to perform even one full climb. Now, I am climbing to the top of the rafters. Every night I’m in the aerial studio, I am defying gravity.
  3. Last summer I started dancing–a lot. Before my reunion last year, there were huge parts of my life that were consumed with super serious, super workaholic, grown up mode. And there was no time or space for dancing. In reconnecting with my love for dancing, I am defying the notion that being an adult is all about work and keeping to the grind 24-7– an idea that pervades our American culture and threatens our happiness. Even in dancing, I’m defying the pressure of what society has tried to place on us as humans.
  4. In a new way, I realized that life is short and very precious. I’m determined to figure out what I want most–and to go for it. Not just passively, but to actually work at my own happiness. To work at the life I want to create. In living out the life I want, I am defying the negative forces coming against me in the most effective way possible.

Good luck on your endeavors and your own personal duels.

I’m rooting for you!

xoxo,

-rm

Following my Intuition after my Birth Family Reunion

I’ve been thinking about intuition. That inner voice that speaks words of wisdom, guidance, ideas, or even reservations. Just like we have the ability to physically feel when we need to stretch after we’ve been sitting crouched over a computer desk too long. Or, the physical feeling of hunger when we need to eat. I think there is also an internal ability to feel things in a spiritual sense… kind of like a spidey sense. You can feel it when you are around someone who is extremely anxious– you automatically start to feel anxious too. Or, there are those times when you have this nudge in your stomach that this particular thing is a bad decision. Or there are those moments of peaceful clarity where you can just feel that all is “right” in the world. Just like it is important to pay attention to our own physical health, I think it’s important to pay attention to our own mental and spiritual well-being. And listening to your own intuition is a big part of mental and spiritual health.

Your intuition is like your internal voice. There are moments in our lives, as adoptees, when our identities are stripped: the moment we were offered up for adoption, the moment we were adopted, the moment we were reunited with our bio families, and the list goes on. When we are given for adoption, our past lives and previous identities fade away like the faces of our biological families. When we reunite with our biological families, the identities we’ve spent so many years building crumble with every newfound piece of information shared. With the stripping of our identities, there is also the risk for our voices to be stripped as well– both our inner intuitive voice and our expressive external voice.

Last year I reunited with my biological maternal family. It was a whirlwind of emotions. At 28 years old, I felt like I was a teenager relearning who I was all over again. I was forced to ask myself, “Who am I?” and “What do I think?” Coming face to face with all of these individuals who were biologically related to me was both joyous and complicated. Which traits did I see in them that I owned myself? Which beliefs? Which ideas and values? Slowly and through a lot of personal work, I’ve been finding the answers to those questions. I’m finding my voice again, now with all of these newfound connections and new relationships. I am very happy to report the good news: our own identities and our own voices CAN be rebuilt after these monumental moments in our adopted lives! A LOT of it involves finding your own inner voice: your own intuition about your beliefs, values, and desires, regardless of what others in your bio family or adoptive family believe. It’s exploring the stuff that your life is made of– your passions, your inspirations, your motives. Finding the things that make you feel alive– the things that make life meaningful and beautiful to you. The things that speak to you on a deep level.

I recently started acupuncture. It’s one of the most amazing treatments I have ever experienced. I actually feel more clearheaded afterwards. It also elevates my moods and stabilizes my emotions. It’s incredible. During my last session, I felt like I needed to have a needle placed in the small of my chest, midsternal region, known as “heart center” in yoga. So, my lovely acupuncturist placed one at that exact point. It was incredible! I felt a rush of happiness and felt really complete. Our session was closed out in a fabulous way with this self-requested needle point. My acupuncturist said, “I really love how in tune you are with what you feel you need.”

Following this session, I had an even greater respect for my own intuition. I DO know what I need. And I know exactly what I want! This elevated self respect spilled over to other areas in my life and has fortified my own decision-making power despite the fact that I used to be very indecisive. This journey to listen to my own intuition actually started in this new direction last year shortly after my birth family reunion. I started listening to my own intuition in a really profound way. And many times, my intuition was right. One example was last summer when I saw some aerialists performing in an art show. I knew in my heart that I had to try it! I found an aerial arts studio near me and have absolutely fallen in love with it! I’m eating better, sleeping better, and making healthier choices so that I can maximize my training. I love it because it’s so unique and unlike any other art/sport. It’s so feminine and so tough at the same time. It makes me feel strong and beautiful. It makes me feel like a kid again–just swinging around, hanging upside down like I used to on my swing set, or spinning around with my best buddies.

And even more than all this, aerial dancing makes me feel alive. Never before in having no physical footing stability have I ever been so grounded. We talk about grounding a lot in yoga. That awareness of the present moment. This is powerful stuff. So many times our thoughts are so aloof, flitting to the past or the future, or to our fears or expectations. When the most powerful moment we have is the present moment at hand. Aerial dancing brings me back to the present moment in an incredible way. It’s a reminder of how human I am because skills take time to learn and strength takes perserverance to acquire. In the moments I’ve reached the edge of my strength and feel like I can’t hold on any longer, I’m in the present. The moment I nail a trick that is so incredibly beautiful, I’m in the moment. Climbing the silks at all is a reminder of the moments that I have and the abilities that I have at this present moment, and a reminder of the fact that these moments are fleeting. So, I need to make the most of them and enjoy each one of them for all they’re worth!

Following my own intuition has led to huge breakthroughs both personally and professionally. Sometimes following your heart may mean going completely against what anyone else is dictating. Or, it may mean doing something as unexpected as climbing a piece of fabric twenty feet in the air and swinging around by your bare hands. Whatever your bliss is, go out and do it!

I’m rooting for you.

xoxo

-rm

 

 

The Moment I Lost my Bio Family

In reconnecting with my bio family last May, I had to process a lot of intense realities. One was the idea that at one point–one epic moment in time, when I was literally in physical transition from the hands of my bio family to the arms of my adoptive family, there was a transitional moment where I was utterly and completely alone. A single little baby– without a family, without a home, armed with only the clothes on my back. At this solitary moment, I was an orphan. Somewhat destitute and on my own. This cosmic moment in time is something that all adoptees share. It’s not something I ever dwelled on. And yes–one could actually say that at that transitional moment, I actually had two families, so double the love and all that. Which was also absolutely true. But on the other hand, quite literally at that transfer moment, I was at square one. Alone. Helpless and penniless with only the clothes on my back to call my own. It was like counting along the number line used in school to illustrate transitioning from the negative integers to the positive ones– there was always that point of transition at zero that indicated the neutrality between this major shift. At that moment, I was at zero, as my prior life was ending, and my new life was beginning.

For me, this moment happened when I was dropped off at the foster care lady’s house. And figuratively, in the lawyer’s office when my bio dad signed the paperwork to hand over guardianship to my adoptive family. I’ve never really thought about this monumental moment until this past year. It’s definitely a defining moment in each adoptee’s life. There were the psychological and emotional ramifications of being utterly alone. But even more than that, I have been really thinking about the open realm of possibilities that my life could’ve taken in that singular moment in time. What if I was raised by a different family than my adoptive family? Would I be the same person? Choose the same career? Marry the same guy? My head has been spinning over the past year with all of these questions. Reuniting with my birth family prompted me to ask myself these really challenging questions. I did a lot of soul searching. I came to a lot of conclusions so far.

I do believe that most things happen for reasons. Maybe not all, but most things. In these monumental moments, our lives shift and take unexpected turns. But, ultimately no matter who we are in life– adopted or not, we all must learn the responsibility that lies in being who we were meant to be as individuals regardless of who our families are. We must choose the life we want to live for ourselves regardless of whether or not we are alone or surrounded by the biggest family on the planet. The events and people in our lives certainly shape us, but they most definitely do not define who we are. We are so much more than the stuff that’s happened to us. And we are definitely so much more than what the people around us make us out to be. Whether we are adopted or not, we all must go through the same process of learning who we are for ourselves and by ourselves. We are each individual people who must live out who we were meant to be in the world regardless of others, and at times, even in spite of others. So, in essence adoptees get a jump start on that road to self discovery as an individual, starting as little babies.

Growing up as adoptees, we are never given the luxury of the notion that “this is how you should be, because you take after so and so” or “that just runs in our family.” So, growing up we are constantly learning who we are, on our own! This can be a daunting process, but it’s not impossible. Ultimately, no matter who your family is, or who you are surrounded by– every individual has his or her own free will.

I can remember moments in my life where I had to take a stand and be the person who I was meant to be, even if that meant not doing exactly what I was told. One moment that stands out in my life was when I was a senior in high school. In my adoptive family, my mother desperately wanted me to go into the medical field. Most of my adoptive family thought I should become a nurse, because after all, that is what all of my female cousins did. Many adult family friends told me I should become a doctor. I entertained these ideas, and entered college as a pre-med student. Since I wasn’t complete sold on the idea of becoming a doctor, I simultaneously completed a volunteer experience during my first semester of college at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center where I was able to obtain real life exposure to patient care. The program was called “Patient Partners.” Basically, I went into patient rooms, armed with a survey asking patients how their stay was at the hospital. Easy enough. I went into the volunteer program with hopes that I could gain an idea of what it would be like to be a nurse or a doctor. I lasted one day. The experience served its purpose, and I was a fast learner! In that brief experience, I learned a really quick, valuable lesson: I was not meant to be a nurse or a doctor, regardless of what my family wanted. And this volunteer program was an experience that I sought out myself. I had done well. Lesson learned– able to move on.

One thing I realized through that volunteer experience was that in a career as a doctor, I felt that I would more quickly stick a needle in someone than actually talk with them. For me, this objectified and dehumanized the whole experience of wanting to go into a career where I could make a difference people’s lives. Later on, through probing out different careers I landed on the idea of a speech language pathologist. I could still use the medical and scientific knowledge to work with clients to regain parts of themselves lost after injury or illness. But, I could actually spend time working on regaining some of the skills that are unique to the human experience– eating and speaking. An ER doctor could spend 30 minutes pumping on a patient’s chest and ultimately bring her back from the brink of death. This is an extraordinarily commendable feat. But, sometimes, these patients are shells of the people they once were. And that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to work with patients on the things that make life worth living– connecting with others and enjoying some of life’s simple pleasures– like eating a piece of decadent chocolate cake or sharing stories. I’ve been practicing medical speech therapy for seven years now and absolutely love the work that I do with patients. This was definitely the right career choice for me. I am really passionate about my work, and I take a lot of pride in what I do. I really love seeing my clients make gains to be able to eat and speak again.

These are the types of invaluable lessons that every single individual on the planet must learn! Being an adoptee sometimes muddies the water a little bit, and can make learning these lessons of self discovery a little complicated. But I want to encourage every adoptee that it’s not impossible. You can do it! It takes hard work, determination, and a lot of exploring. But through and through, by and by, you will learn more about yourself, the world, and where you fit in. It’s a lifelong process– not only for adoptees, but for all humans. And no one ever feels like he or she has fully arrived at total self-discovery. But the beauty is that you get to decide who you are and how you want to design your life. And if you don’t like something about the way your life is headed, you can redesign. It’s magical, really.

Good luck! I’m rooting for you!

xoxo

rm