anecdotally speaking


Yesterday I met an acquaintance of a renowned (among adoptees) adoptee (whom I’ve never met and was surprised about the reference) for coffee, having no knowledge of this person and nothing to go on other than they are also an adoptee.  She was bright, open-minded, and positive.  Her story was so much different than mine, in all ways…

Over the past two years I have heard sooooo many adoptee stories.  Sooooo many.  Each unique.  Every one anecdotal.  I place great value on the anecdotal/the subjective.  Statistics label and categorize, are fallible, mostly born of poorly designed surveys, sample limited populations, and are used by liars and those with an agenda.  Personal anecdotes are real and nuanced.  And, as you witnessed previously, they are overwhelming for me and I can only handle so many at a time.

Part of the discovery process of adult adoptees is collecting and digesting stories, and that is what this adoptee was doing.  There are those who will collect and then reject the stories that don’t support what they want to believe, and those who will collect the stories to build a case for blame.  And now there are those, like this adoptee, who are open to all stories.  We all go through this story collection.  We seek to see a reflection of ourselves and our own stories somewhere. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of our stories makes that an unfilled desire for many.

Patterns are beginning to emerge as I listen to people’s stories.  And I realize, too, that these are only the stories of those rare few adoptees who will even recognize or talk about what happened to them.  The biggest factors seem to be age, isolation or not, sibling group birth order, the circumstances they were in and the circumstances they were sent to.  But all of the stories, all of them:  happy, sad, angry, appreciative, are all born of social injustice that we try to reconcile with our current fortunes.  It’s affected us all to a disturbing degree.

More and more stories are coming to light as  more and more of us come to a point where we (“angry” and “happy” adoptees) ask ourselves, “what is the source of this negative force in my life?”  Because all of us experienced great loss, exceptional loss.

Lately I’m liking what I hear.  I liked what I heard from the adoptee yesterday.  She with her ideal (in the adoption scenario) outcome where loss was replaced with something good, and mine where my loss was replaced with not much good to speak of.  We both of us came away from adoption happening to us with the thought, “I want to LIVE.”  We’re all of us stronger for the suffering.  And we all suffered.

It’s not fair the greater extent some of us suffered, but it’s important we all recognize everyone’s suffering.  That a happy adoptee acknowledged my reality, without dismissing it as an exception, acknowledged my right to be upset, and recognized that ALL of our stories are part of this Korean tragedy that shouldn’t be continuing today felt very validating.

It feels as if this canoe can right itself, if adoptees themselves are not fighting with one another, as more and more begin to recognize that we were never the problem, and adoption isn’t the best solution.

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4 thoughts on “anecdotally speaking

  1. Sure! It’s been a really sucky road thus far, being painted as the enemy by “happy” adoptees. I’ve even been written about by them in their blogs as being “paranoid” and having “Issues” because I criticize the adoption industry.

    So it was really really good for me to not have one draw away (which feels like being hit) and distance themselves and get defensive, but instead actively seek out my story, listen, and accept my equal truth.

    It was comfortable and felt like it SHOULD feel when you meet someone who’s whole life has been affected by the same thing. You have something in common, right? We all of us 200,000 have lost the most defining relationship of our lives and had to navigate through unknown treacherous waters.

    There is a term for adoptees who find out late in life that they are adopted; it’s called Late Discovery Adoptees. For us transracial Korean adoptees, that’s typically impossible, (ha ha!) but both she and I — we were both late acknowledging adoption adoptees. So we’ve got experience and are free to explore and ask hard questions that, say, college aged adoptees still aren’t. So we’ve got less at stake to defend.

    Being older is nice in so many ways.

  2. i have a crude theory about “late acknowledgement adoptees”. when there is abuse involved with the adoptive family, it seems the issues dealt with first i life are the abuse issues – and the adoption issues don’t come out until after the abuse issues are addressed. i know that is what took me so long.

  3. Hmmm…I can see that.

    Maybe it’s just trauma in general? The other late acknowledgment adoptee hadn’t been abused, but had a lot of early trauma and was older when she was adopted, so assimilation was probably more traumatic.

    I also think that a lot of the later waves of Korean adoptees’ families put a spotlight on adoption and so their acknowledgment of their own adoptions are guarded, because the adoptive family’s interests are being tended.

    Do you ever wonder what it’s like, not having all this added crap to deal with? To have gone through your formative years with some certainties beneath you? Basics, like knowledge of who brought you into the world and what your name is and that you belong somewhere? Gah…

    So in a way, to a lesser degree, they too will become late acknowledgment adoptees, though not in the extreme way in which those of us who have fully suppressed exploration have.

    But yeah – we abused adoptees definitely have had our plate full dealing with added complications that take precedence. So many complications…

    FAR TOO MANY complications…grrrr…

    ADDED: That’s what took me so long too, only I didn’t deal with abuse at all either. It all came out at one time, all together, in a horrible tangled mess that I’ve been unraveling for the past two years.

    Happily, I’ve always been very good at untangling knots…

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