Monday I went on my monthly excursion into Chuncheon to send money to myself, since it’s difficult and expensive for me to do so at my local bank which originated from an agricultural collective.
Anyway, it’s always a nice trip. I splurged and ate at Pizza hut – had pasta and a salad bar – still not sure if it was worth 3 times the price of Korean food…
But afterward, as I walked down a little cluttered side street to purchase cigarettes under the moonlight and streetlights, I had to pause and dance a little in the street. Those were the days my friend was being cranked out of some speakers from a little shop selling ajumma clothing, and – I can’t describe it – it was so charming and uplifting. I’m already nostalgic about Korea, even though I haven’t left yet!
So I wanted to share something with you that I wrote on an adoptee support board.
…I am often asked by other adoptees here about when I started being active with other Korean adoptees, and they are shocked to hear I never met another Korean adoptee until just before I left for Korea. I tell them about never acknowledging that adoption made any difference in how I asserted or defined myself, and that it took a crisis for me to figure out that amazingly obvious cause for so many of my woes. “That sounds like you had an awakening!” said Tobias Hubinette. Yes. Exactly. And the entire journey since has been all about searching – not for identity like I thought – but for authenticity.
It’s my sadness that the other adoptees around me just-don’t-get-it. They’re falling short of the hard work and feeling sorry for themselves and feeding on their anger. They’re not paying attention to their crisis or listening or caring for themselves. I feel very fortunate also that I’m doing this so late in life. It’s analogous to me going to college ten years late. Age and experiences have certainly informed me and kept me from being lured in by many of the pitfalls of Korean adoptee identity search, which includes a lot of dysfunction and slow death. Throwing myself in for the full-on experience with no quick exit has also been really essential. Many adoptees return to the land of their birth and then leave before anything can be resolved, return to their adoptive countries and feel alienated and restless, return again to the land of their birth and then leave again before resolving anything.
My search was just like anybody’s and couched in terms of birth family search, or wanting to learn about my culture, or wanting to get over my fear of people who looked like me, etc. I think many adoptees search for signifiers of anything that can give them an identity, but they find themselves unsatisfied because they don’t really OWN those things. Let’s face it, false identity is what we know best, right? It just seems like so many end up trading one false identity for another false identity. The exploration of abandonment, relinquishment, race, culture, etc. are too often held onto as the crumbs of what was left of our selves, and too many adoptees stop there, defeated or angrily hanging on to these crumbs as a new poverty-stricken, original-looking yet still-false identity. But for me, it took looking at all those things IN CONCERT, for a prolonged period of time, to give me a sense of the shape of my authentic self around which all those things revolved.
It’s all very nebulous. I think that’s also one of the difficulties, is that people want to hold something in their hands, have something to look at, be called by name and recognize it. But really, who we are is intrinsic to our persons and uncovering our authentic selves when so buried is a process of elimination. Stripping away all the lies we tell ourselves. What is left over is what we are. And it’s not corporeal, right? It’s an idea.
I’m soooooo happpy I did this most hardest thing in the world, by being totally destabilized in every single way possible. It forced me to face every false identity and kill it. And writing the blog also helped, as I’m sure that the talking cure – though it seems like a waste of time – actually is hugely beneficial because the process of facing everything awful and hitting it again and again and again just makes the awful dissipate. The process of hacking away at this invisible thing is also part of the process of eliminating false identities. What is left over is our authentic selves. And it’s peaceful.
I think there IS a way up and out of this hole. And it takes repetition repetition repetition persistence persistence persistence and not running away to a comfortable place. I think authenticity is key. It makes the rest of the stuff fall away.
Yeah, I’m feeling really joyful and serene these days. For the first time ever. …There is hope, people! There is hope!
The house is a mess, I never did spring cleaning, and I blew up half my social world – but this sense of peace remains. And I don’t think it’s going anywhere for a long time. I think I have crossed over into the land of formerly adopted and abused and no longer expecting the worst from everything and everybody anymore. I’m really excited to start a new fully aware life.