been there, done that


A few weeks ago I wrote about constructed identity myths.  And also about having “an awakening” about adoption and abandonment as being the root cause for all my woes.  But what I didn’t explain is that I think the latter is part of the former.

I have been thinking lately how privileged I’ve been as an adoptee to have adoption to blame for everything not going the way I imagined the world should go.  I have also been thinking how fortunate I am that it only took me three years to figure that out.  And I thank God that I didn’t dwell in that “awakening” for decades like other adoptees I know.  And this is not to discount the effects of abandonment or adoption or to dismiss it, because it’s really freaking traumatic in a majorly traumatic way, but it is to say that the real “awakening” is not that it is the cause of a bad life today, though that may be true, but that the important truth is that we need to realize we have to find some healthy way to deal with that pain.

I’d hoped that adoption activism was a way to do just that – move on by making something positive out of the trauma.  But if the source of that action is based in blame, then is it really positive?   Peel back the layers of adoptee activism and what you have at its core is a cry for validation through blame.  But if no validation manifests itself, what is left is only disappointment.  Are adoptee activists prepared for that?

It has been posited that the adoptee diaspora is its own unique species, and that the species will soon be extinct and that we must be recorded in history.  Adoptee activism is about finding some action to anchor a place in history so we are not forgotten.  The goal is validation.

Yet, the only people validating the wronged Korean adoptee is Korean adoptees themselves:  adoptees who have also decided that adoption is the cause of all their ills.  While some westerners and a handful of Korean radicals recognize our difficult situations, they still don’t validate us historically.  Speak with any other Korean national and we are just a sad footnote in a long tragedy-filled history.  Essentially?  They just don’t care. “I’m sorry for you.  But don’t expect any change any time soon.”  Just like many other displaced people and victims of circumstance, politics, war, genocide, etc., there often is no justice for the living.  There is no validation for us and there will be no Truth and Reconciliation Commission on adoption, because laws were not broken in a lawless state and Korea will never indict itself for ethical violations like that.  And the more we irritate Korea, the more the adoptee community is seen in dim regard.

And what kind of goal is validation, anyway?  It is a goal of self-soothing, a goal of delusion, a goal of constructed romantic radical activist myth-making.  It is ego.

Now, we CAN validate each other and support one another, but it should be cleansed of these delusions that we can make Korea do what we want, or that Korea is where we belong.  Koreans are concerned with their lives and their needs and getting ahead.  We are nothing but a momentary pang of guilt to them.

Thursday I spent with foreign teacher friends I met in Thailand prior to coming to Korea.  Of 10 of us, only 4 remain, 3 of which meet regularly, and this was a special occasion as one who had already left was back to visit.  Unlike other foreigners here, I don’t have to explain what I am to them, and it’s refreshing.  It was refreshing to be with friends who did not commiserate over drinks with the requisite box of trauma tissue handy.  It was refreshing to only need tissue because we laughed until we cried.

Two of us may make Korea our home and I am not one of them.  Because the fact is that I do not now and never will enjoy the Korea that they experience.  Nor will I ever enjoy the Korea that Koreans experience.  The fact is that adoptees do not belong and are not welcome here.  The adoptees who stay?  They are refugees seeking shelter from a world in which they couldn’t cope.  But here they are also outcasts, and they are not coping well.  While I have been horrifically educated by abuse and adoption, and I can never erase the fact of that, I still think that trauma can inform and enlighten instead of just shackle and imprison.

I deserve a better life than this, and by God I’m going to get it.  There is only so much space in our lives, and if we devote most of it to our trauma, then how much room does that leave for happiness?

I know that people will be disappointed that I no longer champion such dreams.  I know too that my conclusions will not be popular:  because people want to feel righteous and that dreams of reunification and repatriation are seductive and soothing, and everyone would like to be a social justice hero.  At the beginning of my journey I wanted all those things too.  I am, after all, a transracial adoptee abuse survivor.  But we have to find hope in reality, if we want to live real and productive lives that transcend survival.  While not as romantic, I hope just living in peace can also be inspirational for some.

Whatever shall I write about now?  Ha ha ha!  Still 10 more months here and then readjusting to America to follow.  But somehow, I think it’s going to be pretty smooth sailing from hereon in.

ADDED:

Oh, and just to be perfectly clear — I still think international adoption is violence to children and that it is rooted in colonial entitlement and I still think the adoption agencies broker the sale of people for profit and charlatans hiding behind charity and Christianity.

I will continue to look for ways to contribute to the demise of these horrible practices, only I’m not going to do it at the expense of the adoptee community or my own happiness.

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9 thoughts on “been there, done that

  1. >I deserve a better life than this, and by God I’m going to get it.

    F*** yeah! You know this is my mantra. You f***ing deserve it all.

    Starting with brussels sprouts! (Although actually we had delicious Korean fried chicken last night, with jap chae.)

  2. OMG. brussels sprouts. (drool)
    and jap chae…

    Did you know jap chae’s not so easy to get here? It’s a special treat and most restaurants don’t have it…

    btw, what’s the job situation like in Oakland? I’d love to be neighbors…

  3. Not sure about jobs in Oakland (doing what?), but they definitely have cheap housing and jap chae. We’d love to have you here!

  4. I’ve no idea, anything that’ll pay rent and a grand in bills – but Berkeley has extension classes to get a certificate in fine arts. I’d have to pay as I go, since their program doesn’t qualify for financial aid. But that way I wouldn’t be generating debt and I’d get those foundation courses I need.

  5. How cool to have you here…although you know I still fantasize (and, some days, plan) about moving back to Seattle… But you’d just have to come with us when the time is finally right.

  6. Well, I’m just looking everywhere for any opportunity to come back, and though the PNW would be my preference, I think Oakland would be the most sensible. Like working in a grocery store or something would work for me, living in a basement somewhere so I could paint!

    It would be awesome to live so close to a true friend, too! Anyway, if you hear of anything opening up around March, do let me know. And you know I’m not picky about what kind of work I do and that I like slumming it!

  7. Bummer – just read that the U.C. extension is actually in San Francisco, and I know rent is high there. Not only is there no financial aid, but student loans are not deferred.

    10 semester credits in a specialized study (approx. $2,300 – max. 2 years) must be taken prior to applying for the post-bac certificate ($5,800 – max 5 years) so I guess I could do it but only if I had a job that would allow me to attend the classes. That’s a long haul working probably close to full time and trying to study and paint…

    My next best shot is to try and convince a Washington State school to let me get a second BA. But that’s against UW’s policy and most of the schools won’t or will only take alumni for that. I was going to try for Bellingham anyway. But I am worried I won’t have a portfolio ready in time anyway. (must get off computer and draw) I haven’t looked at the eastern WA schools just because they’re out in the middle of nowhere, but maybe I should…hey – doesn’t Jack’s mom teach out there? I think I would get depressed without the sight of trees…

    Portland State would take me but I’d have to pay out-of-state tuition. Which is still cheap, but I would run out of financial aid before my degree.

    (sigh)

  8. SUKI! i echo (must stop doing that) the statement above because you do deserve better than bizarro-world can offer you. i also love when you blog about people i know ^_^ hope the ladies are doing okay and will return one day to the beautiful land. you can always teach at an esl school when you get back to help pay tuition costs. i’m sure if maddy and i can get gigs teaching englishee to help pay bills, you sure as hell can too!
    miss you much!

  9. But the echo is so endearing…

    Everyone is doing well and Brittany is going to teach in FRANCE! (envy, envy, envy)

    Well, not the teaching part, though I think adult immigrants would be a lot better than Korean students…

    Hope your studies are going well. I miss you! Especially when I’m in Seoul, it’s like something’s missing – and it’s you!

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