hidden so deep

about 24 years ago, i was adopted. it's taken me this long to realize that it's a little confusing. it's also taken me this long to realize that i am not white.

Tag: adoption

xvi.

I have had an awful lot of feelings and an awful time trying to make any sense of them over the past few months. I fester inside of myself, gangrene of the soul eating away at my edges. I write sentences in my head and then unwrite them, erase words that barely even had a chance to form. Sometimes I get a glimpse of myself– slowly realize that I am both terrified of having a voice and terrified of not having one. I hungrily devour others’ words and thoughts and burn them into my brain so that I have no room for my own. So that I cannot have any feelings or ideas of my own.

But it is not all necessarily so bad; there are tiny gentle sprouts poking their heads through the manure in my heart. They clumsily repeat the words that I have read, faking the sentiment in the desperate hope that they can grow larger: I am a treasure and I deserve to take up space. I am cooler than my haters. It is hard to believe the latter statement when most of your haters are inside of you. I get distracted by the logistics. The most difficult by far to even comprehend is that I deserve to make mistakes and still be loved, because I am tiny but growing.

I have been reading some history of Korean/American adoption lately–it’s a topic I have wanted to research but I had forgotten. Sometimes I fall down a rabbit hole of foreign policy or university spending or something and I don’t come back for months. I read an article by Steve Haruch that traces some of the history of Korean/American Adoptee organizing and storytelling. And of course stories of falsified adoption records, corrupt and/or ignorant agencies, and the muddling of pre- and post-adoptive life.

I remember telling you that I once googled the name my biological parents gave me. I returned home last week only to be confronted again by the photo of my bald, oddly-shaped, newborn head, and my name written phonetically in English. I remember telling you that I once googled my first-assigned name but didn’t find it very interesting.

I am here now to tell you that I was afraid, and I am afraid, to research my first-assigned name. I am frankly terrified to know either way– whether the narrative in my adoption records are true or not. I do not want to know right now. Probably I would find nothing, or my records would be vaguely corroborated enough to satisfy me.

But.

The uncertainty, the possibility that parts of those records may be falsified, whether for “better” or “worse,” is right now so terrifying that I am not sure what I would do if it were true. While many parts of my self-identity and self-esteem have shifted in my life, viewing my adoption as a positive part of my life has not. I need to buy into this for myself, even if it is not true for everyone, perhaps not even a majority of adoptees. Adoption is complicated, man, and I know various cultural, racial, and imperial forces have likely caused me to become orphaned when it perhaps was not absolutely “necessary.”

I’m still trying to understand on an academic and distant level why adoption happened to me. I am purposely–and perhaps both selfishly and stupidly– choosing ignorance about the individual truths behind it.

The problem is that I am actually like a child who has been told not to touch a hot stove. I am curious and dumb. To be clear, I haven’t even typed the name in a long time, let alone into a search box. But my fingers feel itchy just thinking about it. It’s like looking over the edge of a cliff– terrifyingly dizzying but also breathtaking. I never thought I would be so grateful for my prohibitive fear of everything, but here we are.

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I have been tempted to walk away from everything. Occasionally I travel internationally, and more than once I’ve thought about just losing my passport and all identifying information, and just walking away. I think people would be sad for a little while, but everyone gets over the loss of someone else in some way. I think I have a basic belief that I’m not intrinsically valuable, that I’m interchangeable and replaceable. I don’t think this intellectually, but maybe I believe it emotionally anyways. I’ve dreamed of being free of all the expectations and burdens of this perfectly successful and normal life. I’ve dreamed of being as cold and crazy and true to myself on the outside as I sometimes feel on the inside. I have dreamed of disappearing, of forcing all my family and friends to move on without me

There are times when I wish I didn’t exist. I don’t mean that I wish to die, but to simply not exist. I think because I don’t feel love, I experience a self-imposed isolation and unbearable loneliness. I’m old enough to know that I’m past the age that I can learn to love, and that I’m just made badly. I also believe that most of the people who love me have experienced more pain because of my existence. Sometimes I imagine driving off bridges or into trees, and it is a very thin glue that holds me from it.

Anonymous, “Secrets,” Lost Daughters.

Currently thinking about the intersections of adoption, genetics, pre-verbal trauma, and mental illness–particularly my own.

interlude.

How do you say, “Sorry, and I agree, people of my race, and all others, should be considered different and still equal to yours, but the fact that they’re not is kind of the whole point” in Mom-Language?

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What’s needed is extraordinary cognizance on the part of white adoptive parents, a recognition that we do not live in a post-racial society, but a society which is still extremely stratified, where white faces dominate magazine covers, movie billboards, talk shows, Congress, the Senate, CEO and managerial positions. It’s a world where dark parents of a blonde child suggests to a racist world “pedophiles”, whereas the blonde parents of a dark child are “angels” and are “rewarded” for being “Good Samaritans” with nearly 60,000 + dollars of money they did not ask for and clearly do not “need” – and yet, have no intention of sharing with those who may most benefit from it: the families in Ethiopia who are unable to care for their own children because of a basic lack of resources and funds.

–Ruth Fowler, The Rescue Fallacy: Race, Privilege, and Adoption

xi.

How can I explain how cloudy all of this feels? I’m staring at photos of me as an infant, in a different country, with a different family. While that is happening I am also sitting in my parents house, reading my adoption paperwork out loud to my (adoptive) mother, learning for the first time the reason why I was put up for adoption, completely oblivious to how emotional it is for both of us. While that is happening I am also sitting inside of my apartment, reading about forced adoptions, inaccurate and corrupt agency records, and of adoptees joyfully reunited with their birth families. And while all of that is happening I’m just trying to negotiate the adventures of normal everyday life, like dentist appointments and irritating coworkers.

All of these things feel so beyond me, so much bigger than me. My heart aches as I write this because I feel as though the keyboard is working so desperately to suck these words from my marrow. Sometimes writing about my confused little thoughts on race and adoption just feels like thinking with my hands. But right now it feels like trying to pull a key from the center of an electrocuted sphere. You want to hover outside of it for the most part, and when you try to punch through, the pain of being vulnerable is unbearable.

My subconscious seems to be trying so hard to protect the rest of my brain, trying to make it not hurt, trying to make me believe the right things, trying to believe that “right things” exist as a concept. Does feeling critical of adoption, or at least of many parts of it, and even of my own parents’ views on adoption, also invalidate the fact that these are the people who raised me? Do my jokes about being a purchasable commodity negate that my mother started crying when she opened her Christmas gift this year? Does feeling completely alienated and trapped in a room with overtly racist extended family members erase the relatively comfortable, privileged life that I have been able to lead thanks to being in their family?

Both the short and the long answer is that life and the world and families are complicated and all of those questions are both true and false at the same time, along with being something that is neither true nor false. But how the hell am I supposed to find the time to figure all of this out? I’m a busy person.