Chapter 3: Your Life Is Important; Travel Light And Forgive
When I set out to write this series on adoption, my two goals were to educate and encourage. Even though the subject isn’t near and dear to everyone like it is to me, I wanted to take all of you on a brief tour into the heart of adoption. For those of you who share an adoption story with me, well, I would like to wrap my arms around you all and squeeze. Tight.
The response has been overwhelming and emotional. Your stories and comments have been touching, encouraging and most of all…humbling. I thought I was here to teach you something. Know what? YOU taught me. I learned my heart can be stretched farther than I ever imagined. Thanks bunches and tons for sharing your thoughts. You Gigglers are an incredible group of people to write for.
So, it’s the final article and I planned on speaking to those who are adopted. As I started writing this, though, I realized there are others who also need to be recognized. Think of this as a curtain call- when the entire cast is called out to the stage to take their bows. It’s at that moment when we see all the characters together, the stitches that were sewn to hold the plot together. And so…
To my adopted friends:
We are very fortunate.
When I was younger, I didn’t see that. I harbored this bitterness because my birth mom in Korea had “given up on me.” It was like carrying a heavy stone that rolled around my soul until it had worn smooth. If you’re still harboring something similar, may I suggest you take hold of it and examine it carefully from every angle. Hold it in your hand, run your fingers along the rough edges, and then throw it as far away from you as possible. Easier said than done, I know. It will require time— it’s taken me over 30 years to let go of the hurt and disappointment.
Do you want to know something profound? You are reading this article because my birth mom made the decision to put me up for adoption. If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here to tell you this: Your life is important. You are not a mistake. Nothing is a waste. So, travel light… forgive.
We are the fortunate ones— we were given a new start, a different path. We will never know what our lives would have been had we remained with our birth families. I know for me personally, I would be living in Seoul, Korea in poverty, with very little education, support or hope. No happy story to share. I was one of the very few who was rescued from such a bleak and inevitable future. Words can never describe.
(Oy. I have to stop a minute because I’m sobbing now. Like, Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give” sobbing.)
To the parents who have adopted:
You are beyond amazing to me. I’ve stated before that adoption does not make a person more special than anyone else. However, what is special and unique is the desire to want a child who is not biologically yours, and yet love them no differently than if you conceived them. Adopted kids were born from the heart. It’s an astounding and beautiful phenomenon, yes?
Lovely Mom and Dashing Dad, thank you for loving me, your little sophisticated and artistic bohemian. I never felt for a moment like I was your ADOPTED daughter. I was always fully yours. I am, however, quietly amused that I referred to you as, “Hey, honky!” when I was four. In public. Out loud. Often. (On a related note: Thanks for letting me watch The Jeffersons.)
Sometimes I stop to realize you could have received the kid in the crib next to me in Korea, but didn’t. I won’t ask the whys or hows, because I’m sure if it was explained to me, I still couldn’t comprehend it. All I know is that I’m grateful I’m here. I’m grateful you’re mine. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to carve out a tiny space in this world where I am free to be safe, successful, strong—full. May I never take a moment of this for granted.
To my birth mom and those who have given a child up for adoption:
All that remained of you was a name imprinted on my birth certificate with crude, typewriter keys and then covered over with Wite-Out by the hospital staff in Korea. Years later, the paper degraded and I could read your name when I held it up to a light. Your anonymity removed by time and age: “Mok Young Um.” No longer a nameless phantom.
I want you to know how brave I think you are, Mok Young Um. You were alone in a country that ostracizes people of mixed race. You were Korean and Caucasian. You were shunned and disadvantaged. Somewhere deep within myself, there’s an imprint of the pain you felt when you carried me for eight months, agonizing over the decision to let me go. You told the nurse to “please give her a sweet home.” That was your gift to me. The only valuable thing you owned— the opportunity to live. Not to survive, but to LIVE. Thank you for this.
Above all, I want you to know I am safe, I laugh often and I’ve carried a part of you halfway across the world, never to forget- but to honor you. I hope you would be proud.
For those of you who have given up children for adoption, do not let others condemn you, including yourself. You made a very selfless decision in the midst of a difficult situation. You may never meet your child in person and I can’t speak for them, but as a person who was adopted, you have my deepest respect.
Wow. What an amazing experience this has been. Thank you again for listening to my story, allowing me to open up my heart and opening yours in return.
This is not the end of the story. Many of you who are reading this will adopt someday, and a new story will begin. I hope to read yours in the future. Others, like myself, will search for their birth families hoping to trace out the roadmap of their heritage. Whatever the case may be, I wish you all the best on your journeys.