The Adoptee Conversation

I’m an open book. I’m more extroverted than introverted and while I’m very in touch with my emotions I normally do not take offense to sensitive situations.

With that said, not all adoptees are like me. While I hope that’s generally understood, sometimes I find embarrassingly that my over sharing of my story can negatively impact the relationships my friends and family have with other adoptees.

Let me clarify:

There are certain questions and conversations that as my friend you may feel comfortable asking me, but with other adoptees please take a moment to reflect first before you dig too deep. Even if that other adoptee is your college roommate or cousin, every adoptee like every human on this planet experiences different emotions and connections with their adoption story and journey, and to be quite honest, it ain’t your gosh darn business.

I’m so happy to share my blog with you and let you experience these moments with me. Every Facebook “like” and all the messages of support I’ve been receiving on my trip has felt like (as my friend Jamie puts it) a virtual hug. Thank you.

But I’m obligated to remind everyone that this story, this journey, these emotions and reflection are just my own. I don’t speak for everyone on this trip. I don’t speak for my parents or husband. I don’t speak for the thousands of Korean adoptees throughout the US. I can only speak for myself.

So if you meet or know any other adoptees please keep in mind a few things:

1. Adoption is so personal. When you discover someone is adopted don’t immediately ask them to share their story. They might not be ready. And if they want to share it with you, believe me, they will. You won’t need to prompt them.

2. Depending on how well you know the adoptee don’t ask them if they’ve “been back yet”. Many of my adoptee friends hope to return but financially or emotionally or for whatever reason, just can’t. And the reminder can sting. I also have Korean adoptee friends who have absolutely no desire to go to Korea and would rather not share details as to why. Again, if they want to share this with you, they will.

3. Don’t ask why the adoptee is adopted. “Do you know why your mother gave you up?” Many of the amazing friends I’ve met in my life have asked me this question within a few hours of me telling them Im adopted. You probably don’t remember this, but I do- and I think that means something. Personally I don’t take offense, but as mentioned before, other adoptees might. Think of it like this. We just met, or have been friends for some time. Or maybe we are even family. You share with me that your parents are divorced. And my first response is to ask “why did they break up?” Or think of it like this. You share with me that your father passed away and the first thing I say to you is “how?” As you can see, for some this may not be a problem. For others, this is incredibly intrusive whether you’re a friend or partner or family.

A Director at Holt on our trip reminded all the adoptees that the Korean spirit flows within all of us. And we are naturally resilient, determined, and brave. And I definitely agree with him. But you should never ever assume that someone’s adoption is alright to discuss openly. I share my blog with you because I’m fine with that. I don’t mind being an ambassador for international adoption. Because honestly it’s easy for me, I’m a lucky one. I was born healthy, I was adopted into a loving family, I never had to struggle hard to achieve what I wanted. And it was because I was lucky enough to be surrounded and supported by amazing people (including you).

But it also saddens me that international and interracial adoptees are forced into this ambassadorship. We physically cannot avoid the subject, we don’t look like our family, maybe we are the only minority in town, and often times our last names do not reflect the color of our skin. I’m not saying we are trying to hide who we are, but growing up you just want to fit in. And you just can’t when you’re an international adoptee.

So it saddens me that whether we prefer it or not we are asked the hard questions. It sometimes frustrates me that we always have to remind people that we are happy and that we need to use optimistic words when speaking about adoption because we want to ensure individuals look positively on adoption even though adoption is really a balance between the positive and the negative. But life in general is struggling with this balance. And as adoptees we need to sometimes understand and demand that we don’t always have to be the face of Holt, or Korean adoption, or interracial families. That it’s ok to say “I don’t really feel like answering that”. And when people ask where you are from, you can repeat fifteen times “New Jersey” until they understand you’re not interested in sharing your ethnicity (and then explain why you don’t speak Korean). It’s totally fine to tell the manager interviewing you that the reason you don’t look like that name on the application is because “I no longer care to apply for this position” and walk out. It’s ok. It’s your life. It’s your story. And you get to decide- ONLY YOU- who you’d like to share that with.

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