I’m in the process of picking up the scattered pieces of my life and trying to make sense out of it, out of me. Integration. Cohesiveness. Wholeness. In short: Who the fuck am I? I want to move forward, not backwards. I seek progression, not regression. Yet I’m finding an integral part of my goals to moving forward comes with revisiting my past, however many times I need to for resolution. Each revisit to the past will open up something that’s needed.
In going back to revisit my past, I realize that it feels like I’ve lived several different lives.
My Korean life was the first part of my 11 months of living. Then after being adopted and coming to the United States at 11 months, I had no place to put that self other than to bury it deeply into an unconscious state. That was my first “life” that was abruptly ended, without my choosing. I cut that part away from me. It was necessary for survival. That’s survival 101 post-preverbal trauma in a nutshell. It was obviously not a conscious decision, it happened on its own. Survival for kids tends to take on a life of its own, without needing conscious permission from anyone.
I entered school as a minority, being raised by White parents. That in and of itself should explain a lot of things. If not, try imagining yourself (or your young child if you’re a parent) moving to a foreign country as a child, being raised by adults of a different race and you having a visibly drastic different look than the those who you depend on for survival and are surrounded by everywhere you go. You’re a kid, you can’t escape it, not even in your own home.
In my adolescence, survival required that I find out who to be so I could fit in. Seeking social acceptance amongst peers without a foundation of an integrated sense of self in place does things to kids. Of course the kid wouldn’t know it, few adults seem to grasp it, even though it’s developmentally logical and makes perfect sense if you’re not looking at troubled kids through a lens of disdain through projection based on one’s own fragmented self. Some adults don’t have that because it was brainwashed out of them through social conditioning towards conformity in their own lives. Adulthood tends to do this if adults don’t fight the necessary battle to live consciously and authentically. I have struggled with this pull myself. It’s a human struggle.
One of my survival tactics when I was an adolescent was to dump all of my White friends and replace them exclusively with Asian friends. If any of you are reading this now, I am sorry. It was my attempt at an integrated self, while also trying to survive without a foundation of a coherent self yet.
Adoption has many complexities, and transracial adoption adds even more. There are many beautiful aspects to adoption. A child who lost her family and home is given one. That in and of itself is beautiful. But let’s not forget or pretend that there would not be an adoption without a traumatic loss preceding it. Even with all the beautiful parts of adoption ensuing, they will never erase what took place which necessitated the adoption. Loss. Loss of what many people take for granted who perhaps were not adopted: family origins, family medical history, a birth mom, a birth father; all vital parts of what forms a human’s identity. Lost.
Me revisiting parts of the past that I can remember is something I need to do, for me. There are questions I have that will most likely never be answered. Never. That is part of the lost territory that comes with adoption. I’ve accepted that. I haven’t had much of a choice to do otherwise and I cannot afford to obsess or rearrange my life around trying to get those answers while abandoning the life I have built for myself in the present tense. I have my own family now. But I’m finding that the questions I do have that could be answered by the people I do have access to in my life today, need to be asked. They may not get answered though, I can’t control that part.
When I was in high school, I hung out with other Koreans, dated an international student from Korea. It was not a healthy relationship. How could it be? I was searching for something I didn’t even know I was searching for, my intangible elusive identity which when looking back, seems like it was playing hide-n-seek with me. I was an adolescent to boot, of course I was searching for my identity in that relationship. It was the perfect storm for unconscious longings/losses to arise and resolve. It makes perfect sense to me. At least now it does.
When I was in college, I felt myself distancing from my Korean/Asian friends after no longer sharing the bond of drunkenness together. If any of you are reading this now, I am sorry. After getting wasted and facing charges of a DWI even though I was honestly innocent, I got just enough conscious awareness to at least wake-up and realize “this is not the life I want, this is not who I want to try to be anymore”. My search for who I really am, my real self, continued. So, I joined the church. I reasoned that even though I was an Asian-American, I was raised by White parents within a predominantly White culture within the church. I reasoned, why not try to embrace that part of me? My inner-White girl emerged.
When I joined the church as an active participant and embraced my “believer status” it had several effects on different parts of my life. In looking back I did not find those experiences to be very integration friendly, at least not beyond theory. I would not have known any better though, it was my familiar dance…just another version of what I’d lived through before–shoving parts of myself away in order to fit in with an external system. This period of time in my life formed much of my adult belief system. I was in my early-mid 20’s, and that is developmentally normal around that age, for anyone.
At this point, I was starting to become a little more sloppy at burying my former identities. I got so good at survival out of necessity and habit, but it was starting to catch up to me, and yet I continued to do what I felt I needed to do in order to survive within the church social system — to not be condemned (survive). I became an avid student of the Bible. I could talk Bible. I could debate Bible. I could make myself survive. I will not deny that a certain part of me was able to emerge and I liked her, I sharpened my intellect through becoming an amatuer feminist theologian, and am damn proud of it. But, that part of me was still isolated from the other parts. It became a good way to bury the former parts of me and resurrect ONLY the new “Christian” me, at least I subconsciously reasoned.
I did meet god, in a real, transcendent, and profound way during those years. Even though I had fragmented identifies all over the place that I wasn’t even remotely aware of, he showed up and came to me. Yet there were so many divisions between the scattered parts of my own self, it became harder to know which parts of “me” I consciously “allowed” god to meet.
And now present tense, me and god are introducing all parts of my life to one another. I’m re-introducing parts of my own self to other parts of my own self, and emerging more whole, more integrated, more authentic, one step at a time. god has always seen all of me, all my parts, the parts I like and take pride in, and the parts I don’t like and wish I could make them go away. The way I see god and my own unique spirituality is slowly but surely emerging, and it is mine. I’m learning to not outsource my spirituality while invalidating my own inner wisdom. It’s my spirituality, it’s my walk with god, not the institutional church’s or an external authority figure’s, I’m taking that back.
Survival is no longer cutting it for me. I want to be free, I want to live fully. Therefore, I can no longer hold to the rigid belief system I once had without having doubts. That was a good way of hiding, of surviving, yet I’m no longer wanting to hide parts of me anymore and only survive, as tempting as that sometimes is just so I can temporarily feel accepted in the moment. It’s bullshit. The cost is no longer worth it to me. I am reconstituting as I integrate within my own self, and I believe this is my lifelong pursuit, my lifelong journey, which includes somehow sharing that with those who get it because they value this for themselves too.
I feel like my soul is coming alive and I will not invalidate it. It is messy. It is painful. But I am worth it and I would not have it any other way. As you can see, I’ve been there, done that and have found it doesn’t work for me.
This is my emerging story. What’s yours?
My life is to be continued….