Since the beginning of when I began sharing openly about my struggles with mental health, even before I had a blog and was only posting on my personal Facebook profile, I have been told time and time again that my vulnerability is admirable. I have been told that my openness is impressive and inspirational. I am certainly grateful and humbled by these comments, yet there is a topic I have remained guarded about. In reflection, I think that I needed to have more time on my own exploring my feelings before I said something, but it is something I now feel more ready to talk about. This is not due to shame, but rather the fact that I needed time to gather my thoughts privately at first.
Something that people who do not know me in person may be unaware of is the fact that I am adopted. I was adopted at 3 months old from South Korea by my parents who are both caucasian. Adoption is a big part of my life, and it is something that can be more complicated than the Hallmark picture of a happy family. That is not to say my family is not happy, though! I just mean that it can be a complex thing, especially when it comes to transracial adoption.
It makes me laugh when people ask whether or not my parents told me I was adopted. As a 5’0″ Korean girl I think I would have figured out my 6’5″ Irish father is not my biological dad. But, honestly, it can be frustrating at times to deal with the ignorance that comes from being a mixed race family. It comes with funny stories and stories of pure ignorance. For example, one time I was at the grocery store with my dad and the cashier enthusiastically said, “You look so much like your dad!” She then awkwardly added, “But I’m sure you also look like your mom” implying she assumed I was half Korean. When I tell people this story, they comment that I share similar mannerisms with my father and how my lighter skin tone makes me look like I could be mixed race.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, it can be annoying when people do not believe my parents are actually my parents. One time my mom was told that she could get me in for a free pass to a gym because I was her daughter. Everything was fine…until we arrived and the man at the front desk seemed wary of us when my mom said I was her daughter. Uh, hellooooo ever hear of adoption? I understand that people probably lie all the time to try and get free passes, but this example of ignorance is something that I deal with regularly.
Sometimes those situations can just be annoying, but other times they reinforce this idea that not everyone views my family as a “real” or true family to the same degree as a family where everyone is biologically related. It is frustrating and tiring when I have to explain over and over again that my adoptive parents are my real parents. We are a family as much as any other family is.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about being adopted. I am grateful for the family I have, and I love them so much. I have been blessed with a wonderful life. This post is only the first of others that I plan on writing about my exploration of my nuanced emotions about my adoption, being an adoptee, dealing with racial issues, etc.
For a long time, I have ignored the fact that aspects of being adopted have sometimes been upsetting, troubling, or confusing for me, but I am excitedly apprehensive about exploring them more. Writing this feels very vulnerable and scary, but I believe that it is important to add to the surrounding narrative instead of letting adoption discussions be one sided as they often are. I am looking forward to writing more about this and exploring the ways in which adoption has impacted me.