In the beginning…
For the first 30 years of my life I avoided anything that was even remotely Asian. I grew up in the 80s and 90s before the internet and long before social media. There were few notable Asian people featured in mainstream media and even fewer I knew in real life.
Kids in school had never seen an Asian person in real life before meeting me and my siblings. I looked different from everyone else around me and knew it. I spent the last 30 years working through my racial insecurities.
Growing up I can recall so many times where I changed myself and/or my reaction to something for fear of not fitting in or being labeled different. I acted uninterested toward Asian related things. For example, in school I remember doing units in school on Asia and felt so uncomfortable sitting in those classrooms.
I would fake stomachaches to get out of going to school or would be borderline disruptive with friends to show my disinterest in the topic. I remember teachers asking me if my family had any traditions or special meals I would like to share…
These memories are horrifying for my self to look back on. Such trivial moments for an adult to process but definitely traumatizing for an adolescent transracial adoptee trying to find herself.
Acceptance as an Adult…
I have plenty of accomplishments and accolades under my belt. My personality makes the drive for success a constant endeavor of mine. But I wonder how much of this drive is to make up for some inner struggle from not accepting my whole self.
The turning point for me was when my first child entered this world. It is a love like no other. I want her to be proud and unashamed of her mixed Korean heritage. Loving myself and my own Korean-ness is something I have struggled with my whole life.
What I wish for my younger self and for my children is a sense of pride and ownership over being Asian American. I think in the age of social media and the internet people are able to more fully express themselves than ever before. This is not to say it is without fear but with courage to put themselves out there.
There are so many examples of beautiful and successful Asian individuals in our society today. Not more than when I was growing up but more are able to rise up without the oppression of racially-filtered media. Social media and the internet has no doubt changed modern society in big ways. Such monumental change comes with good and bad to process.
As an adult transracial adoptee I feel blessed to live in a time where my children will have access to more than I did. I feel inclined to share my journey as a Korean Adoptee to help other adoptees and adoptive families.
For my children…
Back to my children and my quest to embrace our Korean heritage. It’s complicated.
Being an adoptee it is difficult to embrace something for which you have never known. For me it’s almost like trying to become something that others assumed you already are.
My intention to instill a sense of pride and ownership over our Korean background starts with exposure. Exposure to the language, food and cultural traditions in the best way we know how.
My children already have the advantage of seeing a whole lot more people who share their ethnic background than I ever did. They also have me and my siblings who are also Korean. They will never feel alone in the same ways that we did having a parent who is of the same race.
So it has taken me over 30 years to embrace my “Asian-ness.” For some adoptees I’m sure it is much earlier than this and for others that may never happen (I know more of the latter group in my personal life.)
There are moments where I can genuinely say that I am proud to look and be an Asian American. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am comfortable in my skin every time I walk outside my house but believe it or not this is major progress for me. The journey continues and I’m excited to see what this evolving mindset brings to me in the future.
Thanks for reading!