This may sound like a really strange thing to say, but I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I’m an adult. Maybe the notion of realizing something so obvious doesn’t actually sound that ridiculous. Maybe my peers have recently felt or currently feel this way. Maybe other already-deemed-adult adults felt this way in the past. Maybe other aspiring adults have yet to feel this way. Nevertheless, the feeling remains, and I exist not under any delusion that I am unique or special in this feeling. My feeling, however, includes a unique but not altogether special quality; I am a Korean adoptee. Maybe you’ve heard of us?
The details of my adoption are guarded with great care as I deem the privacy of my life and the people within it the thing in need of the utmost respect and insulation from voyeurs and tourists. With that said, the situation in which I currently find myself demands a certain level of psychological relief. Thus, I have decided to extend an invitation—to those who either exist within or are curious about adoption—to a perfunctory orbit around my world. I absolutely do not claim to know anything beyond my own experience about adoption, what it means or what it ought to mean. Instead, I do know that I have a rare adoption story, and my perspective on the issue is comprehensive albeit circumscribed. And so, the situation at hand.
Next week, I will see my birth mother. If you know me, this is hardly news. I first met my birth mother years ago, and I even had the opportunity to see her a second time. This time, however, is … different. I was young the first two times. The first time, my family vacationed in Jeju, and my parents set up the meeting. In other words, I hardly remember the meeting as I was far too removed from and traumatized by the entire situation. The second time, while I was in college, I visited Seoul for a Korean-language program, and my social worker had asked if I wanted to see my birth mother again. In other words, I had other people setting up the meeting. This time, this third time now, has been all me. I contacted my adoption agency; I wanted the meeting; I decided.
I’ve been living in Seoul for the past five years, and honestly, I don’t love it. I’d say that I hardly even like it. But this is not about that. Now that my lifemate and I are finally moving on from this place, I thought that it might be a nice idea to have my lifemate meet my birth mother and/or vice versa. Luckily (if it had been otherwise, my lifemate wouldn’t be my lifemate), my lifemate was into the idea, encouraged it, if that’s what I wanted. It is what I want. But not for me, as odd as that sounds. I don’t need to see my birth mother. I’ve seen her; I don’t have anymore questions. I think that my birth mother needs to see me, though.
It’s like I said, I’m an adult now, which is what’s weird. It’s even weirder that I’m roughly the same age that my birth mother was when I saw her last. So, for selfish reasons, I want to know what she looks like, more than a decade later. The last time I saw her, I remember thinking, Wow, I’m gonna age really well. She’s much older now, so I should get a good sense of exactly how well I’m going to age. Yea, I know, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Seeing her, nevertheless, is by no means, a need.
Accordingly, I’m filled with dutiful responsibility for reasons that are beyond me. Altruistically, I want her to meet my man. I want her to at least get a look at him, if that’s what she wants. Empathetically, I fill with concerns about whether or not she will feel pain, sorrow, guilt, anything unsavory. Emotionally, I nauseate under the nervousness her inevitable judgement will inevitably stir. Psychologically, I ripple and wave like a frayed flag secured from unknowable flight solely by the strength of my lifemate’s gentle, unwavering grasp. Courageously, I remind myself to do it for her. The response time between my adoption agency and my birth mother reveals her own anticipation. She wants to see me. It seems like she wants to see me. I’ve committed, and now I must muster the strength to be brave despite the overwhelming thoughts surrounding this forthcoming meeting. Hence the truly adult situation, a uniquely adoptee circumstance, outlined in the opening, aforementioned feeling(s).
But what if she doesn’t actually want to see me? She’s allowed to refuse contact. I know this as fact. So, presumably, she would have just said no, or she would have made herself inaccessible, right? I don’t know. How could anyone know such a thing? I don’t even really know what I want from this situation, except that, a long time ago, I decided (knowingly or otherwise) upon the importance of my birth mother meeting my lifemate (whomever he turned out to be in the future from then). And so, if I ignore this opportunity, the likelihood of my dissatisfaction in the future (a life filled with regret and what ifs) is inescapable. This, of course, could cause a whole host of other psychological issues that will undoubtedly have to be dealt with in this same future.
Again, I call on courage and bravery, an explicit, distressing confrontation in the now traded for solace and contentment in the time that comes after now. The brevity of the interaction ought to be worth it. Unless, of course, I die from the overwhelming burden upon my psychological state. A gross exaggeration, obviously, but no less plausible in my own mind. I suppose, then, as I ruminate myself into fussy futility, the only thing I must decide is whether or not I want her to know me. Yes, I understand the oxymoronic sentiment. I want her to meet my life’s mate, but I don’t want her to know me? This contradiction, nevertheless, rests squarely at the heart of my neurosis. I’m not so fraught, however, to know that I am not to blame.
Just like with any relationship, I can’t know what my birth mother feels or thinks, unless I ask, but I’m also not so naive to think that she wouldn’t lie to me. People lie. Thus, the only thing I’m responsible for, in this situation, is the knowing of myself. What do I want? I’ve never had to deal with this exact issue before. I was a child when I saw her last; I wasn’t really me yet, so there was less of “me” to judge, not that I felt judged. Now, on the other hand, I am me; I’m vulnerable to her true dislike because there’s little to nothing to be done about who I am now. If I reveal myself, I’m open to the opportunity of being rejected, again, by the one person in the world who was not supposed to reject me.
What do I do? Do I hold myself back and just be pleasant? Do I let her see me even though I know in my heart of hearts that she doesn’t deserve to know me? Do I shed light on only part of the truth so that I end up with the upperhand, guarded, at a safe distance from her rejection? Please don’t tell me or make any suggestions. I never do what I’m told—on principle—because I hate being told what to do. Instead, I’m simply thinking out loud with hopes that a solution will make itself known to me. Perhaps, I’ll hear my own words and realize how ridiculous my thoughts are, or perhaps, I’ll succumb and be a coward. But I’m not sure which behavior signifies courage versus cowardice. I do know, nonetheless, that sharing myself, revealing myself, being seen is the hardest thing for me to do, which, logically speaking, means that to be me would be the thing that requires the most courage and by default, would be defined as courageous behavior. For now, I still have a few days to decide what amount of me to show my birth mother. The circumstance, however, divulges an issue that, it seems, I will have to deal with for forever.