Two weeks from today I’ll be in Korea.
I have been waiting for this journey for a long time, even during the years when I told myself I didn’t want or need to go back. I would still find myself trying to imagine what it would be like. Growing up on the cusp of the internet explosion, Korea could still be a mythical place that I could imagine on my own, without ready access to Google and YouTube.
Some of my fellow group mates have been posting a lot on Facebook, talking about their excitement/anxiety, etc. It’s been hard to try and sum up my feelings…when I tell people I’m leaving soon, they exclaim how excited I must be. And yes…I am excited.
But that’s just the surface. Underneath is a whole mess of thoughts and feelings.
On Friday I had to decide whether I was going to allow my story to be included on the KBS TV show Achim Madang (it’s like Good Morning America). Every Wednesday they have a feature segment to connect missing people (whether adoptees or other people who have been separated for whatever reason). It’s one of the most highly rated TV shows in the country and being on the show a pretty common thing for adoptees doing a birth search in Korea to do…I’ve known that this might be a possibility since last November when a friend of mine went on a similar trip with GOAL.
I’m not a very public person (although I wouldn’t call myself shy, either)…but the thought of being on national television, sharing my story, and being subject to the whims of TV producers who are more interested in a dramatic narrative rather than the nuances and complexities of my lived experience makes me, well, more than a bit nervous. I’ve heard too many stories of adoptees and birth families being manipulated in really horrific ways, all for the sake of TV ratings. At the same time, it’s the most efficient way to reach a huge audience, to have my picture flash across the screen in millions of households.
I also worry that if my birth family is found, that we will all feel coerced into having our reunion be broadcast on national TV. Of course, the likelihood of finding my family is very, very slim…but nothing makes me feel more queasy than imagining the possibility of having cameras in my face as I meet my birthmother for the first time. In the end I agreed, with the understanding that I can change my mind at any point.
I came to a moment of clarity earlier today as I spent a few hours searching through some of my favorite adoptee blogs, looking for any insight into how I should approach this upcoming journey. I’ve been reading, thinking, and planning this trip for a long time. Not the logistics, per se, but the process…I’ve talked with lots of adoptees, read countless blogs, asked millions of questions, checked out as many memoirs that I can. I’ve been searching not so much for the right answers on how I should approach my search, but rather for my own story. I keep waiting to read someone else’s blog post and feel that complete resonance, that “Yes! That’s me!”
And I realized today that I won’t find that anywhere else. There’s no amount of reading I can do, nor asking friend’s advice, that will prepare me for the experience I have to let unfold. There’s a strange loneliness that comes with that realization…but I also know that I have an incredible community of people who are supporting me and sending their love.
I hosted a gathering for close friends last weekend, and asked each person to bring a bead with them. We had a wonderful evening together as I shared my journey so far. Then they all shared their beads with me, offering blessings and words of support. I’ve strung those beads together and will carry them with me to Korea, a little talisman of love and support tucked into my belongings as I return home for the first time.