A Struggle to Feel Accepted

Sometimes it feels like life is an endless road of wanting to be accepted. After your family it begins when you comprehend the concept of friendship and with it the pain and harsh reality that not everyone has the same amount of friends in the world. For some who find it hard to form bonds on this planet, this realization comes much quicker than for others. I think regardless of how popular we are there are times at night, when we are alone, that we feel an alienation from everyone else in the world. This includes the ones we love, no matter how strong those bonds might be, for we are human and have those moments. With the severing of the umbilical cord comes a very real release into a world that will often times distrust or hate us. And so we spend the rest of our lives searching for another connection back to what we had at birth, a struggle to feel accepted.

Why do people love the Harry Potter series so much? What could you possibly hate about a story of an orphan child that lives the life of an underdog and goes on to be the hero? His very struggles did not even have to mirror our own for us to accept his life as an image of “struggle” itself, an image we all deal with at some point in our lives. It reminds me of my own obstacles in trying to fit in through life. That feeling of struggle came to a stop on January 3rd, 2013 when I began my blog HarsH ReaLiTy on WordPress.com. It has been an eye opening experience and a period of personal growth to say the least. I have found I can express my opinions without feeling bridled by contempt or disdain and at the same time people can throw back their controversy literally right in my face, since I read their comments daily on a computer screen. This has provided, interestingly enough, an opportunity for this stubborn Korean to open himself to new ideas. I have even evolved some of my own values and outlooks on life, or at the very least provided the seeds for future thought on the topics.

It is amazing to me that I write daily to an audience, but in my daily life I am just another figure. Another number, a body in a chair. My current manager, who is an awesome person make no mistake, barely sees me because I work the graveyard shift. Yes, like a ghost I come in the backdoor of the building, past the working janitors and tired, oblivious late-night workers and I come watch servers to make sure they don’t go red. The only thing that keeps me from going insane is the sound of my keyboard floating into the empty office air, it is music to my ears and provides a promise of something more. Call it what you will but I earnestly seek whatever it is that inspires that feeling inside of me to press on when most would sit back and bask in accomplishment. You are allowed to feel satisfied in life, but too much satisfaction quickly becomes the recipe for a stagnant nature.

My blog has become an outlet for me. At first I created it as an online journal, but quickly it became my fingerprint on the literary world. There is a world out there of writers, readers, editors, publishers, curious minds, and growing minds wanting to keep the written arts alive and an audience can be easily found. We strive to keep this dying art form from going extent against the easily ingested television and accessible online media commonly found on at this moment in most of the world’s living rooms. I understand and I will confess to being a lover of the television myself, everyone needs their methods of falling asleep and mine just happens to be my mistress the TV. That was another motivator for me to create an inspiration that would force me to write on a regular basis, I see this often said on new blogs as their initial posts. The constant interaction and feedback I receive from my viewers has given me the backbone I needed to write this book now, one that might still never see the light of day. But I have to hope that at least by gracing this white screen they are given a life, even one as brief as the time it takes me to delete this word document.

I have often wondered if anyone on the staff at WordPress.com has been or is a manic depressive. There should never be an easily accessible delete button on anything as important as our blogs, and this is not a rib at WordPress who is gracious enough to offer a free platform for aspiring writers such as myself. I must confess that sometimes a depressive like me looks at that delete button with disgust. They make us jump through hoops of fire to cancel a credit card, but a precious blog I have spent countless hours on I can delete at the push of a couple buttons. I don’t stay on that page that long and I hope that the demons from my past don’t come back to force me to ever press that button. It would be a mistake I know.

An outlet to the world and to those beyond our room. That is what blogging has provided for me and has allowed me to achieve right from my rather mundane life in Denver, Colorado. I do love my life, my family, and the relatively safe environment we live in is one less distraction that pulls me away from writing. As a father of a four and three year old, plus working forty hours a week graveyard shifts, I have to find the time to write when I can. This past year has been my first year of addiction to blogging, but it is not at a level I consider dangerous and the potential for success through it is enormous. This provides the needed leverage on the table when trying to convince my loving and understanding wife of the need for the time I a lot to my “passion.” She is an artist and walks the same road I do, but while carrying a paint brush, so she understands in her own way. Besides, she is my number one fan and understands that my family is my inspiration for success and they are also why I hope to create a working profession from writing and not just a continuation of a hobby. That is yet to be seen, but I see a full deck and the game has not been played yet.

When I started HarsH ReaLiTy under the pen name Opinionated Man I had no idea that it would grow to the size it has now. Sure I had a business model and an idea, but I must confess I have been successful at very few things in life. Always the type that thought he was smarter than the teacher, knew better than everyone else, it is amazing I even listen to comments from a second opinion when I consider how closed minded I have been my whole life. I would like to think I have been open to opinions, but in truth I am simply well read. Reading opinions and even learning about other ideals does not necessarily constitute a growth in personal morals. We can read anything with a closed mind and it is just words. The interaction found through blogging, however, has changed the face of words and we are unhindered by a character limitation restraint. We know that the people speaking to us are real people, well at least the ones not categorized as spam by the people at AKISMET, and normally the views being expressed back are heart felt. This has at least been the experience thus far on my website and I hope it continues on.

As the number of people and countries grew that were regularly viewing my posts, I began to evolve the way I viewed the potential for the platform I was writing on. This was not just a few “wannabe” writers and struggling authors pandering out their materiel for free in hopes of book deals, what I found were real people that had real issues and lives that they were relating at real-time speed for the viewing pleasure of whoever cared. I think the concept of blogging is growing even today and is still gaining popularity and the result is that it is easy to connect with individuals from across the planet. I recently ran a project on my blog called “Project O” in which I featured articles that consisted of templates participants filled out and submitted to me by email. One hundred and twenty-eight bloggers from around the world took part in the project and the feedback and conversation that came from it was invaluable not only to my own personal growth in knowledge about the world and the people in it, but I think it also helped to correct some stereotypes we have when we consider other people as so different from ourselves.

The project also offered the opportunity for the creation of new connections and that is what the “social” in social media is all about. If writers wanted to simply write we would do so on a word document or journal, we blog our writing to get it out there to an audience so we can get feedback and free critiques and we use that newfound knowledge to improve our writing. That would be my goal at least, but added to that is the new community feeling that is received when you encounter others that are also trying to complete the same journey you are. I have dreamed of becoming a published author since I read my first fantasy book and thought to myself “I could have wrote that.” It is only now, after writing on a daily basis and receiving positive feedback that I think I have what it takes to put out at least one novel and see how it floats.

Inspiration is an unpredictable emotion because it can come at any moment. I find that it comes far more frequently when we surround ourselves with things that might contribute to that occurrence happening. That is why writers congregate in corners and artists socialize with other artists, we seek out people that understand and relate to us. HarsH ReaLity, yes I can be very Korean sometimes and that is how I choose to spell it, has become an almost forum like webpage of writers and people with many other talents that congregate to discuss topics of similar interest. Since I am pretty much a dabbler in any topic, my interest range from the obvious to the curious, I provide articles frequently that people find interesting. That accounts for the high number of views my website gets in comparison to perhaps a far more skilled writer in a specific genre that only garners viewers from that similar interest. I suppose this book will fall under a genre, we are forever labeled as human beings that cannot be helped, but at least my blog is still free of any such label. That is how I intended it.

I am not a very malleable person nor does my personality lend me to accept differing opinions very often or very well for that matter. I force myself to read CNN.com, even though I am a Republican, because CNN has better reporters than FOX News and I like to see what the other side thinks as well. I have frequently opened up topics on my website that have caused open debate, even some heated discussion and argument. Luckily the members of my more frequent audience show a lot of restraint, but it can be shaky ground when you are dealing with human emotion and ideals. People tend to fire first and ask questions later and that is why I have been rather surprised at how open the bloggers have been when interacting with one another. There has even been a cordial nature between nationalities I did not think really liked each other, to put it bluntly, put Project O showed me that not all individuals within a nation think alike. A concept that should be easy for an American to understand, but is surprisingly difficult for many to realize when we consider nationalities across the oceans. We like to believe stereotype because often times stereotypes are accurate or based on fact and are also the only things being fed to society through the media.

From small to large can basically sum up the concept of the expansion of my mind and views on the world through my personal growth found from my blogging experience. This is not to say that I am some reformed man that has fully changed the ways in which he lives or observes the world, no on the contrary it actually has reinforced some of the views I have conceived but it has also introduced me to some new opinions which I respect and love to hear about. That is the beauty of creating a website that has a “forum like atmosphere” and welcomes the sharing of openly expressed opinion. I appreciate allowing people to say what they want even if it is against the grain and I highly encourage anyone that has the backbone to stand up for their own ideals. That is what is great about blogging and the uncensored content that is floating out on the internet. While some of it might be obscene, others might make you want to scream, yell or curse, but what you really have is a freedom of expression. That is a freedom people will not give up lightly and Project O clearly showed the value that everyone in the world has placed in having an opinion and further being able to express that opinion.

We hate to be labeled and yet we gladly place these labels on people to make them easier to categorize. For instance, it might be assumed about me that since I am Korean, have a successful blog, consistently post a lot, and have a family as well that I must not have any other life. People also assume I am technically savvy, which actually if you ask my brother in law I am not very technical at all. Oh sure I know the basics about many things, which places me at about average in today’s computerized world, but I just bought my first iPhone this October and I will admit it makes me feel dumb. I think there are really only a few things that make me a successful blogger. I type between 85 – 100 wpm, I process information quickly (this has been widely debated), I speed read, and I enjoy the interaction only found through an online setting and creating an atmosphere and writing in a way that welcomes conversation. That is the goal of any blog I think is to seek out comments and the fastest way to shut down conversation is to start labeling people.

I have used my blog as a window into parts of my life, but as one blogger mentioned it is very hard to pry out very many “exact” details about me. That is of course on purpose, as the safety of my family is first in my mind, but I have taken the opportunity on my blog to write some on my adoption and my feelings towards my birth mom and the sister I have not met since we were separated as children. The internet has actually provided a very nice avenue for therapy for me through allowing me to express my feelings about the past openly and accepting the unchecked criticism or encouragement sent back my way. It has been an interesting experience connecting with both adoptees and parents with adopted children and I think we can all agree that each story is different. There can be similarities, but it does an injustice to the lives of those individuals when people try to label and categorize things too much.

My adoption story received a lot of views and was a create way for me to finally pour out how I saw and felt during the course of those events in my life. It was a trying period and no one can really say they understand what I went through because there was only one Korean kid walking in those shoes. I am thankful for such support during those times, my family and mother in particular helped me to see there are reasons for living even in the darkest of hours. It is just very hard to know that when you are living those moments. I was adopted when I was 3 years old, left on the street with my sister by our mother in front of a police station in Busan, South Korea. I did not find out about the part of the story involving my sister and birth mother till I was eighteen years old and was on a trip to Korea with a group of adoptees that were also adopted through Holt International. It took me 9 years and one suicide attempt to get over it all and I can’t actually say I honestly have moved fully forward. Do you ever? I may still write more on my adoption other than the few articles I wrote on it. It would make a good novel, but sometimes you just don’t feel like reopening a door over and over.

I think in many ways blogs are windows into our hearts. We allow people to see our feelings, emotions, and sometimes our personal stories because we feel the need to share without actually physically sharing. We press that publish button and that post is sent out into the web and we half fear, half hope that someone will read it and care enough to respond. That the response back will somehow matter. That is what I hope when I publish any article on my blog and I also seek out other bloggers that feel the same way. Simply because we are unsocial in the real world, and I really wouldn’t fully label myself as unsociable but more on that later, doesn’t mean we cannot still find connections that broaden our world. Who has the time to listen to a whole conversation anymore when instead we can have thousands of conversations at once and more importantly the control to interact with that conversation at our own convience. The power of writing on a website like WordPress is the ability to control your own speed, no one should say you have to post every hour or even every day, what readers look for is content with meaning.

I also find I like to pick on political issues even though I know a very large number of my readers are not of similar political party or mind on many “hot topics” in current news. I still speak strongly on my stance on these issues whenever I feel like and that is something I will never change. Surprisingly this has actually caused many to support me in my stance of at least sharing and standing by my opinions, even if they strongly disagree with them and it causes them occasional flashes of anger. These topics have ranged from abortion, Korean’s having eye surgery, the Russian Orthodox stance on homosexuality, opinion and the importance of having the right to an opinion, and any current news topic that floats my fancy. I also include frequent posts of what I like to refer to as poetry, but I believe might be accessed by a professional as utter garbage. I once submitted my poetry through a computerized website that grades them and it almost shutdown from computerized laughter at how low my score was. I didn’t even know computers had such a sense of humor.

I have labeled people my whole life and even harbored a racist view or two. It is a common practice these days to take on a shocked look of appall at the word racism and anyone that even admits to ever having had a racist thought in their life. Luckily I am not planning on running for any political office and I can safely assume I cannot run for President of the United States of America since I was born in Korea. That leaves me liberated to at least express my opinions and views with those that will listen and I have found an audience that actually accepted my admission of past views and appreciated my progression. Dare I even admit I have found people that have walked a similar path? That is encouraging to me, a person who often thinks not many others consider subjects in a radically different way. To find those that consider it ok to admit that you have had a racist or improper thought and that the world will not forever label you as a hooded demon or extremist is a good thing in a current society that loves to ostracize those that dare to speak against the current “trending view” even if that view is still far in the minority of what everyone feels. The irony of this is actually remarkably bottomless, but it takes a certain type of cynical humor to appreciate it.

The daily interaction I have had with people from countries I have never visited is remarkable because it has broadened my mind and understanding of the different cultures out there. I am forced to recognize preconceived notions as ignorant and the resulting strengthening in character can only serve me in the future. I actually had a feeling the other day that even though I watch and read the news far less than I did, I still feel more connected to the world the individuals within it. I of course do not converse with every human on the planet, but I am speaking to far more people on a regular basis than I ever have in my life. That definitely expands your mind especially when you are not privy to topics that are perhaps not widely known about or discussed internationally. Someone once asked me why should we care so much, “why do you care so much?” I replied that the day we stop caring about a story, about a person, is the day that something dies. That is a sad thing to me.

Blogging has opened my eyes to the fact that it is a good thing for us to have a social fingerprint to be known by and perhaps even to be followed by. It allows me a little comfort to know that there are people that care if I am still alive and kicking, even if those people have never met me in their lives. I once blogged about a Saudi Blogger who received a grossly unjust sentence for simply creating a blog and forum to openly talk about religion. One commenter asked me what good it did to simply write about someone and I responded that by writing about someone we spread notice of their existence and in this case their trials or tribulations. I went on to say that I hope if I were in a similar situation that my readers and friends would also take to social media and campaign for my cause. People easily forget that we have a voice and that voice is as powerful as the engine you put behind it. I went from speaking to three hundred followers to twenty-five thousand in ten months and it is all due to one thing. I cared to get my voice out there.


Note: I stopped writing this. It won’t be completed.

My Adoption Story: Part 2

I am not sure how many posts this is going to take or how many shots of whiskey either. To be perfectly honest after I wrote “Depression and the Devil,” in my archives I did not plan to write on this topic again. But then I see the articles on the Russian to America adoptions being frozen, then some of the most ignorant comments on CNN website by Americans… I assume. The level of unknowns when dealing with adoption is high. Every child has his or her experiences, every host family has there’s. I do not criticize people with differing experiences, hell flip a couple cards a different way and I am an East African militia, who knows? Bottom line if you have NO experience on a topic, none at all, walk on eggshells. It is a sensitive topic.

Why is this topic so sensitive. I mean I even saw a commenter on the cnn.com blog say ” ADOPT AMERICAN” like it is a product. Amazing, sad actually. Unless you are using money to get pregnant, the money you use for an adoption is blood money. It is a promise to them that whatever happened before will never happen again. If you break that promise, you have spilled blood money. Because what you have essentially done is broken that child’s heart a second, third, or hundredth time. I have my stance on immigration policy, adoption is not immigration. Adoption is a gift of hope.

It is hot in the Summer of 2000. I am sitting here with two other adoptees and our translator. We are at the desk of one of the employees at the orphange in Pusan, South Korea (Koreans call it Busan) where I was adopted. It is really humid, many Koreans in the country and lower class deal without AC. Orphanages are probably lucky to have salaries. People in orphanages of South Korea are unwanted or cannot be cared for. Most times the action of placing them there is deliberate. I was ashamed to learn that those with mental illness are shunned in most Asian cultures, you can deny it, until you study the high number of mentally ill or even “handicapped” kids in orphanges. Koreans, as Asians go, are a prideful people. Imperfections are hidden, if you think I lie just watch a seasonal Korean drama. Our TV portrays our stereotypes and our realities as well.

The orphanage employee opens the old dusty record book from 1983 with a picture of me “entering the system.” It could have been one of those late night tug at your heart advertisements. My translator reaches over and asks something in Korean while pointing at an arrow from my picture to the girl above.

“He says that is your sister.”

Some scrambling and shuffling of paper, computer keyboard being used, tears… I just remember tears. I end up in the bathroom of the orphange. It is gloomy in here, possibly the set for the next North Korean horror movie, I am handed a tissue by the translator. Damn…


Gifts of a Stranger

Gifts of a stranger, a nameless man who in some societies would be called my father. A man I have never met, and yet I receive a gift from him every day it seems. With the coming of age comes the revealing of his face. I see it in the mirror, even if I have never dreamed it. My hand touches my cheek and I just stop myself from striking… it is me…it is me.

“Hello bastard,” I sometimes say to myself in the morning. I smile. It is the smile only one that comes from adoption can crack. It is a bastard’s smile.

It is a gift from a stranger.

It is a gift from my father.

-Opinionated Man

Adoption Journal Two

Chapter 1: The Summer of 2000

It all began with the simplest of gestures, a gift from my parents and a chance to rediscover the heritage I never knew. My parents approached me before my last year of High School was complete to see if I was interested in attending a “Motherland Tour” that was hosted through Holt International, the same adoption agency that had coordinated my being sent to the United States in 1983. I never had much of an interest in learning about my nationality, having grown up with very little contact with other Koreans. So when my parents asked if I wished to go as my senior graduation present I didn’t hesitate to say that I would. As a boy that had grown up in a rather large protective bubble this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

The plane taking me to Korea was departing out of Seattle, Washington and was the meeting point for the other participants on the tour. I arrived a day early along with some of the other adoptees that were coming from out of town. Many individuals ended up meeting us at the airport the day of the trip since they were living on the west coast. This was my first real experience with Asians from other parts of the United States and having been raised in Mississippi and Tennessee for my whole life my southern accent was embarrassingly apparent. The very bright side of the trip was the male to female ratio of women my age, the advantage in numbers heavily favoring the women. I was confident this was going to be a great trip upon seeing this.

I wonder looking back upon the frame of mind of many of the members on that plane. How many were hovering at 45,000 feet trapped with their thoughts and fears? I had no apprehensions prior to going to South Korea that summer. My adopted parents and I had a strong relationship and they had been very open about my adoption. It wasn’t exactly a relationship that could be hidden due to the differences in race and because of that I believe my parents were very honest with what information they had about my past. Unfortunately that past included less than ten sheets of paper that told my life story prior to being adopted. It was a story that began in that orphanage in Busan, South Korea and no amount of wishing could ever cause the previous chapters of my life to magically appear.

It is a hard thing to live life knowing you were not wanted. Many adopted children share this realization with each other, but we hate to be compared to one another. We want to be individuals so bad after being forced to be just that, individuals. Pushed out to try and shine alone it isn’t hard to believe that we might loath to be compared to “he or she that was also adopted.” I am grateful that my mother and father decided to adopt me and saw something in that face staring back at them. I imagine I was one among many they looked at. Their decision to choose me and the life I had lived to this point was solidified in the confidence I had as a person. I knew who I was on that flight to Korea and I had no idea that the image I had of myself was about to be shattered.

We landed in the middle of a sea of Asian faces. It was overwhelming for me and a large part of that was the absence of white and black skin. I suddenly felt like I belonged, but at the same time I felt very much a foreigner in my own country of birth. It is a difficult relationship to describe unless you live it and living the life of a tourist in your own birthplace is a little embarrassing. We were indeed a bus full of picture taking “out-of-towners” and I remember feeling noticeably uncomfortable a few times because of this apparent feeling. There was no “return” feeling for me and the discomfort from just that realization should have been a rude awakening of what was to come. I believe the presence of the other members on the trip caused me to get over my embarrassment far faster than I would have alone.

The trip followed a planned schedule as we made our way from Seoul south towards Busan and Cheju Island. We traveled by bus a lot which was an eye opening experience into how bat shit crazy Korean bus drivers are. I swear I lost a few years of my life during those terrifying hours on the bus and I will forever have memories of the impossible U-turns those drivers made! We crossed Korea visiting Buddhist temples and museums, learning about the culture and traditional Korean way of life. It very much was apparent that the whole trip was gauged at trying to paint our birthplace is the best of colors. This was obvious when we made an unexpected stop in front of a building where a group of expecting mothers was waiting to meet us.

There are intricacies to Korean culture that they as a people like to use as excuses for burying issues they don’t wish to address. This particularly frustrating habit is one I would encounter several times through my life, but in this instance this characteristic was highlighted to me by the inclusion of this visit. We met a group of expecting mothers that were in the process of deciding to give up their children for adoption. I believe that the coordinators of the trip believed that this interaction would serve two purposes. It would show these expecting mothers that “all adoptees end up happy” and it would also give the adoptees a face to the woman that may have given us up. The sad part is that I suspect some executive thought this was a great idea and in reflection I couldn’t disagree more. I remember the meeting being awkward, since almost none of the adoptees spoke any Korean, and forced. It very much had the appearance of being for “appearance.”

I think that meeting really added to my whole perception of the trip up until that point. It felt cosmetic, touristy, and was probably why I viewed the trip in such a way. Their basic setup was created to present the adoptees on the tour with a view of their motherland, but at the same time it was a very controlled trip. There was a director of Holt with us, his name was David, and each day was plotted like a novel. Prior to going on the trip we had each filled out a packet with basic background information on us. The coordinators thus knew the limitations for the group, such as the fact that none of us spoke Korean or had ever been to the country since being adopted. This fact made it easy to dictate what we did on the trip and what we saw.

We were each asked in the paperwork if we would like to visit our orphanages and see where we came from. I had originally said I did not want to go because I had already seen my records and did not feel a need to visit an orphanage I had little wish to see. I found out that I was not the only person on that adopted from Busan Orphanage so in the end I changed my mind and went on the cab ride with the other two adoptees to an inconspicuous building we were told was our “homes.” I have never been thrilled about orphanages and hospitals, the feel or smell of the places make my skin crawl. I remember the same feeling when walking into the building that held the shadow of my past. I was unaware at the time that those innocent steps would be the start of a hopeless quest for answers.

We sat waiting our turn to see the open book with our translator and the director of the orphanage. An album that held our entrance photos and documented our “processing” into the orphanage was sitting in an office waiting for us to gawk at our past. I had already seen the picture waiting for me, so I was less apprehensive, but there was still an awkward atmosphere around the group. When it came my turn I smiled and nodded at the photograph I had already seen and began to make my planned turn to the door when a motion from my translator stopped me.

His hand reached over the left page of the book and a finger pointed at a line drawn from my photo to the one below. He spoke rapidly in Korean and a certain note of urgency in his voice caught my attention. Turning to me he placed his hand on the book and said “there is a line drawn from your entry to the girl below you. The footnote here says that this is your “Noona” or sister. The director is trying to find out more information, I am very sorry you had to learn this way.” I remember tears, papers being shuffled, and more tears. With a few sentences my world had been rocked and I struggled to understand why I suddenly felt lost. It was only the start of a realization about the harshness of life that would come close to killing me.

A second book was placed in front of me and I waited to see what Pandora’s Box awaited me within these pages. I was still in shock at this point, but these moments I won’t ever forget. It was a visitor registry that they were showing me and the line they had circled held my mother’s name and address. The director gathers, from what I do not know, that my mother came back and got my sister have had a change of heart. He was very sympathetic though and I will forever be grateful for his kind offer that I did not take. He said “she doesn’t live far, I could take you there.” He could take me there, he was ready to go with me. What might have been had I talked over my translator who hurried said that it was against Holt International policy for an adoptee to approach their birth mother in such a way. We would need to speak to David who was the director of the trip.

I am not sure why I didn’t demand to go. At only 18 years old and having been raised in a fairly strict family it can be assumed that I just went with what the authority at the time said. “It isn’t allowed” sounds fairly simply to understand. There was still a great deal of shock going on internally and I am fairly certain I was crying periodically throughout these revelations on my life. Before I realized what was happening we were back on our way to meet the rest of the group and my small window of opportunity was closed. In all fairness there is no guarantee that had I gone with the director that day I might have met my mother, but there is a far better chance I think that I might have seen her face. Regardless, there is no going back in time and I don’t think meeting my mother was first and foremost in my considerations at that point.

As I sat there with only my sorrow as my only comfort I believe that I thought of many things. Meeting these new “important” members of my life I don’t think was one of them. The reaction of the rest of the group, the response of my parents, and the possible change in relationship I might have with my adopted family were definitely on my mind. No one can really know how they would respond in a similar situation unless they had actually thought about and considered it, but who places themselves in such situations hypothetically out of boredom? The strings that held me together as a person were loosened a little that day, but I wouldn’t realize just how much until more strain and time had been placed upon them.

We met the rest of the group at a hotel for lunch. They were all happy and chattering having just seen some museum or other tourist attraction. It was quickly noticed that I was sitting with my face down on a table and the translator obviously rushed to report what had happened at the orphanage to David. I felt a hand on my shoulder and concerned eyes asked me if I was holding up ok. You can never truly tell the heart of another person, but I believe he was sincerely asking me. At such a young age and not being one that loves attention I put on a brave face in front of David and the rest of the group. I told him I was fine and even nodded my head in understanding that the “search process” had to wait till we were back in America.

I shoved my pain to the backseat of my mind and forced myself to have fun the rest of that trip. This shall be ironic later on in life, but I think I truly wished to have a good time while in Korea. It was my first time out of the country and there were a lot of other Koreans my age on the trip. This was a foreign concept to me. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee most of my life and had very few Asian friends in my life. Having gone to a school that was mostly black and belonging to a family that was white there were very few people I had met that could relate to me racially. Korea was such an eye opening experience for me that there were indeed other Asians in the world and even places where there were only those of my kind. I believe I appreciated the world a lot more from that trip.

I also developed a strong taste for alcohol. We stayed in a number of hotels throughout Korea that were all very high quality. Technically we were told not to drink alcohol if we were not twenty-one, but no one listened to that “rule” because the legal age in Korea is eighteen and that is a very loose age in most parts of the country. Our nights were filled with kimchi topped pizza from Pizza Hut and every kind of alcohol you could imagine. I met a new friend named soju on that trip which is the favorite liquor of Koreans. I think my tastes buds really connected with the food there, but more importantly I tried to drink away this new feeling of sorrow I wasn’t prepared to recognize or deal with at the time. The growing ball of emotion that I felt hardening from being ignored was not something I was mature enough to deal with.

I don’t remember much of the rest of the trip. It was kind of an alcoholic haze of denial and that is exactly what was intended. There were some great people on that trip and some bonds were formed that might have lasted for a lifetime. The reason they didn’t was mainly because my focus in life shifted that day in Busan when I found out about my past. I have always made friends easily in life, but keeping those friendships has been hard because a disconnect was created internally on that homeland tour that can never be healed. That disconnection to wanting or needing certain relationships in life was directly associated to my mother and the pain from realizing her rejection was only slowly beginning to haunt me. I would have the rest of my life to consider the “whys” and “how” of everything, but the pain did not wait on a start gun before making its presence apparent.

I spent a lot of nights in tears of frustration during the remainder of the trip up until the day we flew out. The frustration was from knowing I was about to leave the answers I sought, but I saw no way of finding them alone at that time. It would have to wait till I returned and got the help of my parents. They would know what to do, they always did. I spoke to my parents briefly before departing on the plane and they told me my friends had inquired if it would be alright for them to stop by and say hello when I got home. My mother’s voice held a hint of concern as she could not tell my state of mind or how I was holding up, but I was still putting on brave faces so I placed one on again and said that was fine.

We left Korea with a dinner and a small celebration, but my heart had already gotten on the plane. When my body joined it the following day I shut the world out with headphones and endless music. I flew back to Seattle and then connected on to Memphis and my waiting family. My mother’s face is still in my head when I recall returning home that night. Her look was a mixture of concern, love, and a determination to ensure nothing was going to change. I admire now her strength during my journey, both her and my father’s, I am not sure how I would have held up having a child I raised searching for his biological parents. Their support during this period of my life cannot be overstated.

A few of my friends met us at the house and I handed out some small gifts from my trip and told some small stories to be polite. I was exhausted and just glad to be back within my familiar surroundings. There was an instant feeling of “that was a bad dream” syndrome happening and I embraced the comfort of knowing that all my problems were an ocean away. The love and physical presence of the only family I had ever known helped to push the demons away for a time. Thoughts of college and being roommates with my best friend Tim were gradually growing as the primary focal points of my life. I welcomed the distraction and did not realize that the added stress was definitely not what I needed. I should have faced my struggles then, but instead I shrugged the trip off a little and told my parents “there is a whole process.” I then immediately shelved the whole idea. I was definitely not mature enough to deal with it at this point in my life.



Chapter 2: Unhealthy Distractions

College was everything I was told it would be and more. It was a mixture of unhealthy distractions, finding attractions, and growing from a self-conscious teen to a more confident adult. I am not sure about the confidence part, but there was definitely some growing happening. A love for alcohol sprouted quickly and the only thing that kept me from turning into a freshman dropout was a hellish outbreak of acne for the first time in my life. I had a few pimples in high school, but apparently the stress of the past several months and the new college diet was enough to make my face explode. It caused me to become somewhat of a hermit for the first year of college, which probably in turn helped me to focus as much as I could on my studies. Unfortunately my facial issues also kept me closeted with my depression and unsettled thoughts around my birth mother.

I don’t remember the exact day I decided to find them. I am sure it was a well thought out decision contemplated over a bottle of something cheap and freely partaken from. My search was not well planned or thought out and much of that was due to being uneducated in the search process. There were also limited resources for finding lost family members in comparison to today, in 2001 there were few reliable agencies helping adoptees in their search. It is even harder to find reliable help when the country of origin differs from the United States. I ran into numerous issues finding people willing to devote the time needed to assist me in my family search. There were some Koreans that reached out and responded to my emails and I was even told my story was put into a local paper. Nothing came from these attempts and my frustration mounted.

One night I began an email to the director of the orphanage who had originally offered to take me to find my mother that day. I still grappled with not having accepted his offer and the guilt from missing that opportunity would aggressively bubble to the surface each night.

Adoption Journal one

“He says that the picture underneath yours is that of your sister,” my translator almost whispered as in one sentence he brought down the stability of all I knew about myself. The popping sound of my lifelong bubble of comfort had not yet registered to my ears when the director of the orphanage began to speak again. He proceeded to relate what he thought had occurred that day in 1983 and his words coaxed the building tears from their hiding place. An immediate struggle between despair and the need to remain in the present began to play out internally. Through it all the same sentence kept replaying in my head. “That is your sister.” I wept and wondered whether or not the knowledge gained was worth the pain I felt. I had little idea that this was just the first page of a long journey to come.

I traveled to South Korea after High School at the age of eighteen with a group of adoptees participating in a “Motherland Tour” sponsored through our orphanage Holt International. My parents had approached me near the end of the school year and had offered as a graduation present to send me to Korea to learn about my heritage. Most of my life in the United States had been lived as a typical Caucasian from the South, the only glaringly obvious difference having been my skin color. It was a mark of my heritage that would forever distinguish me from the rest of my friends and would make me the target at school for most of my life. Ironically my race and cultural hardships growing up had not made me eager to embrace a culture I did not know. Instead the life I lived and the lack of friends from the same nationality created the pallet for an individual that saw his skin color as mostly a burden growing up.

My parents and I were close throughout my childhood and because of a large religious presence in our lives our friends, daily lives, and even our extracurricular activities were often dictated by the norm of the group. My father’s status as an Orthodox Priest and assistant pastor in our church directly correlated and affected the lives of his three adopted children. My older brother Jon, my younger sister Beth, and myself were all given wonderful lives by our adopted parents. They became the only parents we knew and their openness was evident in that they never tried to hide our adoptions. It would have been nearly impossible to hide the fact that my sister and I were adopted separately from South Korea a year apart, but my brother was Caucasian and he too was given what information my parents had on his past. Because nothing was ever hidden from us about our past I knew everything in my file prior to going on the Motherland Tour in the year 2000. I knew all the information that was to be found on my side of the ocean.

I viewed the trip as a vacation until it became a milestone of harsh reality in my life. When we landed in Seoul I was greeted by a foreign sight of Asians everywhere I looked. It was such a stark contrast from the normal scenery was I used to observing in Memphis, Tennessee and Jackson, Mississippi growing up as a child. On the one hand I felt like I finally belonged and had found my people, but on the other I instantly felt like a tourist in my own country. It is hard for anyone to be displaced from their culture and to feel like a stranger when they return, but it is incredibly hard on adoptees because there is also a sense of embarrassment or guilt that attaches itself to our hearts. Through no fault or willingness of our own we were packaged and sent to eagerly waiting arms in other countries and upon our return we are greeted with such an overwhelming sense of shock that it makes us question what nationality we really are. This sad fact was true even more so for me because I was very ignorant about Korean people and their culture having grown up in life with no Korean or Asian friends.

The beginning of the trip was filled with hotels, museums, tourist attractions, and temples as we made our way south from Seoul towards Busan.

Final Post – My Adoption Story: Depression and the Devil

Man’s greatest triumphs can sometimes be found during his most difficult times of adversity.

This is my new saying when I reflect upon the “Dark Ages” of my life and my deepest days of depression. I am often not a praying man, which is odd considering my father is a priest and a doctor, and I don’t consider praying in times of need and praying to win the lottery as being a “praying man.”

I feel comfortable talking about my dark ages now, perhaps it is the mask of my pseudonym that gives me courage; but no, it is actually because I have moved on to greener pastures. My dark ages were a product of finding my birth mother at the age of 18. This came about in the most innocent of ways, in the form of a senior graduating gift from my adopted parents, my real parents in my eyes, a gift of adventure and excitement. It was a trip to Korea with a group of other adoptees from Holt International Adoption agency. I could never have dreamed prior to that trip, a trip I packed for with such excitement and enthusiasm, that it would be a trip that would usher in my darkest days. Granted, I had an acceptable childhood (no childhood is perfect), I had already struggled with demons of race and depression. I never considered that those demons would be small compared to the Devil I was about to encounter.

I really won’t get into the specifics of the trip unless someone asks or I am inspired to do so at a later date. Needless to say, since I have already provided the window to view it through, this trip was awful. I had been provided my adoption package by my adopted parents at an earlier time so I “thought” I was prepared for this trip. I “thought” there would be no surprises. I was wrong, depressingly wrong.

I found the information about my birth mother and my blood sister in Busan, South Korea, in a pathetic orphanage that I don’t even remember the name of. I have never liked hospitals or orphanages and I now knew why. No one, unless you are also adopted, can understand the pain that is brought when you are faced with the reality that you were not wanted. Add to this the pain that your mother decided one sibling was less trouble than you would be, and what you have is a maelstrom of emotions, regret, and anger. My storm could have killed me, it almost did.

When I returned I immediately went to college. A time that was supposed to be filled with excitement and growth, was instead filled with depression, anger, weed, and alcohol. I filled my time finding things to fill my “hole.” It did not help; it only delayed the sorrow and pain that I had to face eventually. When I dropped out of college after three and a half years the only welcoming I really wanted was a grave. Failure had become a part of me and it evidently had originated when I was left on that lonely street in Busan, South Korea in 1983.

I become a drunk. At 23 years old I was a first class alcoholic. I recently read Anthony Bourdain’s book “Medium Raw,” and part of my inspiration for writing this comes from him. The other part comes from my loving wife and my two wonderful children, all three of whom I continually feel that I do not deserve but I am forever thankful that I have. So thank you Anthony for the courage to speak or rather to write.

I remember, vaguely of course, stopping every day at Joe’s liquor store and buying a daily pint of the rawest whisky I could find, I believe it cost around $3 dollars a pint, and feeling like the drunks I had always despised I would begin to guzzle it on my short ride home. Before you judge, YES I know this was highly stupid of me and irresponsible, but who can ever say they were responsible while being depressed and drunk? If you know anyone that can make that claim I can in the same breath claim that bastard is a liar. Alcohol was my friend, my confidant, and his name didn’t matter whether it originated in Mexico, America, or hell even some African country. It didn’t matter as long as it felt good touching my lips.

It was late; I would say 3 am, when I saw him. He was not what I expected and I really can’t be sure if it was him or if he just gave me a glimpse of what I would see if I ever really met HIM. I was drunk; I think Braveheart was playing in the background. I was in the upstairs of my parent’s house, yes at age 23 I was living at home again another dagger to my heart, and I felt a presence at my door. In my childhood my father used to have the (then) annoying habit of standing behind us and watching our TV show with us. I never thought about it then, but looking back, he just wanted to be with us even if we did not particularly, at age 15, want him there. This presence was not a comforting one; I felt the hair on my arms stand. I saw a man, it was a man, but he was a shadow of a man at the same time. He looked at me and something awakened in me, it was fear. I had never been so afraid in my life. Keeping in mind that alcohol and weed are the nectar of the gods and that with those coursing through my veins I had thought myself fearless. I was mistaken. With one look the Devil showed me my humanity and all I could think was that I desperately wanted to live. I cried and shut my eyes and when I opened them he was gone. I still to this day do not know if I was dreaming, I really doubt it.

Fear can drive a man crazy, but it can also drive a man to life. I look back on that day and I realize that fear had kicked my ass back into gear. Today I am content. People ask me if I am “happy” all the time, I don’t think like that anymore. I look upon my life with my wife and my daughters and I realize… sometimes being content is enough.