Pages of Me

It is far too early in the morning to make decisions that last a lifetime and yet you did. You made our decision for us as you packed us away with our memories. I sometimes wonder if you held our hands as we walked away from the life we knew. Having little idea that we were walking the final walk, we approached the day like any other. Like any other…

How simple it is to walk through life when you have nothing but a name to hold on to. How difficult that life becomes when that name is taken from you and a different identity is given for you to adopt as you adopt yourself. I walked away an Ahn. I walked with you as a Korean and left your life a stranger. More strange now is the face and name I wear today, a stranger heart you have never known. A loss of name was not my first lesson in pain. That was yet to come.

We made our way through the morning streets of Pusan. Past the sights and smells I knew and had no clue that it was my last time to experience them. We waited in front of a building for a bus that would never come as you said your goodbye. Is parting such sweet sorrow when half of those that part have no inkling of the finality taking place? It was sorrow for us. How were you able to hide your tears as we showed you our fears?

My soul still waits for you in Pusan beside my empty heart. My right hand holds the shadow of your own and my left hand grasps for my sister’s in the night. The only thing left for me is a mind and it betrays me each day. Putting memories in the wrong order, placing hope where it does not go. I scream at my mind at the same time I miss my soul. I scream at my dead heart at the same time I miss a beat. I scream at your memory to turn around just once.

Just this one time.

~**~

I’ve never liked the sound of children crying. I’ve always avoided orphanages or hospitals when I can. Something about the sound of unhappy kids in a forced situation sends my mind scrambling to my memory box. I pry it open with hesitant care as I look inside my past. A past filled with those same cries in my head… only this time they are my cries, my screams in the night.

There are moments in life when you know you are truly alone. I have a feeling at some point I realized I was on my own when the only hand left for me to hold was taken from me. You came like a sneak thief in the night and stole the only companion I had ever known. You selfishly tore her from my side so she could remain by your side… to comfort you till you die. You killed me twice that day. The hope of seeing you again went without a sound, but the loss of hope of seeing my sister again did not go unannounced. I let the world know it with all my sound.

Left, but not forgotten. Adoptee, but not adopted. I remained in between the worlds I knew and a nightmare that had become my reality. My name was taken with my clothing and I was given a new role in life assigned by a number. To live life seeking something lost. To never know what that lost thing was. That was the meaning you left for me as you left me to find my way. A way that did not lead back to Eastern shore, but instead sent me to an unknown coast. A place where crying children are sent to learn how to cry alone.

~**~

A person can think about a lot while trapped with their thoughts at 40,000 feet. An airplane becomes a thought tomb and our bodies squirm for freedom from our metallic coffin. Fortunately for me I don’t remember my journey to America. I imagine I was very confused, scared, and exhausted by the time I arrived in Memphis, Tennessee. Many years later I would return for the first time to my homeland and experience what true culture shock is like when you are immersed into a society that is foreign to you. I assume that same feeling was felt when I walked off that plane into a white and black world and was introduced to my new parents.

America gave back instantly to this orphan. I am told one of the first foods I would eat were French Fries from McDonald’s and unsurprisingly I still love them to this day! My new brother gave me an unsure smile and a stuffed dog named Fluffy. I was suddenly accepted, but my journey towards accepting myself was just beginning. I left the airport Korean and walked into a world I knew nothing about. I only knew that everyone was excited about something and that something was apparently me. I couldn’t understand why their words were so strange and it wasn’t until after speech therapy that I learned what those abrupt sounds they kept making meant.

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~**~

The life of an adoptee is all about change, adaption, and trying to find stability. After the trauma of rejection runs its course we quickly find a need to find some type of stability through acceptance. I have seen what constant rejection can do to a child having had a friend who was repeatedly let down and rejected again and again. It wears on you and thankfully I didn’t know the burden it places on your heart until later in life. I at least found love and acceptance before finding out the pain of not being wanted once more.

When you grow up in a white and black world and you aren’t white or black it becomes a struggle to feel accepted. As a Korean with no Asian friends, I found I had little reference as to what an Asian was. Why we looked as we did, why people thought I looked differently at all, and why I had to explain my family constantly to random strangers. When your life is a puzzle you try and piece together a stained glass of your life. You grow to appreciate the whole picture of yourself including the tape used to hold it together. It only becomes difficult when people poke holes in your image and force you to adopt their own.

I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and was quickly informed I was different. My mind plays tricks on me and memories flash of a yellow bus that picked us up on our street. I remember pencil breaking contests, a bully of a white kid that lived down the hill and pestered me, and going to my speech therapy class. I see bags of marbles and hear the sounds of CH and TH till I am tired of anything that resembles English. Through the learning and the growth of my childhood I never once considered that I was not yet truly learning about myself. I had time for that later I thought. What was there to learn?

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~**~

The birth of a tongue doesn’t occur when you are born. Your speech is learned when you are young and begin to communicate for the first time. This is the learning process of all humans and yet what if you allowed a child to learn just enough to know their tongue and then displaced them to a foreign world. What if you took everything they knew and forced them to learn a new reality?

I took speech therapy and language courses from a friend of the family during school hours. She came and tutored me, awarding me bags of marbles for lessons accomplished and well done. I learned how to unlearn Korean fairly quickly and with that transition I found a new American tongue. A southern tongue full of twang, ya’lls, and southern comfort. I began building within the person I was meant to be, but remained on the outside the shell of what I was.

It is funny because as easily as I learned to forget my culture I found it was much harder to relearn it later in life. To reconnect with what has been trained out of you and to find yourself in a memory that was never real. That is what life sometimes feels like as adoptees stare at themselves in the mirror and what they have become. Are we truly a picture of our true selves or have we become instead a product of our path in life. Is there really a difference? I still don’t know the answer to that question.

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~**~

When you are adopted as a young child your life is not all about adoption. It only becomes centered upon that reality when people make you realize you are different. That your life isn’t “normal” and you aren’t where you are supposed to be. That is when the walls of security we have built come crashing down and we seek a new safety blanket only to find that there is none. There is only the power of acceptance.

I remember a steady path of incidences that reminded me of my adoption. They appear like stepping stones in my mind and many of those points in time are pain points of mine. I think the hardest part for an adoptee as they grow up in a foreign country is finding not only acceptance, but also understanding. Seeking, searching, striving to find someone that can relate to your struggles… that might be able to understand where you truly come from. This is the reason why many adoptees find solace and comfort in communicating with other adoptees. This is also why so many of us take rejection so hard because we have never fully recovered from the first rejection in our life.

In a smiling world that believes you should smile all the time, I found my smiles where I could. My family life was real life and not the thing of Disney tales. There were smiles, tears, fears, and laughter growing up and I have fond memories of my early life in Jackson, Mississippi. I remember being different, but I also remember growing to love this country I now called home. I am thankful that someone above thought I needed a break finally and allowed me time to heal and to grow. Remembering all the while that I was not an adult yet, I was still a child that wanted only one thing. To be wanted and accepted finally.

 

Jason Chandler Cushman

-Opinionated Man

@smokendust

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Visit my personal blog at https://aopinionatedman.com/

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“That isn’t your real family”

I have written a lot about adoption and adopting yourself through acceptance. One of the hardest things for any adoptee to handle is being told “that isn’t your real family.” Some might balk at this actually happening in real life… because how much of an asshole can a person be? I’ll tell you. People can be the biggest assholes and say the most inconsiderate things. For many it is due to ignorance or a lax tongue. For others they say these things to hurt you intentionally.

I have had things like this said to me. The last time someone said this to my face they got punched in theirs. There are some things you just don’t say to people and we all have our triggers. For some they are racially motivated and for others they are aligned with their life choices. The thing about adoption is that NONE OF US chose to be given up. If you know of an adoptee that was sat down and given a choice please let me know and I’ll edit this post immediately. I’ve never met a single person that opted out of their family and decided on their own to be adopted.

The article I linked above is making the rounds in the adoption circles and groups I am a part of. I don’t normally interact much with adoptee groups, but I do like to know what the current topics and issues are. The conflict for me is that each adoptee is their own story and their life becomes the story. Because of that fact I find it overwhelmingly hard to interact and try to bond with other adoptees even though we all have an underlying sense that we belong to a special group. The differing sides to the adoption debate and the different views on adoption as a whole keep me from really jumping in and joining any of these groups. I have my own opinions on adoption based on my life and my experiences.

The reason most of us are so upset by what was said by the sports announcer is because it shows the carelessness and ignorance surrounding adoption and adoptees. In many ways it is the same attack made on immigrants when people tell them they aren’t really “American” even though they have lived here their whole life. Take that emotional topic and exponentially increase it tenfold. That is how much adoptees care about this subject because it is close to all of our hearts. Many of us have had a stranger, friend, ex-friend, roommate, or even a family member carelessly smash our confidence with some innocuous statement they didn’t think fully through. The problem is that while it is a passing remark for the doer, it is a stab in the heart to an adoptee.

We spend our whole lives working to be accepted. We spend an equal amount of time working to accept ourselves. To have some ignorant asshole tell us that we don’t truly know who we are or “you aren’t really a Cushman are you” is equal to a slap in the face. It is even more than that, you basically just went in time and kicked the younger me while I was in the orphanage and told me “no matter what you will never belong.” Remember that next time you talk to an adoptee and decide to tell them they aren’t really part of the family they have grown up with. Words do hurt and can last a lifetime.

-Opinionated Man

Jason C. Cushman

Ahn Soo Jin

@smokendust

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Just Once

If I could have one wish it would be to see you once more. To feel what it is like to belong for a change. Just once, just one time I wish I could reach through the window of my heart and touch your memory. Bringing you to life, more alive than you have ever been. More alive than you are in my soundless dreams, dreams where nothing seems to be as it should.

How can I know your heart when I don’t even know your name for sure. I hang a picture of your image unsure if that image is really you. But it has to be. I have made it you even if it is someone else. You are never more real than when I long for you. A longing so strong, so constant that it takes the sound of a cry in the night. A Korean cry from a Korean boy that died long ago. A somber sound of dying hope and the snuffing of memories that may not be.

Do you remember me in the night? Am I a memory that you struggle with, a memory that you hope is not real? Do you remember my name? What is it? Please give me back my identity with my Korean heart. Just once let me know you really exist. Just once let me finally know where I came from. I want to hold your hand once more. The only hand that haunts my memory. I miss you so much and the pain comes in waves. It causes me to run from the memory of Busan shores. It causes me to hate her a little more. It causes me to feel like I am more alive and because of that, just this once… I hope to die.

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44.1

@smokendust

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The Rant I Promised You

Disclaimer: Language & Opinion

They say to never write in anger. They say “professional bloggers” leave passion at home. Well if anything this proves I am not a professional blogger and will probably never be a professional writer. I am writing this while angry.

This morning I shared this link https://www.yahoo.com/news/adopted-3-brought-us-korean-man-deported-222504748.html about a South Korean that was adopted as a child, abandoned again, separated from his sister, and then was incarcerated as an illegal immigrant once he applied for a green card. I then made the mistake we as social media users should know not to make. I read the fucking comments in the yahoo article and my blood pressure soared to heights unknown. If there had been an app available for me to punch people through the internet in the balls I would have downloaded that shit immediately. Fuck humans can be stupid.

This comment really got me.

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What this fucktard doesn’t know is that there is no way for this adoptee to have stolen that Korean bible. That bible was fucking his! That is the only possession we have when we get off the fucking plane into this foreign world we never asked to be a part of. It is the only thing I had as well and I still have my bible as a reminder of the country that shipped me off and didn’t want me. I have mine as a reminder of my rejection.

The problem with social media and media in general is everyone gets a voice. Now I know that is ironic and perhaps even hypocritical coming from me considering what I do for a hobby. Today, today I don’t give a flying fuck if that makes me a hypocrite to say that. Today I don’t give any fucks what you think.

When you make comments on articles, facebook posts, or whatever media you read people do see your words. We read them with the article, before the article, or after it. Your ignorance is never hidden and is never only seen by the people you want it to be seen by. We see your stupid virtual mouth opening and the even dumber words pouring from it.

So people can’t understand how this guy doesn’t speak Korean? So people can’t understand what the big deal is about him being sent back to Korea, a country he never knew? I’ll explain for those people even though none of them will read this blog.

I am thirty-five years old and I was adopted at the age of 3. I was separated from my birth sister in the orphanage and I have since that time never met her again. I stay awake many nights imagining what she might look like. I sometimes cry myself to sleep wondering if she even remembers me. I remember her in the only language I know, English, and I understand that Korea is my birth country. But Korea will never be my home. It will never be my country.

It is so simple right? He is Korean originally… so send him back! What harm is there? Let me give you all a little insight. It is a big fucking deal! For adoptees… Korea hates us. For adoptees… Korea will never be for us. I have known Koreans through my life and have been to a Korea a couple times since my adoption. Each time I went I traveled there as a visitor and a tourist. Every time I have met a Korean and let them know I was adopted I have felt their discomfort. You see we are marks of shame. We are walking, talking bodies that never should have been. For what greater tragedy is there than a walking failure before your eyes? That is what we are to Korea. That is why it is so hurtful when we are rejected by the only country we know and people tell us to “go home.” We are home.

Asians have a hard time in America. We are never given much credit, we are expected to perform at certain levels, and we are never considered for our feelings. The stoic, stereotypical image of your Asian man is the same image most people have in their minds. That is due to television, that is due to our culture, that is due to how we are made and interact. But that isn’t who we are. We are people and we hurt as well. It hurts us when people assume we can get over things so easily… like being sent back home after our long “field trip” to America.

I won’t look at the comments anymore on this article. So much ignorance, so many keyboard warriors, online experts, and not enough time for me to bash every single one I hate. Make no mistake, I hate some of these comments and the people that left them. Whether from ignorance, obliviousness, or whatever their reason… their words warranted a response and my response today is hate. This article and situation has me very angry.

I cannot imagine how much this guy has gone through. Children of abandonment never fully heal and they never “move on.” No matter how many times people tell us to get over it, still we know deep down what we are. We are the forgotten and the unwanted. We were never meant to be in most cases. And yet still someone above decided we deserved a chance, decided we deserved a day of light. So we live each day knowing we are on borrowed time. I can’t imagine what I would do if I were suddenly told that I had to move back to Korea. I would probably kill myself.

For those people saying “well he is a criminal that stole a car” please take that garbage elsewhere! If we deported criminals in this country we would be deporting thousands of people daily… and we aren’t! This man has also been held in a holding cell for 9 months away from his wife and kids and that is due to being “illegal” and has nothing to do with stealing cars. It doesn’t even say when he stole the car! I am not making excuses for breaking the law, but for fucks sake people read a little into the story before passing judgement.

This situation totally breaks from the normal debate I have on adoption and what people deserve a second chance. Yes, believe it or not there are constant debates on this between people that hate adoption and those that are for it. Between adoptees rejected AND abandoned by their birth parents, like this man and like me, and those birth mothers that feel they were tricked into the process. There are even wars between adoptees and foster care children on who deserves to be helped first. The reason this story is so different is because you have a man that was both an adoptee and in the foster care program. That makes him only one thing really – Unwanted. That is the harsh reality of it all and why those children of abandonment shouldn’t fight one another. We are all the same and we all want the same thing. To finally be wanted and accepted.

America should do something about this case and any case like it. It isn’t enough to change the law for people adopted after the year 2000. If you are adopted as a child and had no control over being sent here, you are a citizen of this nation in my book. You deserve to be here and you now have no other home.

What is happening to this man is wrong. I am still angry about this, but my anger has turned into sadness. This could have easily been me.

Jason Chandler Cushman

Ahn Soo Jin

-Opinionated Man

44.1

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My birth sister below.

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