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Journey of Self-Discovery: Unveiling the Truth of My Abandoned Beginnings in a Cardboard Box

"Unveiling the Chapters of my Beginnings: A Journey from Abandonment to Self-Discovery"

In the bustling streets of Seoul, South Korea, my life embarked on Chapter 2, marked by the solitude of a cardboard box in an unassuming parking lot. There was no Chapter 1, as police, hospital, and orphanage records offered no insights into my birth name, birthplace, or birthdate. My birth story, set against the backdrop of 1970s Korea, remains veiled in mystery, a testament to a time when international adoption unfolded with less understanding than today.

Concepts like the crucial bonding between a baby and its mother during the first year of life were not as widely recognized then. The emotional tapestry of attachment, now acknowledged for its pivotal role in shaping relationships and emotional well-being, began to weave its complexity through my early years. A journey through caregivers — from birth family to police station, hospital ward to orphanage, and finally to a foster home — culminated in my arrival in the United States, escorted by representatives of an adoption agency to meet my adoptive parents.

These formative experiences laid the groundwork for the intricate web of attachment issues that would thread through my life. Through the tumultuous years of adolescence and early adulthood, trust in relationships became a persistent struggle. A constant quest for reassurance, a tangible anchor against life's storms, characterized my interactions. This dance with fear, the fear of being forgotten or left alone, unintentionally scrutinized those around me, seeking constant validation of their affection and commitment.

As my late 20s unfolded into the thick of my 30s, a subtle shift occurred in the way I navigated relationships. The anxious search for assurance transformed into avoidance, an unconscious retreat from emotional vulnerability. Letting others in became not just uncomfortable but emotionally unsafe, leading me to withdraw whenever a relationship dared to approach the depths of my heart. This instinct to protect myself, to rely solely on my own strength, became a defining feature of my evolving narrative.

In this ongoing journey of self-discovery, I grapple with the chapters of my beginnings, weaving a narrative that transcends abandonment and embraces the complexities of attachment, fear, and the profound quest for autonomy.

"From Detachment to Discovery: Unraveling the Threads of Identity"

Now a mother myself, having traversed the profound journey of pregnancy and childbirth, I find my thoughts often wandering to the complex emotions that must have enveloped my birth mother during her own pregnancy. I ponder whether she, too, grappled with a sense of emotional detachment, a poignant act of self-preservation rooted in the knowledge that she couldn't keep me. I wonder if these feelings of detachment and anxiety transferred to me, her unborn child, leaving an indelible mark on the fabric of my identity.

The absence of a birthdate, seemingly trivial to some, resonates as a symbolic void within myself. Birthdates, as I've discovered, weave into conversations unexpectedly often, particularly in discussions involving astrology. The lack of this simple marker positions me as a bystander in those moments, a stark reminder of a missing cornerstone in my identity. The absence of a birth name or a family name further underscores my precarious place in the world.

Childhood brought its own challenges, with the dreaded Family Tree assignment at school becoming a poignant reminder of my unique narrative. Born in South Korea and of Korean descent, I found no Korean roots on my family tree but myself. Each project served as a reminder of being a grafted branch, awkwardly attached to a tree not originally mine. Like grafts, I felt the struggle to blend in, knowing that sometimes they don't take, standing out awkwardly or even facing the risk of not surviving if they don't heal right.

In my early years, I attempted to construct a birth story, spinning an elaborate tale of being born into Korean royalty for my kindergarten peers. An innocent creation of a 5-year-old's imagination, it led to an awkward parent-teacher meeting, prompting me to bury my curiosity about my origins in the recesses of my consciousness for many years.

However, the onset of a new chapter in my life, marked by law school graduation and the beginning of my life as a married woman, propelled me to take a brave and necessary step. I reached out to my adoption agency, seeking any fragment of my history that might have been overlooked. This pursuit for answers stemmed from a deep desire to uncover the threads of my past, to piece together the puzzle of who I was before becoming the person I am today.

"Redefining the Unwritten Chapters: A Journey of Acceptance and Self-Discovery"

Despite the continued existence of the adoption agency, my search for the names and faces of my birth family yielded emptiness. The records from the 1970s, it seemed, were not meticulously kept, if they were kept at all. Accepting this hard truth, I made peace with the fact that the chapters of my origin story would forever remain unwritten. In my 40s, at a friend's celebration, I encountered a psychic—a mere entertainer meant to add a touch of mystery to our evening. Over the years, I had constructed a narrative of my birth mother, one tinted with adversity and struggle. However, the psychic presented me with a different story, one of deep love between my birth parents, though not through the bonds of marriage. She painted my birth mother as a woman from a family of community proprietors, compelled to hide the "scandal" of her pregnancy by delivering me in secret.

Initially dismissing it as party entertainment, I found myself transformed the next morning. Driving through quiet streets, something within me had shifted. I sat taller, with a newfound sense of dignity. The impact of this reimagined beginning was not about belief in the psychic's abilities; it was about the profound power of the birth narrative. It illuminated the understanding that the birth story I choose to embrace is not merely a tale—it is a testament to my intrinsic self-worth.

In 2001, my comprehension of the adoption experience deepened as my husband and I welcomed our daughter into our lives—a little girl from China who, like me, would grow up without the certainty of her birthdate. Just as we adjusted to our new family dynamic, another revelation unfolded—I was pregnant. Our son entered the world a mere seven months after our return from China. Watching our daughter and son grow up side by side has heightened my understanding of the unique paths many adopted children tread.

"Weaving Identity: Embracing the Complex Threads of Adoption"

Reflecting on my own childhood, I recall the well-intentioned but misplaced declarations about how "lucky" I was to be adopted, an insinuation that painted my parents as near-saintly for choosing adoption. It's a narrative that has been projected onto my daughter's life by strangers and peers alike. In contrast, my son, born biologically into our family, has never had to justify his belonging or trace his origins for the curious and the questioning—an inherent privilege that many adopted children, including my daughter and me, are not afforded.

We, as adoptees, are not merely the sum of our adopted families; we are the continuation of a history, carriers of genetics, and the embodiment of potential that stretches back beyond our memory. Our birth families, with all their mysteries and absences, remain a vital piece of our identity—a narrative thread that is ours to weave into the story of our lives. It warms my heart when adoptive parents celebrate birth families and speak respectfully of birth parents, acknowledging their role despite known hardships and struggles.

Through my work as a writer, I've come to understand the profound impact of storytelling. My birth story goes beyond an unknown date or a missing name—it's a tribute to my birth family, an acknowledgment of their role in the tale of my life. While I hold a desire to find birth relatives, as of now, my son is the only biological relative I've ever met, despite submitting my DNA to major commercial DNA banks in the U.S. In 2020, the South Korean National Police Agency initiated a service for overseas adoptees of Korean descent to submit DNA and register it with foreign diplomatic offices, aiming to reconnect with biological families. Although I provided my DNA sample, to date, there has been no match.

There are moments when feelings of detachment or self-doubt creep in. I acknowledge that I'm a work in progress, but with understanding comes the strength to silence those feelings. I remind myself that the tools I once used to protect myself from fear of abandonment and loneliness are no longer needed. Now, I stand firm in the belief that I am worthy of love and have no reason to fear being alone. My journey is ongoing, a testament to the resilience and strength that come with embracing the complex threads of adoption.

In the tapestry of my life, the narrative of adoption weaves a complex and intricate pattern, a testament to the profound impact of storytelling and self-discovery. The well-intentioned yet misplaced notions surrounding adoption have shaped my journey, highlighting the stark contrast between the experiences of my adopted daughter and biologically born son. As an adoptee, I recognize that I am not solely defined by my adoptive family; I am the continuation of a history, a carrier of genetics, and an embodiment of potential that extends beyond my conscious memory.

The acknowledgment of birth families as a vital piece of our identity is a thread I cherish, celebrating the intricate interplay of relationships that shape the story of our lives. Through my work as a writer, I've discovered that my birth story is more than a tale—it is a tribute, an ode to the role my birth family played in the tapestry of my existence. While the desire to find birth relatives persists, my journey has led me to my son as the only biological connection I've encountered.

In moments of detachment or self-doubt, I recognize the work in progress that I am. However, understanding has become my source of strength, allowing me to silence the echoes of past fears. The tools I once employed to protect myself from abandonment and loneliness are now obsolete, replaced by the profound belief that I am worthy of love, and the fear of being alone has lost its grip.

As my narrative continues, the embrace of the intricate threads of adoption is an ongoing journey, a testament to resilience and strength. It serves as a reminder that our identities are dynamic, shaped by the stories we choose to tell and the profound impact of those narratives on our intrinsic self-worth.