Adopted at 9, I Have Some Advice for My Twenty-Year-Old Self

I was adopted when I was nine years old. The year was 1976 and America was poised to celebrate its bicentennial. I arrived with my little sister in hand at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. For our arrival, Minnesota shed its passive, “nice” demeanor and welcomed us with its brutal honesty.

It was April, and a fierce snowstorm swept in to direct us to our new home. From the backseat of my family’s car, I watched the snow, visible even in the night as we drove from the airport to southern Minnesota. I was sick from the long flight and the strange airplane food, but my indefatigable mind raced forward, wondering what would happen next.

Totaling approximately 200,000, my fellow Korean Adoptees and I make up the largest diaspora of adoptees in the world. While I was not in the first wave of adoptions to the U.S., I am older than most of the Korean Adoptees I have met. I may not be any wiser than the younger folks but looking back, I wish that my twenty-year-old self had someone who could understand, provide suggestions, and affirm that I was making the right choices.

In my mind, I am now the mother to the young woman that I once was, and this is what I would like to tell her. 

  1. Be gentle with yourself and your family. You may find the answers that help you understand the circumstances of your adoption if you are patient and re-encounter your unanswered questions as your life unfolds.
  2. Being a Korean Adoptee is a lifelong journey. You’ll continue to reshape and redefine your feelings about being a Korean Adoptee, which is just one, albeit, an important aspect of your identity. 
  3. Let others help you. Share your struggles with those who care about you.
  4. Take pride in being an adoptee. You may not know it, but you have learned many skills that will help you navigate life. You can adapt to new surroundings and you know what it feels like to be an outsider which has taught you to be empathetic.
  5. Select the qualities and characteristics of being a Korean that suit you: care for your family, be generous with gifts to others, respect elders, and work hard.
  6. Use your sense of humor to lift yourself and others. 
  7. Remember that little nine-year-old child. Let her ground you in all that is good.

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