If Korean adoptees were a country, it would be around the 190th largest, with a population bigger than Samoa or Guam. In a very physical sense, we are each part of a KAD nation.
And yet, one of the strongest characteristics of our individual histories is extreme isolation. We were aliens in the truest sense of the word – dropped from space into a foreign world. We do not grow up together. We are not united in proximity. When i look back objectively at my own childhood, where i didn’t meet another asian person for 14 years, it sounds like a kind of torture. I’m not saying i felt tortured – i experienced a “successful adoption” – but it really does sound like a prisoner situation: yanked away and isolated from anything familiar for 14 years.
Our survival reinforced our separation: as we took on the attributes and cultures of our surroundings, we no longer resembled our original selves, and each other even less. Our happiness might indeed have been proportional to the extent to which we were able to forget our alienness. Perhaps the happiest among us are those who are not here, in the KAD forums on facebook or at the KAD meetings, the ones who know the least about an original self.
Because, unlike ET, we cannot phone home. We cannot visit the Adoptee part of town to visit the Adoptee restaurant for good old-style Adoptee food. We cannot gather and give each other the Adoptee greeting and share our Adoptee customs. The Samoans and Guamanians have this over us.
As a result, we feel an acute need to belong, to find a root in this world. Where is our territory?
I think this is part of the reason why some of us are so driven to find birth families, 2nd cousins, anything. It gives us a starting point.
It also explains what happens when we hang out together. It is only in those moments that we can physically experience being a part of our KAD nation, the only ethnic group we truly belong to. If you’ve ever been around a large number of KAD, you know what i mean. The immersion in that moment, to that place, with that crowd, while ephemeral and intangible, is completely vital and undeniable.
I used to think it was odd for 2 KAD to be best friends or married. What unites them? Now I think it is a perfectly natural behavior. In some ways, I’m surprised we aren’t even more ambitious in our hunt for each other.
But, as the most isolated ethnic group in the history of the world, we have learned from years of experience that there is no land to return to. There is only the situation at hand. KAD are, above all, adaptable, because to not adapt would be to go crazy. Adopt = Adapt.
The closest we have to a motherland is Korea. And getting there can be a huge part of the puzzle to understanding ourselves. We can re-learn some of the Korean behaviors and re-incorporate them into our lives.
But in many ways, we have grown beyond that. Korea is no longer big enough to contain who we have become. We are as big as the world we have been scattered to. We encompass it all.