Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"The Story of My Life"

Over the last month I've sworn up and down that I was going to cancel my Facebook account only to decide that I've got too much invested - too many photographs, too many random status updates, too many this or that - to actually follow through. 

Arrival to the United States in November 1976
Truth be told, there are also too many Korean adoptees. I've been a part of a group of Korean American Adoptees for some time but hadn't really become more participatory until the last couple of months. Why? I don't know. Just is what it is. But what I've found in that forum is a collective group of individuals that understand my struggles and in turn many times my darkest fears and deepest dreams. Despite the fact that we are spread across the globe - some younger, some older - we all share a common thread that binds us together.

I have only just recently started to understand the shapes and forms my identity problems have taken. To most who do not know me I present as a confident, self-assured, intelligent and outgoing individual. Outwardly I am able to say that am good at what I do professionally - the work that I've done has contributed to three years of national awards and I have worked hard to earn the respect and confidence of the leaders who depend on me and my skill set. 

Those who are closest to me however know that I battle low self-esteem.  I overachieve so I do not disappoint. I very carefully calculate my risk so as to not fail. I have difficulty feeling worthy or deserving. There is rarely a week that I am not fearful of losing my job. I am terrified of being left alone, especially in a large crowd where I do not know anyone. For the longest time I viewed my eyes - their unique almond shape and dark brown, almost black color - and my ethnicity as a liability. 

This became especially true in junior high school as friends began experimenting with makeup. The teen magazines don't tell you what to do if you do not have an epicanthal fold and trying to figure it out on my own meant that more times than not I looked like the Bride of Frankenstein rather than the fashionable teen pop star. Of course I was also lacking the blonde hair and blue eyes that society told me was what beauty looked like.

I have done my best to keep my insecurities in check around my daughters, especially The Oldest as she has grown from a toddler to a child who is blossoming into a girl. The last thing I want for them is to project my insecurities into the universe where they can be at best perceived by them, and at worst become a part of who they are. I never want them to look in the mirror and doubt who they are.

I still haven't figured it all out - but with the help of an excellent therapist and some good medication I'm starting to understand how, at the very least, the pieces of the puzzle might fit together. Small dashes of confidence are starting to add up and with that my view of the world has become a little more cheery and bright. As a very wise person once said to me, "It's amazing what happens once you start to like yourself."

Despite the fact that everyone - at least right now - in the Korean American Adoptee group are largely unknown to me personally, I take comfort in knowing that they exist in the vast expanse of cyberspace. In the absence of a biological connection to the place of my birth, aside from The Oldest and The Munchkin they are the closest thing to blood relation that I might ever have. I'm learning more about the food, the culture, the customs and yes - even about how to properly put on eye make up. And I relate to - no, I feel their hurt and their sadness because it has been mine as well.

My file photo, sent to my parents.
I was at the gym tonight putting in some dreaded 'mill miles because it was far too raw and cold outside to go for a run with The Munchkin (despite her asking if we could from the moment I picked her up from daycare). 3 miles done, I slowed my pace to a walk to allow my legs and muscles to cool down and as I did I was scrolling through my email messages and then Facebook on my phone. As I checked out the Korean American Adoptee page I was greeted by a collage, compiled of photos of us (well, not me because I missed this one). There are photos of arrival to the United States, as infants, or the first images sent from orphanages and adoption agencies to waiting families. I always smile when when I see the collage because it makes me feel less alone seeing so many pairs of eyes that are like mine, cheeks and cheekbones like mine, shiny black bowl-cut hair that frames a round face like mine staring back at me. So it seemed fitting that as I was looking at all the adoptees in the photo, Bon Jovi's "Story of My Life" came on to my iPod. 

I used to have that song on my run playlist when I was battling demons that were waging war inside my head. I sometimes would listen to it over and over again to remind myself that I could make it through 24 hours and at midnight I could say I had survived yet another day. Lately, it's been a reminder of where I've been and where I am now. But this afternoon as I listened to the lyrics it took on a new meaning. 

I know it isn't black and white
And it's anything but grey
I know that no I'm not alright, but I feel ok cos
Anything can, everything can happen
That's the story of my life

Many of those photos may look black and white or gray but if you look closer, they're hardly that. They are rich hues of the threads that make up the tapestry of our individual stories. They're the stories of our lives.


No comments:

Post a Comment