If you follow me on Instagram you might know since my first visit to Seoul in 2016 I've been trying to find my birth family. I was born in Seoul, Korea but adopted into a family in New Jersey at five months old. I grew up in a place that lacked Korean culture, so I never had a strong desire to find my birth family. My adoption was not hidden from me (being the only Asian person in an Italian/Irish family), and I grew up watching documentaries about adopted children trying to find their birth families. Obviously, I had different priorities as a young adult. Growing up I didn't have a healthy relationship with my adoptive family, and was kicked out at 18. This is when I discovered I technically wasn't a U.S. citizen and didn't have proof of my citizenship. This started the long and expensive process of applying for American citizenship while I was going to college and working full time in New York City. I can't begin to explain how this was the most challenging time of my life. I cried on a daily basis and was so overwhelmed with the application process. There is no security or guarantee once you submit the check and application for citizenship, so the wait time was about two years for me. I grew up, went to school, and worked my whole life in the United States, and it still was a two year wait for me. I can't imagine how stressful this ordeal is for the people who have no ties to this country when applying.
In September 2016 Tim and I visited South Korea for the first time. I had a vague idea to visit the adoption agency, but did no real research to prepare for it. Tim pulled through and located the office located three subway stops from where we were staying. I had a brief panic attack, but then sat with a case worker who was able to pull my file and explain my entire adoption case to me. She let me know my birth family weren't in a good financial or healthy state to raise me as their fourth child, but they did everything they could at the time to give me the opportunity for a better life. After this meeting I had a totally different perspective and deep appreciation for my family I never met.
Fast forward to April 22, 2018 (less than two months ago!) I submitted an outreach letter to Holt Agency giving my consent to try to find my birth family. Now, this process is very old school involving an actual telegram being hand delivered to the last noted residence of my family. When I submitted my application I had no expectations but I was satisfied knowing I tried. Seven weeks later I was checking my emails after work and get a life changing email with a brief update and photo of my birth parents. We were all shocked. The communication between us has been brief but very surprised and happy. My sister sent a few photos of the family and they're very curious about my life. I have three older siblings-two brothers, a sister (full blood), and at least one niece! I submitted my response letter yesterday and will wait to hear back if they give consent to contact me outside of Holt Agency.
In the meantime I've started to learn Korean through the Duolingo app and downloaded Kakaotalk for when they're ready to reach me. I'm terrible at documenting things, but this is a life changing experience, and if not to share with others I will look back at this time in awe. It feels serendipitous to have struggled for so long and when I was finally ready to reach out everything happened so quickly. Given the current political climate with families and children being displaced without any proof of identity it makes me worried for their futures. As I find my birth family after 27 years this young generation is being torn from theirs. Every child deserves the opportunities to live a happy, healthy life. Being separated from your family can have devastating life time emotional effects that aren't necessarily evident until an older age. I still struggle with my feelings, but with a small (but very solid) support system, therapy, and the closure of finding my birth family I have a much different perspective these days. I hope this story resonates with someone going through a similar thing. It's hard feeling like you can't relate with people having dealt with so many things stacked against your favor and barely any support. I hope we raise the next generation of kids to be compassionate and realize not everyone has the same opportunities even though we live in the "Land of the free." I will continue documenting this experience as the months go on.... Many thanks to the people who have reached out in support or with kind words throughout this process. It's been a great help.