I grew up in private schools in the east end of Louisville, Kentucky. I was one of a couple minorities in my school, and I had four older [white] brothers that attended before me. I was held back in kindergarten, so I was a foot taller and a year older than everyone else in my class. I grew thick skin quickly, because it wasn’t that I noticed I was different. It was everyone else in my grade who noticed I was different. And as you know, kids are not the most tactful or mindful of your feelings. Thankfully, I was just plain bigger than all the other kids, so I did not get bullied or picked on too much. In fact, I think I immediately puffed up.
Honestly, I was a mean kid. I felt defensive. I felt offended. I felt embarrassed. I felt angry. I was a little overweight. I wore really baggy clothes (thank you, 90’s). I never got in trouble at school. Or at home, really. I had close friends but kept them at arm’s length. In the most pertinent milestones of my development, all I wanted to do was fit in.
Perhaps it was and is part of the depression, but often in social settings, I would feel this loneliness come over me. It would hit me right in the middle of hanging out with friends or dinner, or some kind of social setting. A zipped up emotional Katie that completely shut down. For most of my life, I never understood where it came from, why I felt it, or how to prevent it from happening, but then I started educating myself more about depression and realized it was just part of my process.
It took me a while to acknowledge the anger that lived inside me. From defending myself of things I could not change as a child to injustice toward people of color. It took even longer to figure out how to redirect it. And I am relearning how to deal with it as a married person, because it is different dealing with it alone. It is another thing when you have to deal with your anger with another human being.
I no longer walk in shame of what I look like and who I represent. I know my experiences have taught me to be an advocate for others who feel silenced and those who suffer from any kind of illness. I am slowly letting go of the chips off my shoulder.
I was born at “Seoul Clinic” (the most vague name in the world), located in Kuri Town (구리), Namyangju County, Kyonggi Province. It takes about an hour and a half to get there by subway from Seoul Station in Seoul. My Korean name is Kang So Yung (강소영), however it is assumed my Korean name was given to me by an officer or someone at my adoption agency. This is actually a very common occurrence for adoptees – birthdays/date of birth were estimated or legal names were given by strangers. I was born 5 pounds and apparently loved taking baths (ironic, since I hate baths now).
A few days after I was born, my birth mother was no where to be found. She left me in the clinic. Alone. She did not register me. I was nameless and without my mother. Five days after I was born, I was taken to Namyangju County Office and then was taken to Holt Korea Reception Center, my adoption agency. I would love to know the strangers who transported me to each place. And I often wonder about my mother’s last thoughts as she left the hospital without me. What name did she have picked out for me?
Shortly after, I was placed with a foster family. These foster parents had four biological sons and had a good reputation of taking in many children preparing to be adopted. I was one of them. Ironic again, because unbeknownst to me, I would be adopted into a family with four biological sons to my adoptive parents as well.
I was going to be adopted quickly, however my eyelashes delayed my adoption – They were laying directly on my eyeball and there was much deliberation on whether or not I needed surgery. Thankfully, it worked itself out and after four months, I was flown to Memphis, TN along with other Korean adoptee babies.
My entire adoptive family was waiting for me in Memphis, TN. And then we drove home to Louisville, KY.
I have spent most of my life of people speaking for me on how I should feel about adoption, making decisions on my behalf as an adoptee, and even non-adoptees making legislation that affects my life.
This blog was created tonight in part of my exploration of finding my birth family, struggling with grief and loss, and encountering the narrative adult adoptees are sometimes cornered to live in due to what our society has socially accepted for us.
Recently, I have been grieving. Feeling like I don’t have community, which is something I valued and pursued most of my life. Sports, church, adoptee organizations. My hope is to not only use my own voice to share my experiences and thoughts on adoption, but to also open the platform and conversation to other adoptees.
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