In April 2014, I returned to Korea for the first time, desperate to understand more about the country I left behind 26 years ago. I had never really given it much thought previously. I had always said to myself ‘one day I’ll go’. Then one day out of nowhere, I said to Steve ‘I want to go to Korea’. We booked tickets and off we went.
At the time I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to get out of it. Did I want to find my birth parents? No. Did I want to understand more about my past? Maybe. Did I want to know more about my culture? Yes. All I really knew at the time was that I had to go there; I thought that me just ‘being there’ would be enough to satiate this feeling of longing.
Steve tells me that most of the time when we were walking the streets of Korea I had the biggest smile on my face. I didn’t want to miss anything; I wanted to soak in as much as I could and I loved every minute of exploring the culture that was so alien, yet so comforting to me.
I enjoyed it so much so that it was actually unnerving to Steve that I didn’t show any emotion. I didn’t feel slighted when I had to explain to many Koreans that I was adopted and therefore didn’t speak the language. I didn’t feel overwhelmed when I met my foster mother, Mrs Yoon. I didn’t cry as I entered the ‘baby room’ at my adoption agency. I didn’t feel sad as my social worker told me details of my adoption. My social worker actually told me I ‘was one of the most grounded and content adoptees’ she had ever met. I guess many adoptees come back to Korea in the pursuit of happiness; searching for missing pieces of their identity and ultimately don’t find the answers they were hoping to receive. I didn’t really come hoping to find happiness. At the time I was already pretty content with life; I had a good job, a loving fiance and adoring parents. But I did have a feeling of ‘I need to get something out of this trip’ even though at the time I didn’t know what that ‘something’ was.
Below is a video of what we got up to in Korea back in 2014:
It wasn’t until we got on the bus back to the airport after an incredible 3 week trip that I burst into tears. Why? I didn’t know if I would ever be back again. I felt like there was more for me to get out of being there; that I hadn’t really found my ‘something’ yet. Ultimately, I already felt homesick for a country I had just become acquainted with. I felt like time had run out, and it seemed unfair. I wept uncontrollably for the whole 90 minute bus ride to Incheon Airport.
Still, as I mentioned in my guest post for a fellow adoptee’s blog – Seoul Shakedown by Ali McNally – Korea, for me, was never a question of lost family, it was always a question of identity; being Korean and understanding what that meant. I wrote this blog a couple of months after I got back and I was able to look back on my time in Korea with content and happiness.
My blog on Seoul Shakedown: http://seoulshakedown.com/guest-post-adoption-by-maree/
At the time, I didn’t really have any plans to go back. I slipped back in to my life here, went straight back to work, started planning our wedding and within a few months time Korea was simply a long-lost memory; merely a great place we visited some time ago on holiday.
Fast forward two years. I think since being married something has triggered inside of me. Two years ago I was dead set against a birth family search. Why? I didn’t feel the need to go in search for another mother; I already had a great one. So having just kickstarted the process of a birth family search now, why the change of heart? Now that I’m married and thinking about having children in the future, I feel I am in a place to put myself in my birth mother’s shoes. Although it felt like closure at the time, I feel that I won’t get a final sense of fulfilment until I know my birth mother ended up happy in life, and that in turn she knows that I am happy in life and ultimately made the right decision.
So Steve and I have made the decision to bite the bullet and to go live there for a few months. I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive husband that is willing to follow me there (although he loves Korea more than I do so he literally jumped at the chance to live there!) Always encouraging and unwavering in his support, he knows how important this is for me to find my ‘something’.