November hosts a myriad of religious and national holidays for people around the world. It also is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Homeless Youth Awareness Month and Native American Heritage Month. And for me, as a Minnesotan, it marks both the beginning of winter and an important month in my life.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was adopted as a young girl, and Nov. 4 is my “Gotcha Day” (in my family, we call it my “Airplane Day”). Fittingly for me, November is also National Adoption Awareness Month. As this continues to be a very important identity marker for me, I am doing my part to “raise awareness” by talking about my experience.
This year marks the 23rd year of my life in the United States. As a child, Airplane Day always was met with more joy and happiness than my birthday. Usually, birthdays at my house were met with sadness, thinking about my birth mother and wondering what life was like in Korea. But on Airplane Day, we'd watch the video of my arrival and I would see the excitement and love of family and friends as I was carried off of the plane.
What did Airplane Day mean for me this year? Now more than ever, it brought significance and thoughtful reflection. I still ponder what life would be like in South Korea, and I’m reminded of some of the cultural loss of Korean heritage that occurred. Like birthdays, I wish my Airplane Day would be met with more excitement and conversation about just what it means to be adopted, but Hallmark doesn’t make those kinds of cards or signs. Sometimes, I fear questions about adoption are difficult to bring up, and I’d like to change that. Next semester, I will begin my research on college-aged Korean adoptees, the beginning of a very long but powerful journey.
My mixed emotions about adoption range from happiness to anger, depending on the day. The unknown aspects of who I am show up in the mirror every morning. Twenty-three years – and I still have decades left of feeling this way. However, as I read blogs and papers about other adoptees’ struggles, I know I am not alone.
For more information on National Adoption Month, visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/nam/. I also want to encourage everyone, especially adoptees, parents of adoptees and anyone thinking about adoption, to read books and blogs written by adoptees. They are powerful sources of information, filled with personal, heartfelt and lived knowledge, and you will come away with a much greater understanding of the issues.