There are many stories we have experienced as adoptees. Some of our stories are filled with questions and unknowns. Most contain themes of bravery, heartbreak, turmoil, or joy. Common to all, our stories are about what we choose to carry forward.
What I share here is a story of differences.
I was adopted from Korea as a baby. Born in Seoul, my adoption process began when I was three months old. As a part of the adoption agreement, my mother spent one month in Korea. She returned carrying me, as well as anecdotes of life at the orphanage that became part of my origin story. We joined my adoptive father and brother, who had been adopted from Vietnam a couple of years before my arrival.
We spent my earliest years on a ranch in rural western North Dakota. Peopled with Scandinavian and German descendants, North Dakota’s population is predominantly comprised of tall, blonde haired, blue eyed people. Being of Asian descent in such a small population meant my brother and I were often diversity personified.
Though I never gave it a thought as a child, the fact that I was adopted was readily apparent to even the most casual observer, as it is with any child adopted into a family whose physical traits show no shared genetic lineage.
I am one of those adoptees who have always known I was adopted, as my mother made sure it was in the telling of our family story. My origin story was talked about in tones like any birth story, though missing details like how much I weighed and the time I was born. She introduced my adoption into conversation early enough that knowledge of my origin story extends as far back as my memory does.
Though I was well versed in my origin story, other kids were not. From kindergarden through second grade, each time I started a new school (we moved a lot), my mother sent Chinese Eyes by Marjorie Ann Waybill to help introduce my Asian appearance to my classmates. I would bring the slim orange book with a little Asian girl on the cover to the teacher and ask if it could be read to the class. It was a great device for beginning the conversation with my classmates and must have worked to dispel much of the teasing that can come from the mouths of children. I remember being picked on some at school because I looked different, but so did the red haired girl with freckles.
It’s one thing to know you’re different because people are always pointing it out to you. It’s an entirely different experience when you are a part of the conversation from the very beginning.
In this way, knowing I was different became a part of my identity without negative connotation. Having my adoption be a part of the conversation made it ok to be different. Always knowing I was different allowed me to be comfortable with and later, embrace it. Because how I grew up was outside of what many people experience, I do not feel like I have to fulfill a role already in place. It is up to my own design. In this way, knowing I’m different has granted me the freedom to be who I am and granted me an open perspective on life.
These are powerful ideas to have in your personal arsenal.
￼￼-By Danielle Strom