Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let's Try This Again!

photo by Laura Hill

A wedding can sure take it out of you and then it's over before your even finished paying off the credit card bill from your dress! Was it worth it, absolutely! So now what, I'm married and we are deciding our future...together. (Apparently, that is what married people do!) BUT, I still have my own independence, and luckily my husband still supports that, in fact probably loves me because of it. So now that the grand event is behind me, I can focus on the task at hand which was to plan a trip to Seoul, South Korea.

I have gone to a couple different websites, one being and looking at possible families I could live with that could help me reimmerse myself in the Korean culture. It is quite affordable to stay with a family and usually its because they want you to teach English to either themselves or their children for a couple hours/day, or its because they want to learn your culture as well. I think they might get a shock when they see me, expecting some American person and if I show up looking like them, they might think I have played a joke!

This is an odd dynamic that I am very curious about, how Koreans, people that I actually look like, will react to me. Maybe I'll be too "American" for them, do I wear too much eye make-up, am I too tall, too big? Is my skin color too tan? I feel more American than I do Korean, but there are times when I get awakened to the fact that no matter what, I will always look different, and my children are going to look different. Who knows if they will have double eyelids? Probably their hair will be black and straight like mine, as well as their eye color would be dark brown and not blue like my husband's whole side of his family.

I have sent a few emails out to various families to start the communicating process. For the next few months, I will be saving what I can to put towards the trip. I hope to stay for 2 weeks. I have also started researching my past history, gathering any documents on the orphanage I was in and my biological parents. It struck me that I don't even know the name of my biological mom. During this whole process I am documenting and writing down what I can, hoping to have a finished book by the end. Perhaps I can solicit the help of my talented brother-in-law, who is an amazing writer. :)

More to come soon!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

That's what weddings are, decisions...wrapped up in pretty lace or disguised as an assortment of flowers, or being served to you with a side of potatoes and greens. But, these decisions are easy (in the grand scheme of things), they really are. Choosing flowers is not like choosing where you want to live... picking beef or chicken is much simpler than picking the right and wrong decisions, and finding the perfect wedding dress is alot easier than finding the perfect partner! Decisions and choices I have made are my own, and where I end up have been on my own accord. My decisions have been often times impulsive.... in fact, for those who know me well would argue that I am the most impulsive person they know. There are other words that could be used perhaps,... flighty... on the whim.... and for some that could be exciting, spontaneous; however, for myself it has usually ended up in disaster.

I have (quite a few times) roamed in videostores for close to an hour, unable to choose a movie... I have chosen a wedding dress, only now to be uncertain of it, I have moved a few times, only to be wanting to move again. All this from small to big decisions boils down to one thing, why am I still feeling unsettled... and will I ever feel at home, and if not, is that okay? I don't want to be like this, I want to be content with where I'm at... but its like staring at a sculpture.. at first I admire the beauty, but stare at it long enough, I start noticing the cracks. That's how I have made choices in my life, to avoid the cracks... to avoid people finding the hidden mistakes about me, as well as for me to avoid finding the cracks of other people. It's my mentality of "everything is fine until I feel I need you, or feel that you need me" that makes me want to push away... and often times, before, push away is the choice I made.

It is by no means personal, it was/is my line of defense growing up,... that and an awesome sense of humor! I felt it was important for people to like me, for me to be one of the group... so you adapt to what fits the mold. You try to cover the cracks and for a while, everything is good. But, of course, the closer you get to people, the more and more vulnerable you can become. With my fiance the closer I got to him, the more arguments we had. In my mind here is one person who could hurt me so deeply, I might never recover, so why give him, or anyone that chance? We joke now that I haven't packed my bags in an argument in a very long time... which sadly is true what I have done. I used to do that when I was little, pack my bags and want to run... but always secretly wanting someone to show me that they want me there, that they have made their own decision and chosen me. My mom has done this, my friends have done this, and the love of my life has made the choice to be with me.

All that rests now is upon me because I need to choose to accept they want me, that people don't have to go away, and that I also make the choices too... and say to myself, it's okay, stop running... just stop running Eun Joo... you have found where you belong.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Take a Deep Breath...

It's been over 3 months since I was last on here. I'll admit, my dedication started to waver and I became easily distracted. Even though this isn't my job and that any deadlines I make for myself are subjected to how I am feeling that day, I need to finish this through. I also would like to share what has kept me occupied, because what has been happening and what possibly could happen would change my life forever.

About 2 years ago, my adoptive Mother was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, a progressive lung disease. It has been a very difficult 2 years filled with hospital visits, specialists, antibiotics, and side effects to the antibiotics. My Mother is on 24 hour oxygen support. My Mother has osteoporosis due to the steroids she has to take to help her breath easier, which weakens her bones, causing some of the hospital visits due to compression fractures. My Mother also now has diabetes, sleep apnea, and had gotten shingles due to her immune system being so low, the dormant chicken pox virus became active again. The list goes on, and from two years ago to now, we are finally at the stage where Lung Transplant is the final option. The process to be approved for Lung Tranplant Operation is daunting, but fortunately throughout the years, my Mom already had many of the tests done. Her case is now being reviewed with one more specialist she needs to see and to give the Review Board the okay. We have been told she is a good candidate for lung tranplant surgery, which is great to hear, ... and scary. And of course with all this taking precedence, our wedding has taken the back seat, and my trip to South Korea is in the trunk.

The idea of a major surgery does not scare me because I have faith that we are at the best place with the best doctors and surgeons. What scares me is seeing my Mom scared. What sometimes keeps me up at night or getting emotional when I see a white-haired woman crossing the street is the fact that my Mom needs me now, and I am scared that she needs me. I feel helpless, which frustrates me, which makes me angry, and than guilty for feeling angry, and then just in the end, sad and beaten. We went to a Support Group meeting this past Saturday, and I needed it just as much as she did. I needed to see survivors and to be around other caregivers going through the pain of seeing someone they love become so sick. I need my Mother still, and that scares me more than anything. I still need her because deep down, she is my only link to a stable home. She is the only family I have on paper, and she has been my rock. It shakes your world to see your rock become vulnerable because you take it for granted that a rock seems so sturdy, so strong and unbreakable. But they can and do break.

I will still continue my journey, and perhaps now more than ever I need this therapeutic release. The wedding is only 3 months away now, I still want to travel to South Korea and plan to, but above all else, I want, I hope, and pray for my Mom to be able to do one thing, one simple thing that we all take for granted... to take a long, deep breath.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recovering Memories

I recently had lunch with someone I had not seen in 20 years. We were in the same orphanage, we were adopted 2 months apart by families no more than 30 miles from each other! She and I were friends at the orphanage and also had play dates together after we were adopted. When we had lunch this past weekend, she revealed information that I am unable to remember. She said we would get treated once in a while with a slice of tomato with sprinkled sugar as a dessert... and even more rarely, as a special treat, we would get rice with a poached egg. She said there was not alot of money nor food at the orphanage so meals like this would indeed be special. She explained when one kid would get in trouble we would all get punished by having to sit against a wall with our arms raised until someone would come around and hit our hands with a ruler...signaling the end of our discipline. Sometimes I think that remembering like my friend would be just as hard, perhaps harder than not remembering.

Although the discipline may sound harsh, I believe that in Korea, discpline of this manner was normal. My mom said my therapist "Jerry" who I had when I arrived til I was 12 or 13, told her I had memories of my grandmother who must have lived in my home in Korea would discipline me with a long stick or a hanger. I also know that I slept on the floor on a thin mat or mattress both at my home and at the orphanage. This explains why during the first six months I kept falling out of my daybed! I am grateful that starting this journey has helped me reveal more things about me that I would not have known and also has connected me to a long lost friend. In the end my goal is to walk down the aisle towards my future knowing my past. I want to say the vows of giving myself completely by knowing what exactly I am offering.

The wedding date is set on August 27, 2010. I have an opportunity to travel to South Korea either by the end of May or wait until next year to go with my friend. Perhaps this is too much to handle right now with everything going on, but I also know that this is a trip I want to make soon. I will continue to share my journey and hopefully see what it evolves into, and see what I evolve into as well.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Now and Then

Neither one of these pictures are me, they are just a snapshot of what I sometimes can be. I've been the wall flower child growing up, shy and timid, sometimes eating lunches alone at school, nervous of making friends. I've been the party girl who will be the first one on the dance floor, talking to strangers and making them laugh. I can make people laugh so hard that they cry, and shameful that it is, I have also made them cry when I lash out. I've been on amazing highs of "I can do anything" attitude, and the deepest lows of feeling so alone and defeated. I can love deeply and faithfully for others, but often times don't trust the same feelings when they're returned. Will it ever go away? When I hear the words "I love you", will it not be followed with my silent question "but for how long?" I've built my walls to never break down. Only a handful have made it inside, and there in lies my biggest fear. I'm afraid of letting people in, only to end up with them being the ones to let me go.

As my mother would say, "there are two sides to every story." In my story there's a girl who needs to belong and there's a girl who needs to break free. There's a girl whose been lost, and now she's finding out more of who she is every day. I've met so many people that share and have these complexes. I've met a wife, daughter, and mother whose rarely ever still with her thoughts, perhaps out of anxiety at the thought of being still. Yet it's in her solitude she finds her strength. I've met a man whose made a career out of pleasing others, yet denies who he really is to this day. I feel we all show our outside, but only a handful might see us for who we really are. The times when I felt most lucky was not when I won 200 dollars in blackjack or got out of a speeding ticket. It is when I get to see the handful of people who have let me in to their world and see a side that they show only the few. I feel so lucky to be worthy. Its these moments that in my mind I think, they must really like me and trust me for them to share themselves with me. It's these connections that I work so hard to earn, yet when earned, am unable to reciprocate.

I've been asked what is it I want to accomplish with this journey and with writing everything down? What is the purpose? Is there a purpose? I can't answer specifically, but one thing I know for sure. I'm tired of molding and shifting. I'm exhausted from oscillating between a girl who doesn't want to rely on others and a girl who desperately seeks the approval of worthiness. I swing back and forth from a girl who loves deeply to a girl who is so afraid of losing love, she pushes away. I'm hoping by the end of this I can say "This is who I am", and "I am worthy of the love given to me", and hoping by the end of all this, truly believe it inside.

I will be giving details of a trip possibly at the end of May and possibly having it being documented on film!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Arrival

In a way I came into my adoptive mother's arms the same way a child being born to their biological mother would,... crying. There was a Korean woman who had accompanied me on the flight and tried to explain that I have a new "Uma" or Mother now. People offered me chocolates and candy. People wanted to give me hugs and comfort me. My new mom held me tight. But I didn't want to be held. I didn't want strangers to hug me and I didn't want what they offered me. They looked different, they smelled different, and they sounded different.

My mom said I finally stopped crying when we pulled into a McDonald's and I had my first taste of french fries. She said I was in a much better mood after that. I sang korean songs on the way to my new home in Saginaw. There was a big banner waiting for me, Welcome! More people were there to greet me. For the next few days, curiosity and exhaustion filled my time. I would mimic my new mom's words and play with the toys that were somehow all mine. I would be overwhelmed with my new world and fall asleep wherever I felt tired.

When I ran away for the first time, I assume I was trying to get back to Seoul, my "real" home. It couldn't have been that far away, so I ran, and exhausted, had fallen asleep. My mother found me, I made it as far as the backyard. The following years would be tumultuous, with both highs and lows. I was a true test to a Mother's patience and love. When I learned English, the words were weapons. I found I could say things to hurt my new mom, make her angry and sad. I would use these weapons to push my Mom away, to make her want to take me back, to change her mind. Or in her words, she said I knew exactly how to "push her buttons" to test her, to see if she would give me up. My mom passed every test, because no matter what I did, she was still there. I wish I could say it was only my mom I tested, but unfortunately, I tend to resort back to my old tactics of pushing away as my first line of defense. My fiance knows this quite well, as so do my maids of honor, they know how I push before I give in. Yet, as the wedding day approaches, the idea of forever is becoming more and more real. I've never felt luckier that my friends, my family, and my fiance never let me give up and that they showed me relationships can indeed be steadfast.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What a cute little boy!

The first time my fiance saw this picture, he said "You can totally tell that is you!" I on the other hand, disagreed completely. How is it that this 5 year old korean boy would end up being me!? And, I am not being too self-critical. My adoptive mother confessed that many times after I had arrived, she would take me to the grocery store and people would compliment on what a cute boy I was! My mother must have finally gotten tired of correcting people and resorted to clipping a barrett in my hair in hopes to clear up any confusion. Although the good intentions were there of having kept our hair short due to the fear of spreading of lice, in the end I entered the U.S. with a head full of lice. (I know, gross!) No worries now, for those of you who have been in contact with me, I have been lice free since '88.

I also entered the U.S. with turberculosis and a carrier of Hepatitis B. This is how the assumption was made that my biological mother must have had this, and was very sick with it, most likely before I was born since I was not infected by the virus but a carrier of it. In 4th grade my mother also found out that I would need glasses permanently (before Lasik surgery was even an option). The doctor revealed that I could never wear contacts due to an eye infection I must have had back in Korea where it went untreated and left scars in my cornea that could not be covered up with contacts. Thank goodness for the advances in technology and now I am able to see clearly without the aid of glasses.

This is how I learned small pieces of my life, through events that would happen during my life that revealed small slivers of information from my past. This is the only picture I have of my life in South Korea. I don't have pictures of my first through fifth birthday, and I don't have pictures of my biological mother and father. I don't know what my home looked like, nor can I remember any days or moments growing up there. I don't even know entirely what I might be looking for. All I know for now is that these small slivers of my past, I fear, are growing bigger each day. The more grounded my life seems to get, the more unsettled I seem to become. It's hard to explain, but when I make more connections in my life, with family and friends, and as I see the love of family which my fiance's family is the epitamy of a close family, the more curious I become of what my other family was. Did we have family dinners? Did we get together on the holidays and did I have grandparents? Would I get presents on my birthday or help in the kitchen? Are all these questions fruitless, or is there meaning? Hopefully, time will tell.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why do they say that?

The first time it hit me that I was different than those around me was when I started at Plainfield Elementary School. Riding the bus with other kids is definitely a social test that every child usually must pass. I sat in the front most of the time, and I don't remember much of the first year. But I do remember a boy, bigger and older than I was, asking me why my eyes were like this... and he put his two pointer fingers to the corner of his eyes and stretched them out. I don't remember what I might have said, if anything at all, I just remember that moment. I remember many moments that would come after that. I remember my first bully who had, and I am not making this up, the perfect bullying name, April Steele. She was a year older than me, I was in 3rd grade and she was in 4th. For 2 years I lived in fear of her and her friends. She was one stop after mine when they picked me up... and for the one minute that it would take for the bus to get to her stop, I lived in a slow motion scary movie.. where I am walking down the dark corridor with the bogeyman about to pop out at any moment. The doom feeling came each time before, and often times when the bus dropped me off. Finally, when I was in 5th grade and she had gone to a different school, I could have some peace. Unfortunately, she would not be my last bully.
I don't know if my mom knew at the time I was being bullied. But there was an incident when my bulliers were pressuring me to open my window after the bus driver clearly stated not to, but I did anyway since they were sitting right behind me. Of course, the bus driver saw me and as she pointed at me and told me to come up, I played dumb. Then she yelled back, "you, chinese girl" and I felt mortified. I walked up slowly with my head down, and when my mom picked me up, and after I told her what happened, she marched into the principals office and was more furious than I had ever seen her. Now, I don't blame the bus driver for her comment, and I don't blame the kids who bullied me because looking back, its too bad for them that all they saw was the outside of people. Afterward the incident, I kept thinking, why do people say what they say? Looking back of course its kids being kids and not knowing better, but as a child back then, I didn't understand why they wanted to say those things. I didn't feel different from them, so why me? Was I just an easy target?
I can't say that these were the last moments where it made me realize that I was different from those around me. There were times in high school and college parties where there was always that one person, that one idiot who had to call me out. Now, it doesn't affect me. Just recently actually, this past holiday I went to Codys, a local bar, and right when I walked in, there were these young guys who looked at me and one said "oh my asian" or something close to that. And when he saw me look at him and I could see he felt sheepish because he probably didn't realize he was talking in his drunk loud voice, I just smiled and walked right past him. I feel better about myself, as well as I had the one of the most important thing that really mattered to me. He doesn't see just my outside, but he sees me in my entirety, and the only label he puts on me, the only one that I actually care about in the end, is that I'm his.
I'll be posting pictures of me at the orphanage next time! Thanks for all your support! : )

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Big Issue

Its 2010, I'm 26 years old, engaged to a wonderful man who I fell in love with when I was 18, and we both have settled into quite an affordable 2 bedroom townhome with our Siamese cat named Wallace. I have a good job, my fiance loves me, and our families are close by... but there is something missing. At first, I thought it was my career and perhaps I wasn't fulfilling my need for a more creative outlet, which being a finance coordinator for a tier 2 auto company doesn't exactly suffice. Then I thought perhaps it was my location on where we might settle. Was Michigan really where I wanted to be, or was home really the cliche of being anywhere you make it? After serious contemplation and a couple of glasses of my favorite red wine which was convienently on sale at Meijer, I figured out that it wasn't either of these things. What I feel that is missing from otherwise a perfect (and perfect in the sense of normal, in love with ups and downs here and there) life is the feeling of understanding where I once came from.
When I was a little bit older than 4, I was orphaned. I was told that my biological mother, who had Hepatitis B, and so being very sick, she took me to a big red brick building and left me there. I don't remember this or the following months that followed of my time at the orphanage. I just have pictures now of me standing against the wall with other kids, blending in with the boys since they had to cut our hair to prevent spreading of lice. I don't remember turning 5 and then being taken to an airport, getting on the plane, crying and arriving at the Detroit Wayne Airport. I feel that it is due to these events, that I have a piece missing of myself. I admit, it is a bit selfish to want to venture over the ocean and see where I spent 5 years of my life, see my culture and find people who look more like me. Yet, I want to make sure that I know myself clearly before making committments that I might not be able to live up to.
So, this leaves me here, and I am going to try and chronicle my journey in actually planning my journey to Seoul, South Korea. I hope I can do good on my promise to myself. I have to save money (which will be very hard due to my wedding coming up at the end of August), I have to make sure my Mom's health stays fair (she is currently going through problems with her lungs), and I want to make sure my fiance knows and is okay with this journey I am taking for myself. Hopefully, he will see it as a positive step, for me figuring out who I am as myself.
Updates to come!