Sorry I haven’t written lately. I’ve been ’round the clock busy with TRACK work – for upcoming crazy ambitious events – and I’m talking CRAZY AMBITIOUS, which is to include dragging the art installation out again – and the all new multi-language website, which is structurally sound, works like a dream, and I’ve only got to copy and paste all the old content into it, finish the French menus and teach the TRACK team how to use it. But I need to get away from it for a minute, since I’m also writing the broadcast book at school and so I don’t ruin my hands with carpal tunnel, I need to not be using the track pad or mouse. I suppose I’m still on a computer, but typing is less strain than the other work.
All this work has been a wonderful antidote to the past month of emotionally destabilizing events from which I’m still numb and haven’t quite figured out. The good thing is all my friend’s woes are working themselves out and I was able to help a little. The work is so all encompassing that I’ve no time to even realize that I’m in Korea or not with my family or lonely or any of it. It’s just project completion goals, achievable small goals, and plenty of them. I thrive on this kind of pressure. It’s the opposite of stress. Stress is having no future and too much time on your hands…
Been so long since I’ve blogged – do I have any thoughts? Or rather, do I have any coherent thoughts?
Two of my adoptee readers (that I know of) are preparing to come to Korea: one to live for awhile, and one to visit for the first time. One has found and one is searching. One is sick of being treated like an other in America and wants to try on being an other here. The other one wants to experience blending in for the first time. What can I tell them (and others?) about coming here? I’ve certainly changed being here, and a lot of it has been quite recently, undocumented here (these are how changes really occur, when we’re not paying attention).
I think the biggest change is I’ve stopped registering the differences. I wouldn’t just write this off as becoming inured to culture shock – it’s still occasionally shocking; even Jane goes through this after six years here – it’s more that I just don’t care. And not caring is actually a liberating thing. I’ve quit trying to adjust. I’m just me in this place. I’ve quit trying to revive whatever might have been Korean. I’ve quit trying to make Korean friends. I’ve quit longing for relationship and connection with Korea and Korean people. I’ve nothing to love about them or hate about them. They just are what they are.
When you first get here (adoptees, at least) everything hurts. The sight of loving Korean families hurts. The sight of children hurts. The sight of biased harsh old people hurts. The sight of old people enjoying community hurts. The evidence of imperialism and blind acceptance of that and the self loathing and insecurity of that hurts. The traditional culture that’s not yours hurts. The family obligations everyone hates but you long for hurts. The inability and frustration of not being able to communicate. Oh, the list goes on and on…
And you don’t fit in and everyone judges you against their own fantasy of what an adoptee is. And it’s a position with no foothold. You don’t belong with any community: foreign, Korean, even adoptee – as that doesn’t really exist. This is the thing you have to realize. This is a place you are from and a place you pass through. Of course you know that when you first get here, but you don’t really KNOW that. You dream of some meaningful and fulfilling connection, and you can’t really know the depth of that until you’re not here…and there is nobody helping you or patting you on the back or hugging you for the effort, either. the work here is all on you, and it’s all personal – it’s subdural/subconscious/sub sub sub anything you can verbalize kind of work. But oddly enough, that kind of work doesn’t take place until you verbalize something in the ballpark. to someone.
So I guess my advice would be to treat coming to Korea the same way you treat any large body of work, and that is to set little goals and recognize milestones. And don’t come if you can’t have any options to take a break when needed. You should also have an outlet of some kind, beit physical or spiritual, as long as it’s not self-destructive. It’s also nice to have an adoption-free zone, and I’m talking about people or a place where the word adoption doesn’t even enter your thoughts. Of course you can’t live there, but it can recharge your batteries.
On my trip back home my daughter cornered me in a conversation, calling me out for my habit of always building hastily assembled life-rafts and not learning to swim/of taking care of everything and everyone and ignoring working on myself. She’s right. So art school may be yet another life-raft, (more like a holey ship) but it is more about finally not ignoring myself. I feel saved. It feels good. Even if it takes me another decade to get there, at least I’m on the road to self-actualization.
The biggest thing that has changed is that I accept that there is no discovery that can mend any of this. This shadow is my constant companion and I just have to make friends with it. Of course, I always knew that too. But knowing and owning are two different things.
The one thing I still have is anger. So many adoptees, the vast silent majority, swallow their sense of injustice because their outcomes were good enough to not justify outcry. (never mind that swallowing any negative emotion is harmful) Even as an abused child, I felt my outcomes were good enough to not justify outcry! But this whole thing with Holt has felt like a rapist going free to rape again. It’s like they have diplomatic immunity. I’m all for vigilante justice in the case of rapists – not to hurt them back, but to prevent them from hurting others. And Holt continues to hurt others. And they should thank their lucky stars that we adoptees are much more civil and ethical than they are. I can’t express what it feels like to have no recourse. And I’ve been raped before, and this is 100 times worse than that, because it altered EVERYTHING. A total mind fuck, that’s what identity reassignment is. Now even with evidence of tampered documents there’s nothing I can do within the current laws. All I can do is witness, witness, witness.
Really, adoption of children is a social issue that society should take care of: it should never be privatized. Middle men drive up the costs and introduce conflicts of interests. We are allowing them to continue posing as saints when really they are opportunists and exploiters that are being enabled by people willing to turn a blind eye to ethical violations if it means getting what they want. Plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the ocean.
But today, the work is alleviating some of that anger, and it feels good. It’s not a life-raft, but it is soothing. I’m happy to be one of the voices young adoptees might encounter the first time they’re not a captive audience at culture camp. That’s my vigilante justice. And art. Just you wait.