Growing up as an adoptee, I became quite accustomed to being asked, “Would you ever want to meet your birth mom?” Despite the frequency of the question, I never gave the answer much thought. Instead, for as long as I can remember, I would simply reply that if I had the chance, then I would, just to say thank you for giving me life and to give her the peace of mind that I am well.
I am lucky that I never really had difficulty accepting my adoption. I always believed the story told to me that my genetic mother was very young when she gave birth to me, then had nowhere to turn when my birth father passed away shortly after I was born. I never doubted that her decision was out of love. Most importantly, I live with a loving family and have always felt fortunate for what I considered to be the gift of second chance. And I grew up with strong conviction that what I was given should not be wasted.
Let me back up briefly and say that I was no angel as a kid. I earned the nickname “Kristin Kaboom” from my family, after giving them plenty of grief growing up with countless explosions from trying to deal with unsettled feelings of confusion and anger. My parents surely got more than they bargained for when they adopted me. Still, because of their unending love and infinite patience, and with constant support from my brothers, their wives, my Bushia and my sister, I eventually grew out of the temper tantrums and learned how to better manage my anger.
Aside from a desire to see someone who looks like me, I never really longed to know my birth family and I suppose I never even really thought it possible. But my feelings began to change a couple of years ago, when I first began identifying myself as a Korean woman. The fact that I didn’t really know much about what that meant only made my curiosity grow. Around the same time, after a stressful period chasing money and “success”, I decided that peace and purpose were what I wanted and needed. Through my yoga studies, meditation practice and time in nature, my priorities began to shift.
At the beginning of this year, Paul and I decided to trade in “things” for experiences. Setting out on a journey to Asia with loose plans built around yoga, meditation, journalism, friends, family and much more, we have lived these past six months with intention. Focused on slowing down and helping others, we found peace in nature, in others and in ourselves.
I can honestly say that coming to Korea was never about finding answers from my past; I never set out to search for anything more than delicious kimchi. Instead I simply wanted to reconnect to my Korean roots by working on organic farms. But when the plane touched down 3 weeks ago, a rush of emotion ran through me. I immediately felt the weight of returning to the beginning. I closed my eyes and felt the calm within, getting a glimpse of the freedom I could have by letting go of any pain from my first chapter. Strengthened by the wisdom and guidance given to me by my many teachers, I entered this experience with no expectation, only the mantra, “Open to accept, ready to let go.”
With my father’s help, I scheduled a meeting for June 19th with a post-adoption counselor at the agency that facilitated my adoption. In emails leading up to the meeting, I was told that my birth mother could not be found, though I would be able to visit the orphanage where I spent 4 months before completing my transformation from Jeoung Hwa Moon to Kristin Krupa. With no hope for any grand reunions I was satisfied to see the place I had always imagined contributed to my rough and tough Orphan Annie persona. I arrived at the adoption agency feeling that I had already reconciled my past. If I could learn anything new, then I remained open to whatever would come (or not come) from the meeting.
I could not have imagined all that would follow.
About 1 hour into the meeting, I learned the agency had found my maternal grandmother, which led to my mother’s phone number. This sparked a whirlwind of emotion and a chain of remarkable events: I spoke on the phone with my birth mother for the first time ever, I met my birth grandmother and slept in the house where she raised 8 children and where I spent the first 2 years of my life. I have feasted over Korean BBQs with 3 Emos (my Mom’s sisters), shared beers, soju and a lot of laughs with 2 Samchoons (my Mom’s brothers) and hugged and high-five’d 6 adorable and awesome cousins.
There has been a language barrier throughout, but one that has not held back lots of tears, apologies, forgiveness and love. Our newfound presence in one anothers’ lives has filled us all with an instant peace and familiarity that only comes with family. Just like the Krupas, the Kims are warm and welcoming, generous and kind. They are funny and down-to-earth, and we are truly enjoying this fortunate time together. As if this Korean Drama could not get any better, my sister, also adopted from another Korean family, joined me out here just a few days ago. I am overjoyed to learn that this experience has given her a whole new perspective on what it is to be adopted. She expressed that it has healed what she had mistaken for an unwanted or broken part of her.
The most meaningful reunion with my birth mother is still to come. The photos above were taken during the first year of my life and the others were taken when my Mom was the same age I am now. I will soon have more to share of the two of us together again, 26 years later, in just a few more days. On Friday she will fly from Tokyo where she lives and join me in Korea for the remainder of our stay before we move on to see Paul’s family in Russia.
Every step of this stroll has confirmed my commitment to a path towards peace and acceptance. It has supported the practice of living in the only time we have: this moment. It has continually renewed my faith in loving kindness as what connects us to each other and to this planet. It has encouraged me to enjoy the good stuff and to let the bad stuff be - understanding that one cannot exist without the other. It has given me hope that anything is possible. But most of all, it has taught me that life is best when we are sharing it.
Thanks for sharing the journey with all your energy and love. I have felt it every step of the way.
Smiling from deep within, I have nothing but love; all that I need.