Finding Seoul

Finding Seoul: Expect the Unexpected {Past, Present, & Future}

October 28, 2016
korean adoptee story
Korean Adoptee Story – Finding Seoul

The Past

May 2013 – Memorial Day Weekend

Oh Brother

I was in Toronto with my mom and aunt visiting a dear family friend. A couple days prior, I had finally gotten to read through my adoption papers. For a while, I had been pestering my mom to uncover them for me. The paperwork informed me that I have a biological brother. The document says he’s two years older than me. I had always entertained the idea of having biological siblings, but actually knowing completely changed the game. Knowing I had a sibling in Korea was oddly intriguing. I mean, he’s the exact same genetic combination as I am, how can I not be interested? This ultimately fueled my desire to pursue the birth search.

Gaining Perspective

My family friend, Diane, has an adopted child, Kayla, of her own. Kayla was adopted from China. Because of our shared experiences, Diane and I often times find ourselves discussing adoption from our varying perspectives. I vividly remember sipping a latte at her kitchen table and naturally the news of my biological brother surfaced. I don’t recall the entirety of the conversation. But what I can recall, is Diane expressing how she’d someday like to assist and support her daughter with the search, if that is something she would like to pursue. Diane went into further detail explaining how challenging Kayla’s search would be. They’d undoubtedly encounter obstacles along the way because of the circumstances surrounding her adoption and the lack of information they were given. In other words, it wouldn’t be an easy venture.

It caused me to think about my circumstances and the considerable amount of details I do have. It dawned on me that this is something I must pursue. I needed to. And something in my gut told me that my chances were good. For some reason, I felt fairly confident I’d have a successful search.

And so it begins…

Research had told me that adoptees’ chances are slim. I also talked with the social worker who helped my parents with my adoption and she mirrored the same information. Additionally, I knew it wasn’t going to be an instantaneous process. But again, I felt good about it. Nonetheless, I didn’t feel the urgency to jump on it right away. This ended up working out in my favor because I don’t think my 19 (almost 20) year old self would have been emotionally ready anyways. Besides, some delayed gratification never hurts.

September-October 2014

I contacted Eastern Post-Adoption Services on September 7th. The first contact was unsuccessful. I attempted 3 more times until I finally got a response on October 13th. Eastern provided me with the requirements needed to begin the birth search and attached the necessary forms I needed to fill out. In addition to the forms, I needed to attach a copy of my passport or another form of photo ID, and send current photos and a letter for my birth family.

October 2015 – The Search Officially Begins

It took 1 year and 8 days to finally complete and submit the paperwork.

Reaching Out

I decided to reach out to a couple well-known Korean adoptees to ask for insight. They’re all quite active in the adoptee community and I knew that from their experiences, they could offer some invaluable advice. I was not expecting responses from any of them, but I actually heard from all three: Jenna Ushkowitz, Samantha Futerman, and Dan Matthews.

Jenna, known for her long term role on Glee, and Sam, co-star of the documentary Twinsters, founded an organization, called Kindred Adoption. Kindred provides support and aid to Korean adoptees embarking on the birth search. Dan is just an all around really cool dude. He’s a rapper from LA and is involved in a number of entrepreneurial projects and documentaries. I came across some articles detailing his emotionally charged story and watched his documentary on YouTube. It unfailingly brings me to tears every single time. His incredibly moving story touched me and compelled me to reach out.

The Common Denominator

Throughout all my conversations with them, I identified a common denominator. It’s a piece of wisdom that I opted to follow from that moment on. The common denominator is as follows: don’t set any expectations and be prepared for anything to happen, absolutely anything.

The Present

No lie, I thought I had successfully mastered their “don’t set any expectations” advice, that is until I received the shocking news that pretty much flipped my world upside down.

The news is as follows:

  1. I will not get to meet my biological brother because my biological parents are too ashamed to tell him of my existence.
  2. I have a younger biological sister, who I never knew existed until now, and I will not be meeting her either.
The Blues

This news just about killed me. It pierced a hole in my heart and shattered it into a million shards. You see, it’s especially difficult considering the discovery of having a biological brother inspired the birth search in the first place 3.5 some years ago.

I seldom expose my innermost emotions, but I’ll be as honest and raw as I possibly can.

I cried once when I found out Eastern had made contact with my biological father. When I received the joyous email saying my biological father has reciprocated interest in wanting to communicate further and that, despite the adoption papers, my biological parents are living together, I cried once. Due to the most recent news – I’ve cried four times.

Concealing, Sharing, & Processing

These unexpected discoveries had a numbing effect on me. It was so numbing that I processed internally for a couple of days and so desperately tried convincing myself that I was okay. I felt like acting unaffected would trick me into being unaffected. This way, I’d be able to move forward and nonchalantly share the news with my family. I’m not lying when I say it really is quite difficult for me to be vulnerable. Even with those I’m closest to, I still find myself struggling especially if it’s something within my realm of control. So naturally, I wanted to process on my own and try to resolve and mask my own emotions. Evidently enough, this wasn’t working well for me and as soon as I opened up to two friends in Korea, I was in tears. I then told my dad and stepmom, next was my mom, and after that was my sister. It wasn’t until these conversations when I found myself actually processing the news.

Racing Thoughts
Subconscious Expectation

Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of the common denominator. I set an expectation. Foolishly, I expected that I’d meet my biological brother and I shouldn’t have. It just felt so given that I didn’t even realize this thought was, in reality, an expectation. It just didn’t phase me.

The Younger Sis

Discovering that I have a younger biological sister was unexpectedly painful. That’s the easiest way I can describe it. It’s the feeling of knowing I was born, put up for adoption, and then essentially replaced.

Birth Defects

To add even more depth, for those who don’t know, I was born with a cleft lip and palate. So then I began wondering if my birth defects embarrassed the family to the point where they couldn’t raise me. All of these thoughts perpetuated other thoughts such as wondering if my biological parents were ashamed of me rather than ashamed of themselves. And to wrap it all up, I finally came to question if my biological parents were agreeing to meet me for genuine reasons or solely out of guilt, feeling obligated to do so.

Everything was hitting me out of left field and I just wasn’t prepared.

Beginning to Think Rationally

I am fully aware that my thoughts are irrational. I know that my biological parents likely had legitimate reasons for giving me up and they’re probably ashamed of themselves (not me). But I also know that I won’t know until I meet them in November and even so, I may never know the specific details. It all depends on what they’re willing to share with me. In light of all this, I’d like to believe that they put me up for adoption out of love, hoping I’d have a better life – one that they could not provide for me.

I am content with my life.

To address anyone’s curiosity, I don’t wish they had kept me. Now I know that sounds silly after everything I just said, but it’s true. All of my emotions are derived from a place of merely knowing. Knowing I have a biological sister and knowing my biological siblings will never know of my existence. I’m happy with the life I have and I wouldn’t want it any other way. My adoptive family is my family and they mean the world to me.

Final Thoughts

This entire situation is convoluted. Unless you’re adopted or a skilled empathizer, you just won’t understand the multitude of complexities that are involved in this situation. It’s not easy. And none of the emotions really hit me until the search became real. And it didn’t become real until Eastern made contact with my biological father. Before this defining moment, it all just seemed like I was living in a fantasy world.

The Future

November 27, 2016 – The Reunion

My approach going in is simple. I clearly had expectations previously and they didn’t work out in my favor. Instead of expecting anything, I’m going to do the reverse. I’m going to expect nothing or more realistically, expect the very least. To expect that my biological parents feel obligated to meet me in an attempt to release their guilt and shame. To expect that we’ll meet this one time and that will be it. This way if anything additional happens, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. The road will either end on November 27th or the story will continue to unfold. Either way, I’m prepared.

And either way, I learned a valuable lesson: expect the unexpected.

korean adoptee story

Until next time {xo},


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  • Reply Phyllis October 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    What a mixture of experiences and emotions you are sharing, and what a journey you are on. Whatever the outcome, I wish you peace and contentment. Love, Phyllis

    • Reply hippieseoul October 28, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you so very much. All my love to you as well

  • Reply Ty Reid October 29, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Wow Danielle!!! What an emotional roller coaster you are on. I pray that you get all that you “need” from this without having expectations. You are an amazing young lady with determination that I have not seen imuxh of in my life. I wish you lots of peace and love as you continue this amazing journey!

    • Reply hippieseoul November 23, 2016 at 1:44 am

      Sorry this response is late! Thank you for all of your kind words and love. Sending all my love to you and the family.

  • Reply John Williamson October 30, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Danielle, we are thinking of you as you work your way through this emotionally challenging process. We hope that it will go well and provide you answers that you are seeking. Whatever happens, know that there are many people who love and care about you.

    • Reply hippieseoul November 23, 2016 at 1:44 am

      John & Jan, thank you so very much! Sending all my love to you and the family.

  • Reply Monica October 31, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    That was heartbreaking to read, and I can only imagine how you must have felt getting that kind of news. I know the feeling of wanting to keep you expectations low in case things don’t turn out well. You are very strong and brave, and I know that whatever happens will make you stronger. I’ll be looking forward to your updates!

    • Reply hippieseoul November 23, 2016 at 1:46 am

      Hey Monica, I apologize for this late response! Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • Reply Dolly October 31, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    You are an amazing person. I’m so impressed with your skills for dealing with life’s challenges. Congratulation sir on living life to the fullest. Love Dolly

    • Reply hippieseoul November 23, 2016 at 1:48 am

      Dolly, I’m sorry this response is late. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Sending all my love to you and the family and I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.

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