BKH doesn’t live in Minnesota, and he grew up for most of his life in the Boulder, CO area. He made a jaunt through Minnesota, though, in less than ideal circumstances. BKH disagrees, but I think his story is inspiring. Read on.
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: What’s it like working in Washington, DC?
BKH: This is a question that has unique implications, because I came to DC because my ex wife (who is also a Korean adoptee) got a job with a major publication. Not being an individual who has made the best choices in his life, I jumped in head first without really thinking about how it my affect my life, when asked if I wanted to live in DC. I prided myself on being the spontaneous sort and I told my ex wife at the time that, it’s a great opportunity for you and it would be exciting to pick up and move. Now that I am divorced, I often wonder why I ever said yes.
I find working in DC quite challenging. People often say that DC really makes one aware of race in a negative way. I think I have to agree. Maybe I think this is so because I was moving here from San Francisco, a place that had ideals that at least implied that race should not be a factor in life. But who am I kidding, it was in SF where I really started to make friends with other Asians, and really began hanging out with them exclusively. In DC, this type of socializing really solidified for me, because I don’t really have any Caucasian friends. Even at work, I don’t hang out with any Caucasians, or African Americans for that matter. One African American coworker asked me why we Asians all hang out together. I found it humorous, because she was referring to four of us Asians, two of us, never hung out with the other. I asked her why she only hung out with black people, she was taken off guard and saw that she was guilty as charged. It was from there, we (the African American woman and I) started to hang out together a little bit, but after moving offices, I am sort of back to my old ways. This embarrassing for me to admit, but it is what it is.
So what is it like to work here in DC? Well, I am glad I have a job, but I have to honestly say, that work kind of sucks, because of this sense of segregation (and for other reasons as well, some of which are indicated below) and disunity. It also seems that even in the work place (I work for the federal government) in a city like this, one cannot escape stereotypes – which I tend to abhor. I was quite offended by the behavior of Caucasians and African Americans alike. Maybe it was because that, I was too aware of race and was too sensitive myself. But, unless I make a real effort to mingle with other races, I usually end up only hanging out with other Asians. This is probably not true for all Asians, but it is true for me, as an adoptee, who is now jaded by life, disillusioned by a perfect world that my hippie parents had drawn up for me. Yes, I could move to another city, but I feel that it might be the same else where, unless I can change my views and behaviors.
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: How old were you when you were adopted? You were initially adopted by a family in Minnesota, right?
BKH: I was 7 years old when I was adopted by my family in Minnesota. One year after they adopted me, I was readopted by a family in Colorado, due to a divorce. This exchange of families was not weird for me as I had been exchanged 5 times in Korea, before arriving in the United States. When people become aware of my exchanges, they always say with great wonder, how come you are so well adjusted? I then think with a smile, the joke’s on you. Ha, ha, ha!
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Does your history impact your perspective on adoption as a practice?
BKH: I think it is a practice that has little foresight of how it affects the future of the adoptee. I feel like I was robbed of a normal life where I was in control and engaging in a normal way. Being adopted I think, especially at an older age, had put into my subconscious that I am not in control of my own life. That is, I did not want to be “exchanged,” but I had no choice – and this happened often to me. Yes, I think this is why I feel as if I have no control over my life. It is a haunting feeling, I did not know that this was how approached life until recently. I really struggle mightily with this belief (false or not).
I don’t feel like that I have engaged normally because I feel like I was always trying to fit into a Caucasian society, (but never new that I was not Caucasian until later in life, perhaps in my early twenties). I was so obsessed with fitting in, I denounced everything Asian. Looking back on how I tried so hard to fit in, I feel like I was barking up the wrong tree for years. Makes me want to bang my head against a wall. I am grateful that I am not a violent individual, because I harbor so much disappointment, i.e. anger. I still feel as if I am disengaged, perhaps because I can see the futility in the many years of trying to fit in. Perhaps, I am still trying to. Maybe not as a Caucasian but as a normal person, but I feel like I am still coming up short. Still, I manage to have a lot of pride in being Korean, I couldn’t really tell you why though.
This perception of lacking control and disengagement really affects my personal life and my work life. I tend to have a very apathetic approach to life because of this perception. It used to be that I could hide this apathy and really appear engaged and enthusiastic. But I find it tougher and tougher to hide this apathy with time, and it worries me. I have such a hard time motivating my self, or convincing myself, that I am in control. I do what I can through transcendental meditation and good advice, to keep holding out for happiness… however, I have and I do experience happiness it often, if thoughts of the past remain under control. But many times, I find it really tough to feel under control and engaged. Maybe this is normal?
So, yes, my history does impact my perspective of adoption as a practice, but each individual is highly intelligent and complex with different experiences and thought processes. I think that we can find a million different emotional views on adoption by individual adoptees. With this in mind, I don’t know whether I can say that adoption is categorically good or bad. I could have ended up a hobo, wishing that I was adopted.