Home. Family. Belonging. Love.
These are words that have often had both simple and confusing definitions for me.
We are taught about love throughout our lives and these lessons begin before we are born. We learn what love is through the demonstration of it in our lives. We learn too through any spaces or places that lack it. Our sensitive and wondrous bodies and brains remember this. We are established with a foundation and framework for how we see the world based on what the world shows us.
I had many teachers for this when I was born. As a baby born in South Korea, four people contributed to roles we call “parents” – two birth parents, two adoptive parents. Each one has had a direct and complex impact on my life and shaped who I’ve become. There were also a multitude of others involved in the progression of my early life, people unknown to me who facilitated my care and adoption across the globe before the internet, including one who joined me on a plane as I flew from South Korea to the USA to meet my American parents in Missouri. This adventure across the globe was the beginning of a new life for me in America.
Growing up, I knew what love was through these people, my mom and dad. Often times this was so unyielding that I’d forget I was adopted. My parents taught me love in many ways, through their affection and support…such as my dad’s quiet acts of service as he would meet me throughout my teenage years when I had locked my keys in my car yet again, and my mom’s jovial ways of giving us lots of time together, just the two of us. I felt I belonged and I felt loved. And that’s when all felt right in the world, in our small predominantly white town in suburban Missouri with little diversity and lots of cornfields.
I’d be reminded of the reality in sharp and subtle ways. Reminders came from kids and adults alike and I’d be given remarks about my skin color, eyes or questions about my origin that I didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t know the answers and the reality of them made me feel heartbreakingly different. It felt so much better to fit in and feel like I was no different than mostly everyone I had ever met.
As I grew older, life brought me other circumstances and new lessons to navigate. As a young adult, I was faced with unsettling medical concerns presumed to be genetic, reminding me once again of adoption’s sharp reality. This prompted me to search for my birth family in Korea with reluctant urgency as I feared what was unknown to me about my health history. While friends were settling in their first jobs after college, I was on a plane trekking across the globe as a young naïve Missourian to meet the people who brought me into this world. It’s taken years to lighten and relieve the aftermath of this trek and the pain it surfaced while simultaneously being an active participant in the traditional American life. The road has always been paved for great adventure.
After many years of reflecting on these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about the human heart through my own uniquely flavored experiences. It has been a very loyal teacher. Meeting my birth parents and sister and brother in Korea is a complex subject swirled with layers of ache and peace both superficial and deep. It holds many really remarkable lessons that have influenced everything I am. It has given me much time to reflect on terms we hold so dear to our lives…home, family, belonging, love. And sometimes it is still both simple and confusing.
Life as an adopted child gives us a different way of seeing, questioning, trusting and understanding the world. I believe this lens is often rooted in both hope and anguish. We’ve had interesting family journeys influenced by the histories and actions of more than one country. We’ve experienced profound loss and gain. I believe this gives all adoptees lifelong admission to a specialized training in inner conflict and resolution. The classroom is our lives.
The journey I’ve had in this life is the only one I know. Everything I am is rooted in the journey that uprooted me from my motherland country for America. It has given me a deep sense of empathy for others. It has given me a sometimes tumultuous friendship with grief and loss. It has given me perfectionist tendencies and perfectionist retirement. It has given me many hard lessons in forgiveness and grace, and gratitude for both tragedy and fortune. It is a two-sided coin. A coin that is shiny and reflecting light while the other side is covered in light smudgy shadows. These two sides create the value. The two sides make the one coin everything it is—and everything I am.
Kate Powers grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a self-love advocate, life coach, educator and bodyworker. To learn more about Kate, visit itskatepowers.com.