I went to Korea to find a piece of me, but what I found was a whole pie just waiting for me to dig in. The culture, the beauty of the people, the food (though not so good sometimes), the history, the land, the rice paddies, and best of all, my birth family.
It was all mine and I was finally giving myself the chance to claim it. I tried to soak up all of the beauty and breathe it all in so I could take some back with me when it was time to go. Korea is not only a part of me; it defines who I am, where my roots are and where I came from.
I no longer want to push it away. I am embracing it with open arms, and something has shifted inside of me. I am finally and genuinely proud of who I am. I am no longer trying to be someone I’m not. A weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I am completely and utterly awestruck at the endless beauty of Korea.
During my time there, I was unusually quiet. I was experiencing profound changes inside, and needed space and time to process it. Not only was I meeting my birth family for the first time in 30 years, I was finally understanding what it felt like to be proud of where I came from.
“I was running away from who I AM. For years I’d lived that way.”
I’d spent decades hating who I was and being ashamed of being Asian. I wasn’t even able to say the word “Asian” for many years. It was the most difficult thing waking up in the morning and hating the reflection staring back at me.
My parents told me time and time again how beautiful I was, but I was waiting for my Caucasian peers to see it too. Where I grew up, it was very hard to be different, and I was reminded of it frequently. I’d had a hard time dating boys; because for them, dating an Asian girl was just too different for them. I’d been told that many times when a “crush” didn’t like me back.
I started to believe that there was something chronically wrong with me because of my race and shut out any and all things remotely Asian, hoping it would make me more Caucasian, and therefore more likeable.
I was running away from who I AM. For years I’d lived that way, but I still faced racism in many different ways. No matter how far I ran, being me still caught up with me.
I struggled with debilitating depression and continued to spiral downward. I was not only dealing with self-hatred, but also suffering from painful feelings of being unwanted and unloved by my birth family. Though I had no way to validate I wasn’t wanted, I had guessed that was why I was given up for adoption, and so I felt it in rolling waves of pain and grief in my heart.
Finally, I had to muster up the courage to “go back” and try to heal some of that pain. And so my journey started my path to Korea. I was able to find my voice, and with that the strength that’s always been in me.
And during my travels back to my roots, I got to see how very much I was loved, and how I was always in my birth family’s hearts. No words will ever be able to describe how incredibly healing that was for me.
Now instead of running away from everything, I am running towards it. Today, my heart is full. Today, I know I am loved. And no one can ever take that away from me. Ever.
Here is a poem I wrote:
Your blood runs through my veins.
Your face is in my face.
I have traveled far,
And the piece of me that was missing finally falls into place.
I have walked into the fear,
And found that love was waiting for me on the other side.
Today I am whole.
Today I am loved.
About the Author: Annie Ermanis is an adult adoptee & Tour Korea! participant.Learn About Tour Korea! Birthland Tours