Korea Notes: Arrival (airplane) Day

Airplane Day is the day my flight from South Korea landed in America from 25 years ago. Some people call it an Arrival Day or a “Gotcha” Day. Quite plainly, it’s the day that your family “gotcha.” Either way, it’s seemed a little comical to me over the years. I always believed that I had a special relationship with airplanes and pilots, and maybe I do. But there was always a stark difference between how I felt about being adopted versus being celebrated on Airplane Day.

The actual day was always a meal, party, or ritual about me being special. And, I appreciated it being important and recognized in my family. One year, I remember my cousins and I having a paper airplane contest that ended in me receiving a slab of foam board signed and commented with grateful comments and celebratory remarks. As I got older, it was nice dinners. Sometimes, just a lot of crying and no remarkable anythings – my choice.

And I’m not sure how to own that anymore – my choice regarding my adoption. I’ve found in the intertwined relationships of a single adoption, there’s not a lot of overlap of ownership regarding who (me) is where (US/Korea) and under what circumstance (adoptee/orphan). My adoptive parents couldn’t have children. My birth parents’ circumstance was likely a mess. I am just here, I guess.

Don’t read that as apathy or ingratitude. But, as hesitancy to renaming and reclaiming an ownership over something I never did. In recent years, adoptees have been vocalizing their points of views for themselves, as opposed to the adoptive-parent-driven-perspective that has mainly held the space. Further, I feel that there is an observatory characteristic in a lot of adoptee’s stories that deserves to be highlighted.

As a child, my label as different was internalized as kids mocked and jeered at someone with a different face and different skin. As a teenager, the pieces fell into place regarding my parents’ infertility, mental health, and the search for a place in this life. In young adulthood, the understanding of my place in between two couples who couldn’t fulfil their dreams of family-rearing fleshed out as I neared a mirrored life stage. But really, I feel that a lot of who I was was earmarked by an “other” narrative. Sandwiched somewhere between infertility and bastardom, it was my own little plane – if you will. But I wasn’t the one piloting it.

And now, as I am knee-deep in figuring the piloting thing out for myself… I feel a lot of emotions.

My conversations with my mother have been emotional and intense. And, they should be considering Covid and the completion of my first year teaching abroad. We both are facing tremendous grief from loss of several things. From a changing mother-son relationship to being the furthest from each other that we’ve ever been, it’s thick with nuance and most of all, love.

As of this year, I had some correspondence with my birth mother that left me feeling more angry, disappointed, and abandoned as ever.

Meanwhile, I’ve met amazing, kind, brilliant, energetic people here and have certainly had the coattails of feeling “Belonging” (whatever that means). I feel like I’ve taught kindergarteners for 15 years rather than one (educator friends, what’s up). I’ve chased love. I’ve jumped headfirst into an adoptee community of healing, bitterness, and connection. I’ve lived my fucking life and have felt it at the end of everyday.

But this is what I’m doing. And I don’t feel at all like I’m just here for a ride. It feels like I’m here for myself. I’m going in the direction I fully choose. Right through the fog. Right across the Rubicon. And in this airplane there’s a lot of hurt, pain, anger, joy, love, sadness, disappointment, anxiety, confusion, lament, longing, hope, discomfort, and a bunch of other things that I can’t and don’t need to aritculate.

Happy Holidays,

Cheers to being here,

Karl.

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