“I have a right to my own story. I have a right to be a complete person. Even if I never meet my birth family, they can still be a part of my present and the sense of who I am. It is possible to have connections with both of my families. It is not a competition...Identity is a lifelong journey.“ - Kathleen Ja Sook Bergquist
For the past several months, I have been struggling with my identity - maybe not with all of it but parts of it.
The problem is that I can not remove one part of myself without the other parts.
And no, it is not an “identity crisis”...yet.
Mainly because I have not arrived at a decisive or critical moment. But it is what I have been calling my “identity discovery.” My counselor calls it my identity journey, but I feel like sifting through my particular bucket of bullshit that is my life is The Journey. With where I am at in my discovery, I can not easily put into words the who, what, where, when, how, and why I am struggling. I can make guesses, but I am not 100% sure. I guess I could Google search “Am I experiencing an identity crisis?” to see if all of the signs point to “YES?!?!?!” But I am actually afraid to…
Here is what I do know when it comes to delving into how I am feeling: adrift, untethered, in-between, isolated (geographically speaking) from others who would understand my feelings, thoughts, and emotions. At times, I feel confused, uncomfortable in my own skin, yearning, longing, disconnected, and searching for these unknown pieces of me. Like some adoptees, I struggle to understand who I am and how I fit within my relationship to the adoption triangle. I was raised in a Southern, white, evangelical Christian household, so I am also untangling what it means to be South Korean without having been raised in South Korean culture or South Korea itself.
Although I feel those as an individual, I am not a complete Negative Nancy. I do have some positive feelings. As a parent, I also feel wonder, curiosity, and hope through the eyes of my children. I know that my children experience and will likely have a different relationship with South Korea than I did at their age and even now. No matter my feelings about South Korea, it is a country of their origin too, and I am not going to take away their opportunity to learn more. I foster it and watch it grow. I am grateful they are curious and want to learn more about South Korea. They are in their second year of Korean School where they get to see faces that look like mine and are able to be a part of our local Korean American community. I find that positive visual representation and “mirroring” are important to children of color. I wish I had that when I was growing up.
With more time, I hope my current feelings about my identity will be easier to understand and be less of a struggle and a burden to bear. Even though I am a problem solver by nature, I cannot find a quick solution for this. In the meantime, I muddle my way through giving myself time and space to process being a culturally Southern white person, stuck in a Korean person’s body. After all, identity is a lifelong journey, and I have the right to be a complete person.
Rebecca Cheek (she/her/hers) is a transracial Korean American adoptee currently living in South Carolina. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a background in manufacturing of drug delivery systems and quality assurance management in chemical manufacturing. However, she is currently taking a pause in her professional career to raise her children and trying to figure out what she wants to do when she (really) grows up. In the meantime, she’s actively volunteering in her community through multiple organizations. She’s a peace seeker, who strives to live her life yogically. She enjoys knitting, hand-lettering, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.