Monday, December 13, 2010

To search or not to search

Last week I rather impulsively sent an email to the agency through which my parents adopted me inquiring about access to my records. I have yet to receive a response. I think my next move will be to call the agency after the holiday season has settled down if I don’t hear from them. Plus I need time to go home to discuss records with my mom and dig up whatever’s in the house. The email didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but it really was my first tentative step towards the idea of search and reunion. Which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

I was first presented with a clear opportunity to search for my birth family when I was 10 and I turned it down. My mom and I had recently committed to going on a homeland tour which fostered search and reunion for adoptees. It all made me uneasy. My sense of reality was intact, but my birth parents were so remote, practically a figment of my imagination. The thought of suddenly going to Korea and meeting them, touching them, finding out they were tangible people was a lot to process. I was living my life as a child. To bring in this new facet felt like an intrusion somehow and I was scared of it. A number of adoptees on our tour met birth family, including younger kids around my age. I did not even for a second envy them. I was not ready to introduce that kind of change into my life.

Actually, at 24, I am still not sure. Not really. Who can say? There is absolutely no foolproof way of preparing to do a birth family search. No way to predict what developments will arise out of the process. And no way to undo what you start. On one hand, it seems almost easier to keep this part of my life shrouded in mystery and accept that there will always be unknowns. Staying perfectly still like that, well, it’s self-preservation. What you don’t know might actually hurt less than what you end up finding out. To open up the door and go on that search is a big deal! A risk! And those things are just never easy no matter how you slice them. My aunt Jan once told me that with every decision we are tasked to make, there is always risk and benefit. I thought that was an interesting way to phrase things. Risk and benefit. We have the ability to both help and hurt ourselves. But don’t we owe it to ourselves to believe, in spite of any negatives, that something good can happen to us?

Even with the uncertainty that I continue to feel, my scale is tipped in favor of benefit. I could wear myself out compiling a list of possible outcomes from initiating a search, but then I think of that simple phrase: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Why exhaust myself mulling over the possibilities, including and especially the negative ones when they are not yet reality? Of those possibilities, most of them will never even be born into reality. It makes no sense to stress myself out over that which does not exist. It makes much more sense to have faith that no matter what happens, I will have the strength to meet it and the world will keep spinning. I have to believe that the risk has a chance of leading to benefit or else why go through all the effort? The possibility of meeting the people who brought me into this world is a beautiful possibility. If my search turns up no one, at least I will be able to say that I took that risk. I don’t want to spend my whole life wondering and living in regret for the choices I didn’t make.

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