Thursday, March 10, 2011

Small town girl blues

Well, it’s time for those famous two words that every college student craves to hear: spring break. One of my professors optimistically wished us a week of ‘sunning and funning’. She has a sense of humor. I say that since most of us will be spending said week in cold, rainy New York. I’m heading back to the hometown for some quality time with family, high school friends and my favorite local Greek restaurant. And I will get to snuggle my sheltie and celebrate her second birthday with her. All of these things are good things. Great things, even.

But. (And you knew a ‘but’ was coming.) In my heart of hearts I am not excited about it. In fact, I seem to be heading towards something closer to depression than elation. This sinking feeling has slowly, quietly crept its way in and I can’t deny it any longer. This is only a taste of things to come..of a future that I’ve realized I really, really don’t want.

After I graduate this May, I will be moving back home. Temporarily, at least. I made this decision a long time ago and, for a while, actually looked forward to that decision. I did not warm up to the city I currently reside in for school right away. I missed home, missed my mom who was ill at the time and missed the kisses from my dog. I chose to move back home post-graduation because, frankly, my mom is aging. She’s 68 and lives alone. Without getting into too many details, her physical and mental health have not been well over the past number of years. I first stepped into caregiver shoes at 19 and it really does come down to me. I am her proxy, her advocate, the one responsible over all others for her. I can’t stray too far. And, for a while, I was okay with that.

But it’s been almost two years since I moved out here for graduate school and suddenly two years doesn’t seem long enough. I’m not ready to leave. This is the first place I’ve lived in my young adult life that I’ve felt so free and able to be me. I have had many fulfilling experiences since being here that have contributed beautifully to my growing sense of identity. I started mentoring a few international students from Korea which has been incredible. They are such sweet people and we have learned so much from each other. I also started meeting up with other Korean adoptees around my age in the area. To find company where you can candidly talk about homeland tours, birth family searches and awkward racial experiences is a gift. A complete gift. Here, there are Korean restaurants, markets, churches..even a noraebang house (which I have not yet embarrassed myself at, but maybe soon). Here is a place I’ve found myself belonging and content in. It’s so much more than I ever had before.

In comparison, my hometown is much smaller and much less diverse. There is no opportunity for me to embrace my KAD identity there. There is nothing Korean there! And maybe I didn’t notice so much as a child, but today I resent it a little. It makes me feel hurt and sad that my heritage does not exist there, that I had to grow up in a neighborhood which I singlehandedly diversified. My mom doesn’t even know any Asians other than me and a handful of KADs from our adoption group. I need to live someplace where I can actually feel culturally relevant and validated. I love my mom more than I’ve ever loved any other human being on this earth. It's been just the two of us against the world for as long as I can remember. Why isn’t that love enough to make me want to stay? I talk of moving back as if I have no other choice which is not entirely true. We always have choices. It's just that being in the throes of a 'life sucks' moment makes them a little hard to see. Sometimes being a transracial adoptee feels like trying to walk in two different directons at once.


  1. *hugs* I'm sorry you're having to deal with this. A bit of a different situation, but I sometimes resent living in a small town... but that's where I got a job and that's what's going on in my life right now. Le sigh. Send all my best to your mum. Are you going to be back home around Easter? I'm visiting my family then and intend to go to the roller derby match. Maybe we could see each other there? I'm going to know a girl from each team which is kind of cool/convenient!

  2. Could your mom come be where ever it is you want to be so that you can still be there for her but yet live somewhere that feels more fulfilling? It's not easy being "the one" no matter how much you love a parent. I'm "the one" too. I don't HAVE to be, but yet I do.

  3. Thanks Mel. I won't be in the area for Easter this year, but we'll have to find a time to get together. It's been too long! Maybe we can round up some of the old crew for dinner and drinks sometime in May or June.

    Campbell, although I have considered that option, I know my mom doesn't want to leave where she is and I don't blame her. She has a lot of supports in place, a life already well established here. I agree--being 'the one' is no easy role to be in. I appreciate your comment and knowing that someone else is in the same position. Those of us who assume these responsibilities I think often put more pressure on ourselves than anyone else.