What does “Moving On” look like?

It seems at every juncture I turn and run smack into adoption.  I consciously try to avoid it, but it seems to seek me out.

For four decades I just lived my life and denied my otherly status.  Let me tell you:  that wasn’t a healthy strategy, though the world seemed very content with that.  Then for a half dozen years I steeled myself and faced what it means to be adopted head-on.  It was at that juncture that I suddenly found myself being labeled as having issues…

I bristle at the unfairness of that. The issues were not of my making yet I am supposed to absorb them effortlessly and without question?  

Perhaps if the issues were isolated events.  But they are not.  They are continuing, chronic occurrences that confound and complicate daily.  

For example:  

I’m happy I got sent to America. I’m not happy I was sent from Korea.



Just the duality one must live with when one is subject to identity and nationality reassignment at great personal loss. Disturbingly, often a loss that could have been prevented.

Pick any topic — food, culture, language, race/gender/politics — we international adoptees must balance this duality in all things. 

The edge is sharp.  

How does one “move on” when one is forced to sit on that razor’s edge on a daily basis?  

Hitting the issues hard has brought me closer to my full potential as an evolving human being.  Such efforts to really move on by adoptees are not appreciated nor do they count, because the road to having moved on is supposed to happen over-night, with the flick of a switch, and not be a long messy process.  We hear “quit your whining” or “get some perspective” and are chastised to “move on,” by the privileged who have no idea what it is like to have to straddle these dualities and balance so many seeming contradictions.  They make “moving on” sound like a matter of will alone.  As if the world really worked that way.  As if being free of issues is not something we want too.

My efforts are paying off:  I have quit shedding tears, I feel no bitterness (and only some justified anger at my adoption agency), I sympathize with everyone’s positions on all sides of the debate, try not to judge and allow everyone space to work out their process, and mostly put my energies into creating alternative ways of being.  I feel I’m becoming more holistic and balanced and mostly at peace.  Risking public condemnation for questioning adoption has allowed me to stop living a fake life and get closer to the truth of me.

AND YET, straddling the myriad dual truths, such as the example offered, means also that all the local/global social, class, and race issues of the world are suddenly more nuanced, complex, relevant, and even personal, because they are all inextricably intertwined with the root causes of the perpetuation of orphan creation and default solution of adoption. Feels like the more we attempt moving on and the more educated we become, the more out of reach resolution can possibly be, even when we are making great progress.

So I’d like to know:  what does “moving on” look like to you?  If not “moving on” then what alternative?  From practical to philosophical, how do we get there?  Is “moving on” even really what we need?

20 thoughts on “What does “Moving On” look like?

  1. I find I’ve ceased to believe in ‘moving on’ just as I don’t believe in ‘closure’ – the two are connected and not really possible in a situation like ours. For many there is ambiguous loss as well as loss and trauma. We learn to deal with what has happened to us, write our story and to cope with the outside world which is so full of challenges. It seems we cannot avoid being activists and educators except by withdrawing from a world in which adoption plays an ever increasing and visible role. For survival we may sometimes need to do that, to ‘disappear’ for a time, to recharge our batteries, to get on with living our lives in which adoption is but a part. Having blogs like this, so many adoptee bloggers, authors and creatives who maintain contact with each other has been the best thing that has ever happened to us! Apart from mutual support, we now have the means to myth-bust, the knowledge of other adoptees’ lives so that we know for instance we were not all ‘loved and wanted’ as some mothers would have us believe. There are so many myths, so many lies, secrets and so much misinformation,confusion and ignorance that the efforts of all of us will be needed for a long time to come.

  2. The outreach and connection definitely makes a difference. And I agree wholeheartedly that the desire to withdraw, although quite compelling, is a dangerous place for its isolation. We are “isolates”, which I find to be a kinder word than “quarantined”. To self-quarantine is to fulfill the adoption transaction, in terms of its logical extreme, which is our extermination. I’m channeling Tobias Hubinette here; as well as what adoption was originally designed to do, individually and in terms of our communities. The contradiction of being selected and separated in order to create a societal unit that is primordially based on connection and belonging is unbearable.

    I find these isolations to be recursive. By that I mean to say that this razor’s edge that we speak of tends to isolate us instead of blend us in. If we attempt to do what the culture asks of those it marginalizes—form community one step up—then we are just as isolated within the greater culture. This is the nature of our adoptive cultures though. It always breaks my heart when I see this as a “chosen direction”, meaning, when we claim to be just advocates for ourselves as adoptees, for example. Why? Because to isolate ourselves in any way is to mimic that initial adoptive act.

    I think I was lucky to find a tiny niche in the neoliberal nightmare of Lebanon that is sustaining for its horizontality. I mean that because of tenets based in faith, and due to particular cultural aspects of certain segments of the population, it has been possible for me to approach something we might call “fitting in”. Not 100%. Not in any kind of romantic notion of true “return”. But enough to give me a glance of what “might have been”. These moments, as I’ve described here, sneak up on me, and they terrify me frankly. In a weird way, the razor’s edge is still “safer”, because we haven’t decided definitively on just one side or the other.

    This comes at a cost, however. Our jobs, livelihood, prospects for the future, are all in the hands of those locally who are of the same class as our adopters. And they, in turn, do not take kindly to any show of “ingratitude” or criticism. So “moving on” for me at least has meant “moving down and out”. And the rejections from those we are supposed to be beholden to pile up again and again, each time I attempt to make “re-entry”. And they echo, yet again, in quite destructive ways, what was the original rejection of our adoptions.

    So, like Von, I don’t know that there is “moving on”. I don’t believe there can be “closure” either. We belong to a economic and political social experiment, lasting for over a century, which, should this world survive, will have been a bizarre blip historically speaking. I’m not saying that to belittle what has happened to us. I’m saying instead that for me the “exit” from the existential dilemma involves 1) not recreating the parameters or actions of the original adoption in all of its political exclusion, racism, and classism; and 2) moving against the desire to “isolate” (see #1).

    To this second point, I have found it helpful to expand our categorization to others equally “dispossessed, displaced, and disinherited” by other migratory acts: slavery, trafficking, gentrification, immigration, land occupation, apartheid, and enforced statelessness. At this point, we are legion, and should act that way. Meaning, there’s a lot of common cause to make. Unfortunately, this ability to find common cause isn’t currently to be found in our cultures of acculturation, where identity politics and other isolations rule. I recently wrote up a post on “radical psychology” in order to present similar concepts that I have found of value. No surprise, they come from every part of the world population except the class of those with the luxury and privilege to adopt.

    In 2010 the artists’ collective I started was working on posters documenting day-to-day life for Palestinians. A local newspaper was going to print them up with its daily edition. At one point one of the members looked at me and said: “And what if no one puts our posters up?” I said: “If out of those 20,000 newspapers printed up one Palestinian kid in one of the camps puts one poster up on his or her wall and the rest get thrown away, this will have made it worth it.” I’m still incredibly humbled when I go to a Palestinian camp here and see the remnants of our posters on the walls. I need not even discuss my adoption at this point; there is an “unstated” that I find consolation in.

    Moving on to me implies having managed to accept the inversions and contradictions of adoption, which I cannot do. I can, however, seek out those who are in similar straits and try and find “common cause” with them. Right now, at this point in my life, this suffices. And I can live with that. If one person finds solace or succor in anything we say, then all the better. Perhaps life has worn down the sharp and jagged-glass edges of my regrets. I’m still not comfortable with them, but I’m almost at the point of not bleeding for them I think.

    • You noted: “We are “isolates”, which I find to be a kinder word than “quarantined””

      Hopefully the below (from Schiller’s “On The Sublime”) will have enough self-context to make sense, but it points to the distinction between self-isolation compared to quarantine:

      “This would, then, be the end of [a human’s] freedom, if he were capable only of physical science. But he is supposed to be a human being unconditionally, and should therefore under no circumstances suffer anything against his will. If he is no longer able to oppose physical force by his relatively weaker physical force, then the only thing that remains to him, if he is not to suffer violence, is to eliminate utterly and completely a relationship that is so disadvantageous to him, and to destroy the very concept of a force to which he must in fact succumb. To destroy the very concept of a force means simply to submit to it voluntarily. The science that enables us to do this is called moral science.”

      The key sentence to me is, “To destroy the very concept of a force means simply to submit to it voluntarily.”

      For the record, by this kind of force Schiller means specifically and only “necessity,” that which in fact may not be avoided by other means. One’s body demands nutrients, which by that very demand thwarts our free will, or the free operation of our will. Thus, we submit to that force voluntarily to maintain our human dignity. So another key emphasis becomes, “If he is no longer able to oppose physical force by his relatively weaker physical force”–this clearly presupposes cases where opposition to a force, even if superior, remains a necessity in advance of any voluntary submission.

      All that being said, self-isolation clearly represents a kind of voluntary submission, a preemptive self-isolation in advance of any undignified and enforced quarantining by a physically greater force. The question we might ask (and which Schiller might ask) would be: have we in fact reached the moment of “no longer being able to oppose” physical force when we self-isolate, or have we acted too preemptively, for the understandable reason that we did not want to face destruction by the superior physical force in the first place by standing up to it.

      Schiller’s whole essay is here in what seems to also be a fantastic translation: http://www.studiocleo.com/librarie/schiller/essay.html

  3. Bearing in mind that E. Kubler-Ross herself said that the sequence of her famous five stages of grief model did not always happen in the same order (a tidy bet-hedging in my opinion), she speaks of: (1) denial, (2) depression, (3) bargaining, (4) anger, and (5) acceptance.

    Some time in college (in 1985, when one still came out on campus by going to the counselling center), someone presented this model as a way to understand coming out as well. In this context, one begins by denying one is gay (step 1), then admits it but is traumatized by the fact (step 2), then starts making assimilationist gestures (step 3), as exemplified by the plea for mercy in Radclyffe Hall’s “Well of Loneliness,” then (when that doesn’t work out or doesn’t turn out to be feasible), an activist stage kicks in (step 4), followed by a final place of peace (step 5). In this context, “moving on” would definitely be step 5.

    There are manifold problems with this politically. For one, it makes the problem strictly personal–one’s grief (one’s death, one’s coming out) has only to do with me, and no one else. This is false. Death is a distinctly public affair having essentially nothing to do with the dead person (even if certain myths about the afterlife prove true, because even there one’s social presence as a spirit in need of appeasement continues to be experienced as a public, not private, event). Obviously, the individual still must deal with the fact of death (or homosexuality) but individuality itself need not be (and should not be) conceptualized as personal only, or even personal at all.

    Less abstractly, this model specifically prioritizes “getting over anger” as a necessary step toward healing. Like a psychological regression model, it says that becoming anger-retentive constitutes a mistake, and this has obvious political consequences. The angry homosexual (or orphan) is the “not yet fully grown up” homosexual or orphan. Others (the privileged) have already failed at the assimilationist project, been angry, and gotten over it (within the context of their privileged standpoint), so what’s good for the gander should be good for the goose (to hide the inequality of the sexes in my example).

    Of course, part of the appeal of this is that being in a constant state of anger is less pleasant than acceptance, so there’s a strong personal appeal to this kind of progress. We could articulate further stages: stage 6 (activism). One could argue that “angry” politics get less done than “activist” politics (or get done more undesirable things), but however that goes, “acceptance” can’t be the end of things, because that’s just quietism and assimilation by a prettier name. And certianly not something generally available to the classes not permitted any peace of mind in the first place. Also, in the absence of some other motivating emotion, if “anger” is all there is to drive activism, then we still need activism, even if anger doesn’t always wind up where we want.

    • Ha ha! I wrote this post looking I guess for concrete tips/techniques others employ. That was silly of me!

      Unlike eagoodlife, I do believe in closure and have felt it, though I don’t necessarily believe in justice anymore. But I get angry when others apart from myself insist on irritating that freshly closed tissue.

      Your answer, Snow Loepard, very much brings to mind parallels to Barbara Erenreich’s “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World.” Where she outlines mandatory optimism as a tool for fascist control – laying all blame on those being exploited.

      Being realistic is the only means we can afford to truly solve any problems. But I also don’t want to exhaust my entire life by convincing the whole world in denial that the emperor wears no clothes. Because I deserve respite from the issues as much, if not more, as them. Awareness is my sentence, but I don’t want it to be my prison either.

      • To be fair, you asked for practical and philosophical feedback! I know for myself that I see the two as going hand in hand, theory and practice, thought and action.

        I think too that the “practical” advice I read here is that activating oneself is a definite answer. It is not at all an “easier” life, to be sure, but I think for many it removes focus on the lone self.

        Which is what SL alludes to when we read about “five stages” of this or that, which I have always found suspect. The “closure” we seek is along our terms, or how the society might prefer we be. We see this in the video you posted.

        My desire to seek out “radical psychology” is based exactly here: I don’t want to have anything to do with the cultural mores or analyses or diagnoses from the societal class that allowed my adoption in the first place.

        Is this realistic? Perhaps not. Have I reached any sense of closure? I would call it more the fatigue that comes after angrily screaming about the injustice of it all. But this is “self-building” in other ways.

        I recently had an experience where the possibility of going back to the States raised its head. The stress of thinking about it was overwhelming, and I realize that “closure”—as defined by that culture—is far away.

        Having said that, I don’t find “closure” in the “five steps and your done/lobotomy” sense to be of much value. I think that defining the very idea of “closure” as being just another cultural “misleading” is, in and of itself a closure.

        I’m curious though: When any of us returns to our place of birth, is there any way for us to know what is waiting for us? Korea is leagues ahead of other places in terms of infrastructure and support of those attempting rematriation, was any of this helpful to those who go back—in the sense of providing something “concrete and practical”?

        And then after, returning to our places of acculturation, the same question. I guess I’m skeptical that “concrete tips” might even exist.

        I think there is also some misunderstanding in thinking that we are simply “exhausting our lives” trying to convince those who refuse to see and hear. I’ve never considered this my goal, personally speaking. The media works in a way that this group with the luxury and privilege to adopt and then speak about it requires an engagement, although of late I see this as less and less valid.

        The Palestinians often say: “Existence is Resistance”. For me, if personal “closure” means letting the dominant culture off the hook, then I don’t want anything to do with it.

      • Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
        The way I see it, having adoption rule or define my life means they have won.

        I deserve time for me.

        And I don’t think that means I’ve let anyone off the hook. Besides, I made marks.
        And I don’t think that I’m contributing to the extinction of our species.
        And I don’t think that is selfish, as I’ve never done that before, I’m fifty now, and I can feel how precious my time left is.

        Closure to me means saying adieu with peace in your heart. I forgave allmy parents, all four of them – the two that gave me up, the one who abused me, the one who didn’t know how to love – I just woke up one day and realized I’d nothing to hold against them anymore.

        But I don’t think (will have to re-read my original post) I was necessarily talking about closure. I think I was talking about moving on, living with the seeming contradictions that we are, managing that razor’s edge, and making progress.

        I totally believe in being agents of the change we want to see. But I also totally don’t believe I was born solely for the purpose of fighting this single issue. While I would love to see the institution of international adoption crumble in ashes, I’m not going to dedicate/forfeit my life to bring something down. I’d rather build something up.


        Besides which I think the adoption industry is just one small part of an entire geo-political system that is rotten to the core, that exploits the poor and marginalizes people of color to the benefit or beatification of the privileged.

        My problem with activism in general, and even more acutely with adoption activism, is it’s all-or-nothing neediness, and its consumption of its actors. While some people can certainly do this, I get concerned when activism is given as the answer for everything. I think that loses a lot of people – people who don’t have the luxury of such focus, who aren’t ready, who are juggling more than they can handle. It’s not THE answer. I think it’s just a small part of the answer. But if it IS any part of the answer, then it has to be made more accessible and manageable and sustainable.

        For me, one practical thing was letting go of justice. I just (seriously) don’t believe in it anymore. Trayvon Martin’s case is a good example of that, for instance. That brought incredible peace to me when I let that go. Now I can work on a better world without being angry. That’s huge.

        But the reason I brought up the topic at all was because, despite that progress, meeting other people who were adopted I feel that sharp edge anew.

        Maybe the answer is to just talk more.

      • Talk more, yes. Because “agreeing to disagree” is the opposite of that.

        I think we’re getting into some complex stuff here, and as we’re talking I’m seeing room for clarification and more exchange.

        The idea of “closure” as in no longer being angry at one’s parents, yeah. I get this. When my adoptive father passed away a few years ago, I resolved to let that go. The more I learn about my likely family here, I understand the poverty that I likely come from, and I am close I think to the point where I can say “there’s no longer any point in searching for that”. I’ve come close to no longer feeling the sense of “regret” that I felt 10 years ago which propelled me to come here: “If I don’t search, I’ll never know”. So it’s not really a binary, “closure/no closure”, but a spectrum.

        I find what you are saying about adoption “ruling one’s life” very interesting. Because I see it the exact opposite. Meaning, it would be preferred, to me, that we “forget” and not discuss, and go with the mythology. To not do this is to be a wrench in the works. I’m trying to “flip it” and I have a hard time….but it deserves more time perhaps….

        I too have an issue with “adoption as single issue” activism. So here we agree. And I say “there’s no justice” in Arabic all the time it seems….

        I think a lot about this greater aspect. I was acculturated in a neoliberal society which used to have a safety net, more or less. I see it in decline, and I think of its post-war ascendance which was the active agent of our adoptions (many of us). Much of what I remember as representing community has been killed. I was born in a nation designed to be a neoliberal entity with no safety net whatsoever, and the only consolation I can take here is that its mafiosa politics are the same “back there”, only not formalized. And yet, strong sense of community perseveres.

        Ping-ponging between the two, riding the razor’s edge, is fatiguing beyond belief. There are safe spaces, people I take comfort with, ways of maneuvering it all. Moving on perhaps means “dealing with”….And to me “dealing with” means finding those of like mind, working in perhaps very minor ways, but who at least realize we cannot continue “business as usual”.

        I love the Fuller quote. I used to give a reading on him in a class I taught called “Voice Manifest”. It’s not well known that he worked with a group of young people on the Lower East Side in the early 1970s.


        Activism to me is along these lines, not the full-time NGO-ish job that is as much of the system as what one putatively is fighting.

        I’ll leave it go at that, before I ramble on any more….

      • Part of me really appreciates the details of the exchange here. Part of me feels envious of the luxury that partly involves it–bipping around the world, relocating–never mind the fucked up mess that there’s no “where” I get to rematriate to.

        I’m making a criticism but not with a critical tone, except that the hurt of the whole thing makes me (sound) grumpy. I should hope that no one would think I’m “coming out of the woodwork” at them.

        How much money would it take to relocate me and my mate to India, for example, or Vietnam? How about some concrete financial activism for orphans who have no means to be international?

      • Just to be clear, I’m not living a life of luxury; quite the opposite. And I’ve lost much more than I’ve gained, if I really think about it. I categorically reject all ideas of ex-pat living, cosmopolitanism, and Wallpaper magazine–style living. I don’t “bip” for that matter either. I don’t speak of this to brag, and I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy. So I think we need to make a very clear distinction between what you are describing—a kind of galavanting around the world—and the experience of “return” for adoptees.

      • Daniel: I apologise that you feel you have to respond, “Just to be clear, I’m not living a life of luxury; quite the opposite,” &c. Didn’t I include enough qualifiers and positionality in my post to make this sort of thing unnecessary. I’m certainly not accusing you of a rosy existence, &c.

        Also, if you (or anyone reading) has to remind themselves continuously, my mood as I write this has nothing of anger or heat in it. Maybe that’s unfortunate. Nor am I writing to “set my record straight” in some way. I’m approaching the whole issue, not responding only personally. That’d be more appropriate in emails.

        What I should be hearing in your statement is a “warning against return” so to speak. But like any little brother (or child), it’s our job not to believe the warnings of our elders. And anyway, it doesn’t answer the longing in the first place not (in my case) to find my origins, but to find a place where my environment is filled less with neoliberalized egotists (like myself?), and more with human beings. I don’t get to conflate “origins” and “shangri-la” (he said with plenty of self-conscious and self-aware irony), but I also don’t get to relocate at all.

        I have no place of origin. I have nowhere. I have nowhere I get to have that (illusory) hope about, except that I could choose anywhere by HERE. I’m from Antarctica, perhaps. (I love Antarctica.) I’m from outer space. (I love outer space.) Clearly I love cold places–I’m not a snow leopard for nothing. The only advice for me is that soul-killing, “Seek the answer within.”

        Why soul-killing? Because humans exist in our collectiveness, and saying “seek within” offers a non-social solution. It’s that sense of belonging–one cannot “belong” to one (to one’s self). Mystics make it between themselves and the Divine–I can’t sustain that self-deception.


        In the 1970s, I said with all seriousness that I’d sooner live on Russian (Soviet) soil, and people said I was crazy and that the Russians would kill me, and I was fine with that. And I’d probably have just as awful of a report from there then as you now. But you didn’t know what you’d really discover/learn going there. It matches in some ways and doesn’t in others.

        I’d like that opportunity too. And I don’t have it. This isn’t the oppression Olympics. I apologise for the word “bip”. It was belittling of what hardship and struggle it took to get where you are; that was shitty of me. But whether I could ever “bip” myself or experience the experience of “return” not as a gallivanter, right now access to that experience is barred to me, and I don’t see that changing.

        Envy, like self-pity, is a black hole of egotistical nonsense; that’s why I described myself as envious, to flag that fact. While acknowledge the positives I got from the post as well. And at the same time, those who return have an access barred to me on economic grounds. And, envy or not, the criticism of poverty remains intact.

      • I did read your flags, and given our past exchanges, was more “stating the case” for anyone who might misread and project onto the return experience something that isn’t there. I want to say I’m sorry for your lack of a sense of place to return to, and at the same time, I am thinking this might be a blessing in disguise, though I know I could never convince anyone of that idea.

        I was just talking yesterday about the fact that my ability to obtain nationality is based wholly in the premise that I know nothing of my true origins. My falsified documents “allow” for the projection onto my case of enough politically viable law-bending on the Lebanese side to bring about a successful “citizenship”. And I would add here that it is my luxury and privilege as a “foreigner” that aids my case. I am hyper-aware of this inversion.

        Those who actually know something—even a little something—of their story are in quite different straits. For example, a friend of mine here, born of a rape carried to term, thus has a truly unknown father (as opposed to my falsely known “father”) and as such, she cannot derive her nationality through her mother, according to Lebanese law.

        This gives us a spectrum, in a way, that allows for a variety of projections. I understand the desire to fully project, because I’ve certainly been there….I escaped to France for my undergrad school years, itself also a rude awakening in terms of identity politics and the like.

        And so I understand fully that my subtle caveat to “not do that” will fall on resistant ears, and I would say that this resistance is absolutely valid, and in exploring this idea, perhaps there is in fact some kind of “step” or “steps” to take to remedy that feeling of non-place….

      • Oh my, moving on encompasses so many things it seems…

        To begin with, let me preface this by saying that, as always, I am doing expository writing and please forgive me if I am not as precise as the regulars here. Read with my good intent in mind…

        Snow Leopard, I totally feel for you. Daniel and I are not representative of most adoptees in that few return many can not afford to visit, and fewer still stay for any extended period of time.

        I’d like to point out that I never ever considered such a move because, a) it never felt like an option – as a single mom I’ve always had responsibilities and no disposable income and b) I had intentionally and unintentionally erased that place as even existing, much less a destination. The only thing that made it a consideration was when I heard acquaintances were earning a living teaching English in Asia, so it was a solution to my unemployment situation. Visit was not a choice. It was move abroad or stay and starve and make my son drop out of college. My trip was funded, upon protest, by a friend who was trying to save my life, because he had witnessed my economic and emotional decline. I took the airfare from him as a loan because it was to be reimbursed by the employer. And then I spent nine months fighting, in a foreign country, for delivery on that promise – and that fight pretty much destroyed my career prospects (I was blacklisted) for my entire stay. Culture shock lesson #1 was about corruption and how close to the surface it can be in a foreign country. There were many many other equally painful lessons.

        Was that a privilege? Yes and no. I have (now) a privileged perspective for having experienced all those shocks. But I don’t think this opportunity is exclusive, so I don’t believe travel (for us North Americans and Europeans) is a privilege. I don’t think it’s exclusive because I’ve interviewed so many who have done it. Even though I didn’t consider it an option prior to earnestly exploring it as a solution out of my poverty, I now know that it was always an option: I could sell all my things today and not pay my rent and not pay my bills and thereby scrape up enough for a plane ticket and impose on people for a couch and panhandle. I could try and find a job ahead of time or just land for a tourist Visa and try and find a job there and risk getting deported and be back to nothing. I could use social media and beg, search for foreign study programs, live in a dump in order to save, starve in order to save, etc., etc. These are all things I’ve seen have results. I think if anyone really wants to travel, they can – it just won’t be ideal. There is nothing to envy because it is totally within anyone’s hands, parenting aside, though I even know parents who have somehow managed, because the will was great enough.

        It’s all about risk assessment and what we’re willing to put up with. You say goodbye to all you know, everything you own, all your network, all familiar faces. You become totally vulnerable to a thousand forces beyond your control. You introduce yourself to isolation like you’ve never known before. I think these are the real barriers, vs. economic. And, stay long enough, and the place you left loses its relevance. At the same time where you are at remains out of reach. It is easy to become culturally stateless. Are people willing to take those risks?

        All that is a valuable test for anyone, adoptee or not, anywhere. For the adoptee there is also the emotional risk. Because you are slapped in the face every day with the stark contrasts that are through-the-looking-glass to all those you had previously spent a lifetime adjusting to. It is a daily dunk in examining your existentance. It is not not for the weak.

        Does the experience make adoptees wiser? I’d say only maybe. I’ve met adoptees who’ve repatriated who still harbor some really nasty ugly resentments towards the people and culture around them, and they don’t even realize how passive aggressive they are. I’ve met adoptees who attempt re-assimilation, willfully blind to any of the shortcomings, and are in a constant state of misery because they mostly fail. The amount of wisdom gained is only equal to the maturity of the individual, regardless of age or circumstance.

        Did I value the experience? Yes. Because it made me acknowledge that I have mettle. But anyone traveling to living in foreign cultures must experience that. And, I would say that coming to terms with adoption and being an orphan in situ really takes more intelligence than return. Because there is no contrast to compare against. So I applaud those who achieve/make peace without having to go to extremes to make sense of everything. (added) I think that takes more mettle, actually. I guess I wasn’t smart enough to do that. I have to be hit over the head to get anything. But I had started exploring adoption issues prior to leaving, and I think I would have still ended up putting myself through a lot of torturous identity exploration even if I hadn’t left and come out okay. Because that’s the only option besides checking out, is to continue to try to figure it out and make it work. The important thing is, that we do try and knock some sense into ourselves, no matter where we are.(end)

        I do feel for your not knowing where you came from. Like everything about this transracial/transcultural/transplanted sentence, though, that little knowledge is a double-edged sword blessing/curse. I think, though, that by expressing your animal self, you already live in a parallel return situation. You could try that in a land of snow, you could. It might entail giving up the identity you’ve embraced, though. That might be the real price. And the real test. And the real lesson.

      • Snow Leopard,

        I’ve been unsettled, thinking my last comment may have been hurtful. But what I should have said was:

        You can do anything you want to, actually. But sometimes what we think we want isn’t actually good for us. I think we all make the best decisions we can and that it isn’t just economics but your own personal wisdom that protects you.

        I found an interesting website last week about people of European decent who don’t know their roots but would like to connect with them. It’s an interesting exploration of indigenous people envy. It’s very introspective and provocative.


        Colonization is something adoptees are more aware of. The colonized mind is why we were orphaned. When we decolonize our minds, literal ancestry and roots come to mean less so we can focus on meaningful connection based upon our shared humanity. In that way, I feel more connected to you than the people blindly occupying the place I came from, who are weighed down with the burden of their colonized minds. In this way, I really appreciate the freedom to pick and choose what I want to claim as my own. And in this way, I can also envy your freedom to totally write whatever back story your fanciful rich mind wants to.

        Our situation, that double-edged sword, is certainly a traumatic and painful trial; but it can also be a real gift.

  4. I’m admittedly a little defensive because I left the front line and have been criticized for it. But I also take exception to the tone of many on the front line who feel everyone should be there with them. All power to them! (even if I don’t think it’s sustainable) But not everyone can or should endure such sustained effort, lead, or put themselves in the path of arrows. We are all on a journey and must distribute our resources to whatever need is most pressing at any given moment in our lives during this process. At the same time I understand this venue is going to lean toward outspoken criticism, so I find myself a lone voice speaking for new approaches and definitions to just what activism is and what is healthy. But I started this platform for adoptees to discuss different views amongst themselves. So I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way in this post, but I’m daring to be different here.

    On a personal note, I’ve never done anything for myself and been blessed with more horrific issues to deal with than adoption and racism. I’m also very fortunate to have had the grounding focus of raising emerging humans since I was a child myself, so that’s also given me a different perspective than many of my activist peers. I haven’t had the luxury to focus on the lone self except for my stay in Korea.

    I’d like to introduce the idea that not being on the front lines does not equate to acceptance. That activism does not necessarily have to happen as outcry. That anger isn’t the only fuel to change. That without putting as much time into alternatives then we haven’t really solved anything. (see Fuller quote) I have problems with all these binaries, which makes meaningful conversations so difficult. Flip or be a wrench seems also like a binary to me. I think there is a lot of room in between and latitude for people to situate themselves. I would think that, sitting on this razor’s edge, we would want to dismantle these binaries whenever possible.

    I can’t speak for others, but for myself I am more, my life means more, than a reaction to what was done to me. And all accomplishments I generate are not all attributable to, negatively or positively, to being adopted. Neither do I want all my actions to be generated by trauma. Maybe I’m just fooling myself, but I like to think we are capable of that kind of progress. If we can do that, which is really less cut and dried, despite all the million wrongs on top of big wrongs we’ve experienced, then that truly is a heroic accomplishment.

    “Maybe the answer is to just talk more” was in reference to the new orphan in my life. I find great economy in one-on-one dialogue and maybe my activism is now mentoring.

    So maybe I should change this post to “How do you deal with fresh adoption shock?

    Because to me, balance is everything.

  5. Perhaps the true binary is in the metaphor of the “razor’s edge” that we’ve often used. I say this as I sit in my sister’s apartment in New Jersey and visit with my new niece that I’m seeing for the first time at her first birthday party. I’m doing some serious thinking about my own future, with the time I have remaining on this planet.

    The razor suggests this side or that side. I’ve often spoken of neither this side nor that side, when I imagine myself going and living on a farm in the south.

    Moving on implies the opposite which is “not moving on”.

    I’m wondering if there is an option that has not been addressed which is: both sides. Both here and there. A strong foothold in this place as well as in that place. An integration of new experiences into a holistic sense of self.

    I’ve started allowing myself the possibility of transitioning back, but halfway; rebalancing my time here and there, as I acknowledge the inability to give up one acculturation as well as the impossibility of taking on completely a new one.

    Maybe we should say “moving forward” instead of “moving on”?

    • Yes totally. I talked in the original post about the duality we live with: It’s when the rest of the world knocks us off balance when we become aware/are reminded of how sharp the edge we straddle is. I think we’re saying similar things…

      We’ve had to contemplate existence from an early age, dazed and confused which can be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ve known two or more worlds, multiple sets of care-takers, supposedly permanent, but actually all temporary. And you and I have returned. So we’ve seen that the binary isn’t valid.

      I appreciate that duality (now that I’ve been able to do my own validating). I’m pretty accustomed to the non-adoptee world’s ignorant assumptions, but the thing that knocks me off balance the most is when I meet other adoptees bouncing back and forth between two poles, when actually I think we have no choice but to reside on the edge.

  6. This is what moving on has looked like for me. I have come to accept who I am: an American Indian raised by White parents.As a result, I fall between, and will always be seen as ‘other’ from both sides of the spectrum. But there are a lot of “betweeners” and I have found my solace in this group. I have come to accept that this has placed me in difficult and frustrating situations that were not of my choosing, but that I have dealt with. Whether or not I chose these experiences is really immaterial – it is what it is. I have done as much research on the topic of why this has been so difficult for me (and for many others) from a societal level, as I want to do, and my questions have been answered. I have realized that the only reason I can critically look at this issue is because of the upbringing I have had and the education I have received from this upbringing. And what really has brought me to this place is losing my grandson at the age of one to an unknown disease that resulted in liver failure, and my own two diagnoses of cancer within 5 weeks. That has changed my perspective of so many things with regard to importance. The bottom line I’ve reached is, I can’t change what has happened to me. I can only accept that this is where I am and this is why I do what I do. My parents tried to be good parents, but were not capable of giving me what I needed at times. They had their own issues they tried to deal with from their parents, and the parents before them. I live in an imperfect and at times, unjust world, and so much of it is out of my control. Therefore, after everything I’ve experienced in life, the message I hope to relay is I wish that my birthfamily hadn’t been entirely taken away. I can’t undo what’s been done. I can only argue for the future.

    I’m ok where I am and with who I am. I need nothing more than the love of my family that I’ve created, and the love and respect of my friends that have become like family. But then I’m on the other side of 50, and I think that perspective help.

  7. Move on is what George Wallace said to the black citizens of Alabama who lined up to register to vote in the 60’s. Until every adoptee in America has unhindered access to their obc and money no longer exchanges hands in”adoption” we can’t “move on.”

  8. I think I get now the “move on” expressed here. It’s not the “get over it” of George Wallace. It’s funny, because I have often referred to a quote of Hamid Dabashi’s, where he states that the assigning to oneself of identity markers that are categories from the outside is to inherently label oneself as “Outsider”, and thus doom oneself to endlessly explain one’s “otherness”. Edward Said also says something similar in Orientalism. In this light, the onus is not on us as much as it is on society. And the problematic is perhaps one of escape, or to inure ourselves against the “water we swim in”….

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