November hosts a myriad of religious and national holidays for people around the world. It also is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Homeless Youth Awareness Month and Native American Heritage Month. And for me, as a Minnesotan, it marks both the beginning of winter and an important month in my life.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was adopted as a young girl, and Nov. 4 is my “Gotcha Day” (in my family, we call it my “Airplane Day”). Fittingly for me, November is also National Adoption Awareness Month. As this continues to be a very important identity marker for me, I am doing my part to “raise awareness” by talking about my experience.

This year marks the 23rd year of my life in the United States. As a child, Airplane Day always was met with more joy and happiness than my birthday. Usually, birthdays at my house were met with sadness, thinking about my birth mother and wondering what life was like in Korea. But on Airplane Day, we’d watch the video of my arrival and I would see the excitement and love of family and friends as I was carried off of the plane.

What did Airplane Day mean for me this year? Now more than ever, it brought significance and thoughtful reflection. I still ponder what life would be like in South Korea, and I’m reminded of some of the cultural loss of Korean heritage that occurred. Like birthdays, I wish my Airplane Day would be met with more excitement and conversation about just what it means to be adopted, but Hallmark doesn’t make those kinds of cards or signs. Sometimes, I fear questions about adoption are difficult to bring up, and I’d like to change that. Next semester, I will begin my research on college-aged Korean adoptees, the beginning of a very long but powerful journey.

My mixed emotions about adoption range from happiness to anger, depending on the day. The unknown aspects of who I am show up in the mirror every morning. Twenty-three years – and I still have decades left of feeling this way. However, as I read blogs and papers about other adoptees’ struggles, I know I am not alone.

For more information on National Adoption Month, visit http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/nam/. I also want to encourage everyone, especially adoptees, parents of adoptees and anyone thinking about adoption, to read books and blogs written by adoptees. They are powerful sources of information, filled with personal, heartfelt and lived knowledge, and you will come away with a much greater understanding of the issues.

8 Responses

  1. Kayleigh, Manahawkin

    I just came across your blog and I’m also 23 and today is my Airplane Day. I always think of it as a second birthday since I was adopted at 6 months old so it’s like my half birthday :)

    Birthdays are met with the same celebration in my house and I don’t know if it’s just me, but I never gave much thought to my heritage. I always hear about adoptees who have struggled with their identity and never feeling as they belonged in their family and I can truthfully say those thoughts never crossed my mind. Maybe once when I was young and I noticed I was the only asian child in my class but I never thought that I’d rather grow up in South Korea. I’d like to visit one day sure, but my parents are the ones who raised me and I wouldn’t change anything.

  2. Siri Sorensen, Minneapolis

    Sarah, thank you for sharing your story. You have helped increase my awareness of the experiences of adpotees. Without your perspectives, we would be missing something from the dialogue about identity. I look forward to hearing about your research.

  3. Mom, Rochester

    Hi Honey,

    We are so proud of the young woman you have become. Holding you in our arms 23 years ago was an overwhelming, happy experience. It that time we had no idea what you would become as an adult. We are so blessed that you became such a wonderful woman. We love you more than you will ever know. Keep up your journey. We are with you all the way.

    Love,
    Mom

  4. Jordan, Minneapolis

    Thank you so much for helping to raise awareness. We have a five-year-old daughter who was adopted from Korea. I wonder daily what I should be doing to help her exploration of self. Your story is a good reminder from outside our house. Thanks!

  5. Tom Fish

    What a thoughtful article. You have much to offer the world. I’m proud to know you.

  6. Steve Humerickhouse, MInneapolis

    My daughter – also 23 – had her Airplane Day only a couple of months before yours (Aug. 24, but probably a year later, as the Honduran adoption process isn’t as efficient as the Korean version).

    I remember that day, arriving at the airport in Memphis wondering if anyone other than close family would be there (back then there were no security checkpoints). We were some of the last passengers off the plane and when we came around the corner of the jetway, there was a huge cheer and balloons and signs everywhere. More than 50 people came to greet little Kathryn Lorenza – family, friends and members of our adoption support group. It was like a birth – as much for us as Katie – into our new life as a family.

    Much has changed in the intervening years that has changed our family in significant ways. But the bond between us has never changed. She is our forever child and we are her forever family.

  7. Megan LaFontaine, Woodbury

    Thank you for sharing a bit of your story, Sarah. When others share about their identities, it makes me learn more about my own. See you in class!

  8. Bob, Saint Paul

    We call it “airplane day,” too, and it is a joyful thing. You and our sons are similar in age, and it is affirming to hear your story. Thanks.