Dear 22-year-old Stephanie,
It is a Friday night in July of 2008. Your friends are asking you to go out and celebrate the weekend, but you’re not in the mood.
You’re about to leave on one of the most significant trips of your life, and you’ve never felt so alone.
It breaks my heart to see you cry- to hear you say things like you are afraid to be hurt or feel unwanted. I’m sorry to tell you it won’t be the last time these emotions plague your spirit.
But here is what I can offer for comfort:
You will take that flight to Seoul Incheon Airport.
When you de-board the plane, everything will be in a foreign language, and it’s a miracle that you make it to the hotel.
During a visit to your adoption agency, a social worker will casually inform you that when your birth parents relinquished you, they already had two daughters.
Yes, you have two biological sisters.
(No, they may not know you exist).
That day, you’ll start a search for your birth family that will span nearly five agonizing years.
You’ll even go on a Korean television show hoping to find them.
On that same trip to Korea, you’ll meet another adoptee and think it was fate.
It was not.
It was trauma bonding.
You’ll learn the hard way that–for a narcissist– this means keeping you traumatized to keep you close to him.
But this abusive relationship will make you more resilient.
You find your way back home to Texas and begin healing.
You marry your best friend, buy a house together, and build a beautiful life.
On Labor Day 2013, you’ll receive an email from your adoption agency saying they’ve finally located your birth family.
Your dad helps you book another flight to Korea so you can meet them all.
Birth mother, grandmother, sisters, and younger brother.
You will get answers you’ve waited for your whole life, but leave with even more questions.
You’ll discover an extraordinary bond with your middle sister and stay connected through technology, despite your atrocious Korean language skills (or lack, thereof).
You will move from job to job trying to find your place and purpose in the world.
Don’t give up, even when you think it’s time to throw in the towel.
You eventually become the Communications Director for a non-profit doing transformative racial justice work.
And start your own online magazine for underrepresented voices.
After six years of marriage, you learn that it’s possible to love someone with all your heart, but not be in love with them.
You’ll get a divorce in the middle of a global pandemic that forces you to shelter-in-place and face your demons alone.
During one of those darker moments, you will come back to a long-forgotten YouTube video and realize everything happened for a reason.
You’ll want to reach out to that young girl in the video and tell her so many things…
But, above all —
That she is not (and never has been) alone
and it is never too late to start over.