I left for Korea on November 22nd, 2013. Brought an empty new journal, having every intention to document every event of the trip. I returned to the states with only 6 pages filled. Most of which was non sequitur, free writing– incomplete thoughts and memos to self.
Somehow I thought that, years from now, the meaning behind bullet points such as “You like coffee?” or “Stuffed horse” would still be clear.
Before my trip, I was so sure that I would be able to write as soon as I got home. After the jetlag and subsequent cold/flu type illness wore off, I was forced back into my real life– working full-time, planning my wedding, dealing with first-time-homebuyers issues. Writing was the furthest from my mind and on my priority list.
Before I found my birth family, I always thought that if I found them, I would write a memoir about the experience.
After the trip… after finding them, I struggle with what to write, what to share– how much I was even able to process adequately in the short time I was there with my birth family.
I realize now that my journey didn’t end when I walked into Eastern Social Welfare society to be reunited with them, or even when I returned to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Terminal D.
The story continues to evolve with every day that passes– each photo Kyung-hee unnie sends me through Kakao talk, sometimes when I am not even awake to respond because of the time difference. All the happy experiences that I go through which cause pain to them for not being able to participate or witness.
I wonder which tales are actually mine to tell- and which are, instead, dark family secrets deeply rooted in a shame that could never be explained on paper or understood by outsiders.
Because, no matter how I am related to them, how often we communicate, or the time we may spend together in the future– I am still that– an outsider.
The unfinished story plagues me– a story that I’ve been weaving since old enough to be cognizant. But Korea was a game changer– I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to write our story in its entirety. I have new ideas on how to incorporate experiences as narrative fiction instead of memoir. Even still, I don’t think I’m ready yet.
In the meantime, I hope to reflect on some of the individual experiences I had in Korea, through pictures and writing, at my own pace… because maybe eventually the pieces will come together more clearly for me. Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me or those only now joining. I apologize for the incoherence. It always seemed like such a longshot to find my birth family, that I never looked past to the hereafter. Making things up as I go along– which I guess is the essence of storytelling, really.