San Francisco, CA
I know that so much time and distance has passed, but I still hope that you and I can connect. Though we have not lived our lives together, you have always been an influence and presence in my life.
Before anything else, I want to make it clear that I have never resented you or been angry with you for your decision to give up your parental rights. I know that putting me up for adoption must have been the most difficult decision in your life. I know that you made the best choice for both yourself and for me. I have never felt that you “abandoned” me or walked away from responsibility. On the contrary, I admire your strength and bravery in an impossibly-complicated situation where there is no perfect solution. Thank you for that—for being so strong and so brave for both of us.
I want to tell you about myself and how I’ve lived my life. My adoptive parents came to Korea on August 1, 1983, five months after I was born, to take me home to the United States. I grew up in the state of Michigan, loved and coveted by my adoptive family. My father, Douglas Donnell, is an attorney, specializing in environmental and ecological cases. My mother, Dana, is a youth librarian as well as an artist and ceramicist. From them, I acquired my love of literature, my passion for the arts, and my drive to advocate for the natural world.
I am the eldest of four children in my family. My sister, Erica, is 24. She lives in Chicago and is an interior designer. We have always been very close. My brother, Jeffrey, is 20 years old, studying business and marketing at Michigan State University. My youngest brother, Drew, is also a Korean adoptee. He is 17 and finishing high school. Drew is a very gifted artist and wants to go into graphic design and illustration.
I have also found the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Amul and I met at college, and have been best friends ever since. Our friendship eventually grew into love. Amul is smart and kind and is steadfast in his unconditional love for me. He has been by my side through my darkest hours, a beacon of light shining through to guide me safely home.
I often wonder what traits of mine have been passed down and inherited. I believe myself to be thoughtful and introspective. I love writing—poetry, mostly. I find solace in silence. I have always been drawn to the gentle souls of animals. I grew up riding horses. My horse, Nora, has been a solid strength for me, carrying me unerringly through the difficult times in my life. My dog, Olivia, is my constant companion, my faithful friend.
I firmly believe in learning for the sake of learning. I have always eagerly pursued furthering my education. In 2005, I graduated from the University of Michigan, acquiring my Bachelor’s degree in Literature and my minor in Environmental Studies. I finished my degree three years instead of the customary four. Now, I am working on my Master’s degree. I live in San Francisco now and attend San Francisco State University, working in the Asian American Studies department. I will complete my thesis in 2010. I am the first ever Korean adoptee to enroll in the Master’s program. The topic of my thesis combines two major components that have always been integral in my life. I am exploring poetry written by Korean adoptees. Writing has always been a therapeutic exercise for me, and I am interested in looking at how other adoptees have documented their experiences through poetry.
I hope to eventually pursue a PhD. I want to educate others on adoption and be a voice for Korean adoptees, and help find solutions that arise from transnational adoption that are fair and just for all parties affected by adoption. This includes adoptees, adoptive families, and birth families as well.
Being Korean is an important part of my identity. I returned to Korea for the first time in the summer of 2001 with my adoptive family. My second visit to Korea was spring 2008, and I visited again this past summer (2009). I studied Korean in college, and every time I come to Korea, it begins to feel more and more like home. I love the beauty and the history of Korea and am proud to come from such a distinguished heritage.
I am not the baby I was 26 years ago, nor are you the same woman you were. Even still, I think you would be proud of who I have become, just as I would love the woman you are today.
어머니, I would like to establish a relationship with you. I have never hated you or resented your decision. The past is in the past, and even if we wanted to change what has occurred, it is impossible. What we can do is use that knowledge we’ve gained in hindsight to build a future. I would like to build a future that includes you in my life. I am willing to accept whatever kind of relationship you feel comfortable in sharing. As I always have, I will respect the decisions you make.
I understand that allowing me back into your life may be difficult—you have moved on with your life and maybe have a family of your own that you wish to protect. If this is so, please know that I will always be open to reuniting, and if at a later time it makes more sense to return to this part of your past, I will welcome it. If you feel you cannot allow communication between the two of us, I ask at the very least for some token of who and where I came from. I would cherish photographs and family information. I’ve never had the experience of seeing a familiar resemblance of myself in another. I have always wondered whether I have inherited the eyes or the smile of my mother. It would make me feel proud to know that I carry the features of my brave mother.
I think of you often and wish all good things in your life. I hope that your sorrows and regrets are a burden lighter than butterfly wings. I hope your days are illuminated by beauty and joy. I hope your life is full of love. Although time and distance have separated us, my love for you does not waver or wane. Live your life in contentedness and peace.