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What Are You?

What Are You?

“What are you?”

If I had a most Frequently Asked Question section of my life, these three words would nail the top spot. I’ve been tempted to answer, “Oh, I’m this really unique breed, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, it’s called human.” But, after wrestling with appropriate and not so appropriate responses, I’ve decided against the blatant cynical response route and instead embraced what I’ve come to understand as sincerely harmless questions packaged in loose thinking. And I could get angry and offended and flustered, but I’m quickly faced with my own dent of mental lapses and how I could probably be the poster child for loose thinking with my own track record history. [Cue example: Me: Hey have you seen Garden State? Friend: Yeah, we saw it together last night, you idiot. Me: Oh, right.]

So, to set the record straight, I’m Korean. No, this doesn’t mean I am related to Lucy Liu, (she’s Chinese) or Lisa Ling (she’s Chinese too, and no, they’re not related either). I don’t know karate, nor am I a math wizard, but I do love sushi and admit that when I look down, I do look like I could be sleeping.

After the Korean part is revealed, the next question is: “What is Raspa?” “Well, it’s Italian.” I respond. And of course I know they’re waiting for an explanation, but after years of this script, it’s always nice to manipulate the punch line. So I let time elapse until they’ve stewed over the concept. “So you’re half-Italian?” They ask. Or they settle on a confused, “Oh, okay.” And this is around the time when I feel it’s necessary to deliver the final piece of the puzzle. “Well, I’m adopted.” And light floods in along with a new wave of questions.

“When were you adopted? Have you been to Korea? Do you want to find your parents? Do you speak Korean? Do you like your family?” (Answers:four months; well I was born there, does that count? Not right now; no, but I pretend I do; and yes, I think they’re scrumptulescent.)

Adoption, when I think about it, is a funny, wonderful, unusual and painful thing. It’s funny because I hold this vault full of the most comical conversations and experiences with people that spawn from the fact that I’m Korean and adopted. Honestly, my life would be ridiculously boring if I were neither.

It’s wonderful because in a way, children are being rescued in a monumental way. Mothers are choosing to literally give life, twice.

It’s unusual because the concept of raising a child that comes from another initially seems unordinary. The process of adoption is so extensive, and in today’s culture where time is money, it seems like adoption would naturally be unappealing to people because of the effort and finances required. It’s unusual because that pretty Puerto Rican girl and the white football player you thought were a couple all this time are really brother and sister.

It’s painful because many adoptees, like anyone else, still experience abuse, abandonment, emptiness, depression and incompletion. Birth mothers experience many of the same things, a constant lack of closure and unanswered questions. Families are alarmingly faced with abrupt changes in adoption agreements that force them to give their adopted child back to the birth mother. It’s painful because the people who gave birth to me are strangers and stories only known in the way a beauty mark is placed or in one’s lines on a hand. Their existence is shaped from questions and unknowns that may never be resolved. It’s painful because I wonder if they wonder about me. Then I wonder how can they not wonder about me. I want to tell them I’m okay. That I have a loving family who have taught me grace, unconditional love, generosity and forgiveness. I want to tell my birth mother she is the most selfless woman I have never met.

It blows my mind to think of God’s arrangement in our lives. I think of where I would be if I hadn’t been adopted, or if I would have been placed in a different family. I think of all the people involved in my adoption, of how happiness is traded for sadness and how strong the face of love is even in the unknowns of a child.

So, what am I? I’m Korean. I’m adopted. Maybe I’ll meet my birth parents someday, but for now, I’m here. I can’t ace math homework or translate some guy’s tattoo, but I’m pretty sure I could fool someone into thinking I could.

[Kimi Raspa is currently interning at RELEVANT and besides answering the "what are you" question several times already, shefrequently professes her love for Zach Braff.]


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