The Struggle Between Love and Hate

By: Julie Young

July 9, 2017


Credit: Margaret Gerhart
Credit: Margaret GerhartLast summer while visiting Korea, my Korean American friend, Janice, who is currently living there, said that she had a “love – hate” with Korea. Her description resonated with me. Before she used the term, I wasn’t able to describe my relationship with my motherland so succinctly. The love-hate description is also a perfect way to describe life as an internationally adopted person.

Recently, there’s been some attention given to adoptees who have been deported back to Korea, such as Adam Crapser and Phillip Clay. See the recent NYTimes article: Deportation a ‘Death Sentence’ to Adoptees. Adam and Phillip are examples of tragic stories that should have never been. They are examples of utter failure on the part of the adoption industry complex.

The farcical standard of adoption is that it is meant to be guided by “the best interest of the child.” With saccharine sweet phrases such as “forever family” and “gotcha day” – adoption is marketed as a feel good fix for poor, desperate babies or children who need to be saved by middle-upper class, predominately white folk. The white savior complex in mega 3D.

The rate of suicide for adoptees is four times higher than that of non-adoptees. This fact has been known, yet so many adoptees continue to suffer in silence. When the promise of that perfect forever family is broken – then what? The legions of adult adoptees, who somehow made it to the other side, are left with trying to clean up the horrific messes caused by two countries that were so eager to create the adoption industry, so eager to exchange dollars for babies, so eager to give the babies to unprepared adoptive parents.

Mental illness is a topic that must be taken seriously, particularly for adoptees. We’ve lost too many already.

As an adoptee I grew up between this love and hate for my life. The struggle between gratitude and anger is one that goes deeper than we are allowed to acknowledge. Deeper than many of us know how to voice. We can’t dirty up the rose colored view. And so, many of us, go inward. We live depressed. We struggle with suicidal thoughts and actual attempts. We struggle with the love – hate that defines our experience.

The struggle between thinking that you love this standard of beauty forced upon you versus hating knowing that you will never live up to it.

The struggle between loving all of your white friends from the white suburb that you grew up in versus hating that you grew up hating yourself because you just wanted to be them.

The struggle between receiving positive reinforcement when you acted like a poster child for adoption versus hating the fact that you grew up feeling like you were in the wrong packaging.

The struggle between loving your adoptive family (or worse, wanting to love) versus hating the fact that you were given up by your mother, the woman who gave you life.

The struggle between loving your adopted country versus hating your perpetual foreigner status.

The struggle between loving your motherland versus hating knowing you will never again be considered a native.

The struggle between loving Korean dramas versus hating the fact that you can’t understand them.

The struggle between loving your native cuisine versus hating that you can only cook one, maybe two of the dishes.

The struggle between loving that, if you seek it, you can learn it versus hating that you don’t just already know it – because it is your birth culture – the culture you had the inherent right to know. Yet, it was taken from you.

The struggle between loving that you are in reunion with your eomma versus hating that she still cries just about every single time she sees you on a video call.

The struggle between loving that you are in reunion with your unnie, who was more like your mom, versus hating that you are unable to have a conversation with her without an interpreter.

The struggle between loving your life now but hating knowing that there are too many adoptees who are currently in the tiring struggle of depression, of feeling alone, of feeling suicidal.

Not Your Poster Child
Credit: Margaret Gerhart

To these adoptees, I want to say – you do not have to be the poster child for adoption. Your struggle with this love-hate adoptee experience is valid. You are valid. You are worthy. Myself, and many other older adoptees, understand your struggle. I promise, if you seek help and find your tribe, it will get better. The love-hate factors of your adoptee experience will continue but your place amongst the struggle will feel more grounded, more secure. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

Julie Young writes about her experiences as an adopted Korean American woman with a multi-racial family. Julie’s column “Heart and Seoul” is published monthly. She is a recovering attorney turned non-profit executive, writer and producer. Adopted at the age of three from Korea, she grew up in Rochester, New York. She holds a degree in Psychology from Fordham University and a J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She is the Founder of DreamMaker DreamDoer DreamSupporter, inc (3D) a non-profit production company that provides resources, connections and inspiration for creatives. She is also the Founder of The Phenomenal Girls Club, a non-profit organization that fosters learning, leadership and friendship for girls of color. Julie is an adoptive parent group facilitator for All Together Now. She serves as Board Chair for and as an advisory Board member of Nazdeek. She is the mom of twins and lives with her husband and family in Brooklyn.