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What Is, and What Could Have Been

When I was four days old, I was left on the doorsteps of an orphanage in Seoul, Korea. I am told I was bundled in blankets with a note tucked inside stating my name, and date and time of birth. Six days later, an American woman began volunteering at my orphanage; four months later, she and her husband adopted me; and ten months later, they took me back to the United States with them. I was too young, of course, to know then that the greatest miracle of my life was occurring, but as an adult, I’ve felt increasing gratitude, even awe, at the miracle of being adopted by a loving couple. The alternative life I was born into surely would have been one not only of hardship and poverty, but also one where I would have essentially been considered a “non-person” by the society surrounding me.

It’s difficult to imagine life as that non-person. I can’t imagine not having the parents and brothers I have, falling in love with the man I’m married to, growing up on an acre of land near the mountains with vegetable gardens, chickens, cats, having a best friend named Sarah. I can’t imagine not attending college, rowing on a crew team, loving Big Sur, California, working a summer season in Antarctica, and hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. I can’t imagine not always having a full stomach, a roof over my head, people to support me when the going gets rough, being called daughter, wife, sister. Yet, I know not one of these things was ever a given. These things, as I know them – my entire life as I know it - almost didn’t happen. When I dare to imagine what might have been in its place, I can’t help but envision hunger, fear, heartache, despair. The contrast is enough to take my breath away.

At 41 years old, I find myself back in school, studying international human rights. One of the forces driving me is the life I almost had. The life I was born into. The life I was plucked out of. The life so many have. I feel motivated to do this because 41 years ago, a miracle happened to me. A couple committed their lives to ensuring my life turned out (much more than) okay. Because of them, I want to move through the world with an open heart.


usha kc's picture

Dina sister, I loved your

Dina sister, I loved your miracle very much. Life as you living is due to non other than a Miracle.

One thing you mentioned about hiking Annapurna circuit(Nepal) so glad to know that you visited my country.
keep sharing!

Dina's picture

Thank you...

Usha, for your kind and supportive words. I loved Nepal very much (I spent more than a month enjoying the beauty of the place and the people), and I know that someday, I will return there.

Warmest wishes!

usha kc's picture

Very happy to know that you

Very happy to know that you will be In Nepal again. I am eager to welcome you dear.

Amei's picture

This is so wonderful :-)

A miracle did happen. You are special and born to do great things. All the best and you will move through the world with an open heart.

Thanks for sharing your story. I am also planning a short visit to Nepal. I love trekking :-)

In friendship

usha kc's picture

My warm welcome for you too

My warm welcome for you too dear Amei.

Dina's picture

So nice of you to say Amei...

And how exciting that you will be visiting Nepal soon! Hope you have a most wonderful trip!

Kind wishes,

Siona's picture

A non-person...

Oh. Thank you so much for this. It made me think of how truly arbitrary each of our positions are, and how easy it would have been to be born into such a different land, with such greater hardships. Your story inspires me to do more, and to do better, with what I've been blessed with. Thank you again, and again, and again.

Dina's picture

Siona, Your comment means


Your comment means the world to me. Thank you!!!

pheebsabroad's picture


What an inspiration...sometimes things do happen for a reason. And it is a miracle that your family found you and that you were able to grow and prosper! You make such a good point about life and how arbitrary it can be...we should all appreciate our blessings no matter how big or small.


ruth_terry's picture

Hi Dina, I enjoyed all of

Hi Dina,

I enjoyed all of your "her"story but the part that most resonated with me was the last line: "I want to move through the world with an open heart." I am going to write this quote down and tape it to my bathroom mirror--where I put all my mantras to live by!--so I can internalize it every day. Good luck with your studies!


"A writer’s job is to tell stories that connect readers to all the people on earth... Passionate and well-articulated ideas can and do change the world." ~~Mary Pipher

Dina's picture

Pheobe and Ruth

Thank you both for your comments. Ruth, I am honored you will include that line with your mantras to live by! I love the Mary Pipher one you included as well, and I love that we get to connect through our stories here.

All the very best,

Celine's picture

You Are a Source of Inspiration

Hello Dina,
Welcome and thank you for sharing. You are a source of inspiration and hope resonating. Best of luck in your studies.


Dina's picture

Thank you


What kind words! I am finishing my second to last quarter before graduation right now! Whoo hoo!

Happy spring (soon)! :-)

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