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.