From Korea to Western, NY – Exploring the Sphere of Adoption
Life is of great value, and when we take a deeper look, we can see that everyone has a story, full of unique and microscopic events that are important, that have shaped their very being. And as they are alive and breathing, their story is yet to be completed. At Conscious, we want to explore the lives of individuals on a personal level, and see the world through their eyes. Below we explore the sphere of adoption through Shannae Murray's story.
Words by SHANNAE MURRAY | Photo by Ashly Photography
On May 16, 1987 I was born at Sohn, Jeong Hee Maternity Home in Songnam-city, Kyonggi-do, Korea. On September 1, 1987, also known as my “airplane day,” I arrived in New York City at JFK International Airport. I grew up in Western, NY in a little town called Hornell. As far as I can remember, both my brother and I were the first Asian kids in our school and community, but being raised by white parents in a white community, I never felt “Asian.” I ate regular Upstate New York foods; pizza, chicken wings, salt potatoes, beef on weck, and fish frys. I spoke english and wasn’t really ever picked on for my appearance. I vaguely remember feeling upset over a 5th grader making fun of my name and pulling his eye lids back to make his eyes squinty like mine, but I also remember my mom telling me that if I ignored him, he’d eventually stop, which is what exactly happened the next day. Having someone make fun of my name just became “a thing” throughout my life that I learned to shrug off and join in with (the most popular name being “Shannae-Nay” and then the ever clever “Shan-Asian”). But to be honest, I grew with a mindset that I was caucasian. I don’t remember having a conversation with my parents about being adopted, although after asking my parents about this, they both confirmed that it was always something they talked about. They had a children’s book about adoption that they began reading to me and my brother from a young age and they would talk about our adoption freely with us and around us to other people so that it was always an open topic. I guess we never asked any questions about it, rather it just absorbed into our little developing minds. It’s really funny to think about all of this as part of my childhood, because I never once felt disconnected and I don’t recall these conversations at all. It wasn’t until I went to college in New York City and lived 1 block from Little Korea that I realized that I wasn’t actually caucasian.
When people find out that I was adopted I am always asked if I would ever want to go back to Korea and meet my birth parents. Each time I am faced with this question I try not to sound too overwhelmingly certain when I answer “no.” I simply never have had a strong desire to go back to Korea. My (adopted) parents are my parents and that is the way that I have always felt. If ever given the chance to meet my birth mother though, one of the first things I would say to her is thank you. I would thank her for not choosing abortion and I would thank her for giving me the opportunity to live and have a better life than the one she knew she couldn’t provide for me when she was only nineteen. I would thank her for allowing a couple in Western New York to become a mother and father because they were clearly meant to be parents... My parents. I would ask about things pertaining to health history, things that I would want to know for my future family. But, I should also mention that I would most certainly and will most likely one day adopt a child of my own. It blows my mind when I hear the staggering numbers of babies that aren’t given a chance to live, especially when you compare that to the number of couples that want babies to call their own. Adoption (both ways) is a no brainer to me, this is of course being a result of my fortunate upbringing. Maybe as I get older I will want to learn more about my heritage, but for now I am quite content with my adopted family because they are and always will be my family.
From the Editor
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