I’ve always hated the platitude, It was meant to be. Why do people say that? It’s as if something so out of your control was certain to happen that no one could have prevented it. I’d like to think that I have more agency in my decisions, but lately I feel like I’ve been experiencing an uptick of it was meant to be moments.
Shortly before the school year started, I found out that my son’s preschool was reviewed by the State Health Department and received 30 violations. I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions, but 30 seemed like a lot. The problem was that he loves his preschool and his teachers and has met some good friends there. I tried not to panic and started researching my options. I have a Korean adoptee friend who sends her son to a Korean language immersion school. For as long as I’ve known her she’s always talked about this school with such glowing radical love. She keeps telling me to take a tour. Check it out and see what you think is usually how our conversations end. So I did.
Raised in racial and cultural isolation, I went years without interacting with other Korean adoptees. Most of my friends were white. I looked at the world through a white lens. So when I walked through the halls on the school tour and saw black haired children with Asian faces and Korean teachers who greeted me with annyeonghaseyo and the entire time I kept thinking, This is what it feels like to be surrounded by people who look like me. I couldn’t stop staring. It felt weird. I wanted to hug every student I passed. I was envious that these kids had a place where they could come and be themselves. And in those brief seconds I felt like I belonged, too.
Each year the school has a student performance to celebrate Chuseok-a major Korean holiday. I volunteered to pick up food for the event. As I drove back to the school-alone in my car; I started to cry. Somewhere in the giddy excitement of preparing food, photographing my son wearing his traditional hanbok and posting his smiling pictures on Instagram; decades of loss was triggered. How would my life have been if I stayed in Korea and learned how to speak my birth language? What kind of mother would I have become if I had never been relinquished by my Korean family? And knowing what my life is now does that even matter?
I know that it seems like It was meant to be that his old preschool was a mess and somehow I ended up getting the last opening at the new school but I believe that things don’t happen blindly. Maybe all this goodness was sitting there waiting and I only had to listen. Perhaps sending my son to a Korean school is a way for me to reconcile with my own loss of language and culture. Maybe something in me is starting to crack open and I’m beginning to heal. And maybe somewhere deep inside all this longing is my voice-me finding my truth.