Finding True Belonging with Sun Mee
I was 3½ years old when I was adopted from Korea by my German parents, and was raised in a predominantly white town in southern Germany. Without any memory of the previous years of my life in Korea, I immediately adapted to the new environment. I stopped speaking Korean and didn’t want to engage in anything that reminded me of my Korean origins until I turned 18.
From the outside, things seemed to go well, and I tried everything to fulfill the sweet and perfectly assimilated adoptive daughter image. Deep inside, though, I struggled with my conflicting emotions and felt like an alien to my Korean cultural roots, and desperately wanted to blend in with the other kids. My fear of rejection and feeling ashamed left me often shy and insecure in expressing my honest feelings and needs.
I grew up in a very loving and caring home, and I had many moments of happiness and acceptance. Still, I also had challenging feelings like sadness, melancholy, shame, and frustration, which I was suppressing. I didn’t have the language and awareness that I was coping with the traumatic experience of the loss over my culture of origin, my previous world, and my birth mother’s unknown. As a result, I immersed myself in a different reality through drawing and the fantasy worlds in my books. It wasn’t until adulthood that I started to question my behavior, emotions, and beliefs more.
Who am I, where am I from, where do I belong?
Longing to find answers and acceptance.
When I turned 18, I looked into the mirror and was all of a sudden awakening to my Korean-ness and adoptee self, and questions, like: “Who am I?” “Where am I from?” “Where do I belong?” The world was wide open for me, but I felt like it was falling apart. An inner voice started to raise many questions about my origin, biological parents, and cultural roots—questions that I couldn’t answer, but that left a heavy, frustrating, and upsetting feeling inside me that I couldn’t understand or name. I felt dissociated from my body, confused and lost in my emotions, and suffered from an identity crisis. When I tried to share with my parents, I struggled to express myself, and my parents reacted in shock and were emotionally overwhelmed. I had to distance myself to connect to my story in my own way.
I escaped into the melting pot of New York after graduating from design school. All of a sudden, it was so natural to blend in and to find acceptance, and social comfort amongst my multicultural circle of friends and colleagues. Deep inside, though, I felt there was still something missing. I felt an inner yearning to explore my Korean origins and find some answers.
Visiting Korea for the first time was surprisingly comforting, but also confusing. I remember stepping out of the subway in Seoul, looking around, and realizing:WOW this is how I LOOK. It was like a cultural mirror that had to remind me of my Korean-ness. I was confronted with what it means to be Korean and questions like: “How can I reclaim being Korean when I don’t even speak the language and don’t know how to navigate the social codes, and how can I do this my way?”
And, “Do I even want to be Korean?” For I also didn’t feel I belonged here [in Korea] either.
This is me, Sun Mee. Finding belonging within.
A healing journey.
Coming back to Germany after my first visit to Korea, I immersed myself in research and literature on identity formation and adoption. It helped me to start understanding on a mental level first what I was going through. Furthermore, creative writing and visualizing my inner world allowed me to express my creative self and find artistic refuge for my unexplored feelings.
Moreover, I recognized that I needed to claim and create conscious space and time for myself to truly feel into my story’s complexity. As a recovering perfectionist and self-critic, it took me some time to seek help from outside. Playing strong wasn’t working anymore and I got frustrated with my internal fears that kept blocking me from truly living a fulfilled life. Accepting professional support in the form of life coaching and talk therapy was very helpful. However, I realized the limitations of talk therapy and learned that we cannot talk our way out of trauma since it is stored in our bodies. Exploring alternative healing modalities that connect the mind and the body was the missing link in my healing journey.
Finding solitude in nature, connecting to the local and online adoptee community, and reconnecting to my adoptive parents with love, understanding, and compassion for one another has been an integral part of my healing.
It’s been an intense and challenging journey of self-discovery and transformation, riding waves of discomfort as well as blissful moments. These have all shifted me into who I have become and am still evolving into.
Today, I embrace my Adoptee Self as part of my wholeness.
I found true belonging within, which allowed me to find it with my partner, my family, my chosen communities, as well as my home base in Berlin. Last year, I quit my corporate work and found my professional journey by creating NUMARU—A Community Space and Holistic Support Program for transracial adoptees to be heard and feel be seen. My mission is to raise more awareness on the complexity of adoption, to share what I have learned, and to hold space for fellow adoptees on their healing path!
Adoption is a lifelong growth journey. But, we can learn to navigate it with more calm, clarity, compassion, and confidence!
Do you believe so too?
Holding space for you here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sun Mee Martin
About Sun Mee
Sun Mee is a Korean-German Adoptee, Conscious Creator, Holistic Coach, and Founder of NUMARU—A safe Community Space and Holistic Support Program for Transracial Adoptees to be heard and feel seen. Through mindful and creative explorations, she invites fellow adoptees to find clarity, courage, and compassion in their healing journey. Her mission is to raise more awareness of the complexity of adoption and offers an intimate and personalized approach to explore the meaning of true belonging within.
Mindfulness practice led by Sun Mee
This mindfulness practice will connect participants in the shared virtual space and find present awareness to stimulate the mind for discussion and the heart for connection.
Cover image: Carina Adam