When I was a day old, I was abandoned at a police station in Seoul and taken to an orphanage. I lived with 200 or so other babies. At three and a half months old, I was adopted by an American family. Although I grew up with the symptoms of trauma - suicidal depression, gripping anxiety, and bulimia - it was all hidden behind the facade of an overachiever perfectionist. Not one mental health practitioner uttered the word "trauma" until I was well into my 30s.
In 2009, everything changed. I took a soul-searching trip back to the orphanage in Korea where I’d lived more than 30 years before. What I discovered there changed my life.
Scribbled in handwriting in the back of my old file were the names of a man and woman and their two daughters. Were these people my birth family? The social worker asked if I wanted to search for them. Feeling scared and doubtful that anything would ever come of it, I cautiously agreed.
Years later, on January 5, 2011, a cold yet sunny winter morning, I received an email in my inbox, subject: Sister. ”My sister… Our family is delighted, happy, elated since finding out about you few days ago… I had been crying and dreaming of you [the] last few days, wondering how to proceed and interact with you. Hopefully I have made a right choice in writing to you now…”
Six months later, I was on a plane headed to Seoul, where I’d meet my biological Korean family, together with the support of my adoptive parents. After a tearful and emotional reunion, I learned that my birth mother had her own orphan story as well: at 6 years old, she and her brother were orphaned after seeing their parents killed during the war. Separated from her brother, she lived in an orphanage and was later adopted and raised by a family in South Korea. Decades later, she reunited with her brother.
Suddenly, my trauma wasn't just about me. It was about a whole lineage of survivors of war, oppression, and gender based violence who passed down their pain before they could ever heal it. My world changed from black and white to vibrant technicolor hues. The pain I felt was more immense than anything I'd known. Yet, for the first time in my life, I started to feel true Joy. Gratitude. Self love. Love for others. And a connection to something bigger than me.
And in that process of awakening, my trauma story transformed into a healing story.
I quit my finance career and co-founded what is now, Healing Together - an organization dedicated to helping others change their stories too.
I know today that my greatest wounds give me superpowers: empathy, compassion, humility, vulnerability, and the ability to connect to others who've experienced profound loss. Bearing witness to others' pain - and through that, feeling more deeply human - and through that, having the capacity to break free from generational cycles of trauma and harm - that is what my journey, my life purpose, and my work, is all about.
My birth mother is no longer with me in this realm. But I know she's watching over me, guiding me to continue healing her heart, and my ancestors' hearts. For all of them live inside of my own heart. And their liberation is mine.