There are some issues with my birthday, and not just because it reminds me that I keep getting older. There are a couple of other dates that trouble me as well, but especially my birthday.
I believed that the birthday which I had been celebrating every year was the right one, until a few years ago when my oldest sister in Korea told me that it wasn’t. What was written as March 27th in my passport, and in all the papers from the orphanage and the adoption agency, she said, was most probably the 27th day of the 3rd month according to the Chinese calendar, which was in use in Korea at the time. And she wasn’t entirely sure about it being the 27th either. What we think is likely is that whoever arranged the adoption simply wrote my birth date with the same numbers, without bothering to adjust for the difference between the Chinese and Western calendars. This would put my real birth date on April 24th. Maybe.
I’m not at all happy with this. I no longer enjoy celebrating my birthday because I can’t be sure whether it really is that, or if it’s just a random day and part of some kind of game. I’m sad and disappointed because I’ve been lied to for so long, and because now I’ve lost one more of the things in my life worth being happy about. This comes in addition to losing my Korean name when I came to Norway, because it didn’t suit my Norwegian adoptive parents. When I was old enough I took my Korean surname back, which didn’t please them at all, and they got quite angry when I told them about it. I guess that what annoyed them so was that I was embracing my Korean background, which they had tried very hard to suppress while I was growing up.
On top of it all, a few years ago my adoptive mother died on my birthday, leaving me with yet another ghost to face on this date: The biggest lie ever about my life, the day that my adoptive mother died, and every year a reminder about what I’ve lost … the grief of losing my real parents and what might have been.
In the days before my birthday I grow restless and lose my appetite, and become overwhelmed with emotion. I lose my zest for life and only want to sleep, and sometimes I have been crying all day. I can’t prevent or avoid these feelings, they arrive as if on schedule every year, and they seem to get worse with each time. I’m in my forties now, and can barely cope with it, but how will it be when I get older? That’s something that I hardly dare to think about.
Someone once asked me, with a smile, why I don’t just take any date, since there are so many to choose from. I wish it would be that easy, but I want to know the truth about myself and my life, and not simply add another lie when there are too many of them as it is. It may not seem like such a big deal to others, but for me it’s serious, and the stuff that goes with it is so painful and heartbreaking, I can’t even describe it all myself.
I sense that my subconscious knows far more than I can consciously recall, and that this is the reason why these symptoms return year after year. It won’t heal, because the people I’m missing aren’t just gone but the memories of them are also lost: I can’t remember their faces, voices, how it felt to be with them, and to be comforted, held and loved by them. I only know that they cared for me even though we were sent on different paths in life. I know that they loved me, but it is of little comfort when the days go downhill and I am overwhelmed with grief. I guess that I’m longing for something that I can’t have: a hug, kind words, to see the two who brought me into the world, to learn my whole story and get my life back, to heal my feelings and cure this sense of loss, to feel loved by my parents again, and that I am their little girl.
I have recently decided that in the future, starting this year, I will instead celebrate my birthday in late April, partly because it is as close to a proper date as I can get with what little I know, and partly because my partner’s birthday is at that time so that we can celebrate our birthdays together as a double event. Hopefully this way I will be able to enjoy myself, keep my appetite alive to eat cake, and blow out candles and make wishes and not just feel as I’m acting happy, but that I really am happy, and having a Happy Birthday.
About a year after I wrote this post, my sister approached me with new information. It turns out that not only was the day and month of my birth wrong, I was also born a year later than I and everybody else had thought. The tiny and presumed undernourished two year old girl in my passport photo was actually a less than one year old baby, a fact that makes several more pieces of the puzzle that is my life, fall into place.
My physical development was not a year behind that of other kids my age, I was quite simply a year younger than them! It explains why I lost my teeth at the same time as children assumed to be one year younger than me. My learning difficulties in school were due to my age, because they tried to teach me stuff meant for kids a year older than I was.
And with the movement of the months in the Chinese calendar, it has brought my birthday closer to the middle of May. A side effect of this is that I have been able to celebrate the same birthday twice: on my birthday this year, I turned exactly the same age as I did last year. It also means that I’m suddenly younger than my boyfriend 🙂