I remember when I first heard the term, “coming out of the fog.” It was during one of our early podcast recordings and with guest, Mark Hagland. At the time, it resonated so deeply within me regarding where I was and how I felt about my experience as an adoptee.
I was fiercely coming to terms with the fact that I was a person of color, Asian, and Korean. I no longer felt safe or protected by the narratives of gratitude and privilege that had been spun around me. On the one hand, I felt liberated because I finally had found the power to scream everything that had been building up inside me out into the world, but oftentimes I still found myself screaming into the void.
Now that some time has passed, I find myself really disliking the phrase, “coming out of the fog.” Coming out of the fog evokes imagery of emerging from this cloudy vail with clarity. It suggests that once the fog dissipates or you move beyond it, that you are met with sunshine and clear blue skies. It also carries a tone of finality–like when you’re out of the fog, you’re out. You’re done. No more struggle. No more questions. You’re on the other side.
But since “coming out of the fog” I would say that overall, the forecast has been cloudy at best. There are many rain showers, hurricanes, tornadoes, the occasional tsunami, and maybe, on a good day, the temperature reaches a mere 65 degrees with a light breeze instead of a cold, damp, and gray 42. Sometimes I honestly think that comparatively, the fog wasn’t all that bad. I mean, what’s a little blissful mist compared to standing in the middle of a thunderstorm with an umbrella full of holes?
Instead of “coming out of the fog” I think my experience has been more like being shoved out of a plane.
On the way up, I was sitting first class, drink in hand while I sat comfortably, unaware of what was outside of the aircraft. But then for whatever reason, I was dragged out of my seat and pushed out the emergency exit. Maybe the plane was on fire, maybe I was just getting too . comfortable–regardless, something caused me to find myself free falling through the air at breakneck speed.
Here’s the thing about falling out of a plane–as you plummet towards the earth, there is air pushing back up against you. For me, this proverbial air was things like: fear, guilt, shame, racism, imposter syndrome, jeopardized relationships, etc. There were so many things pelting me in the face once I left the comfort of my plane–some things that nearly pushed me back into the plane, and some things that considerably slowed my descent to earth.
Personally, I think I’m still falling. Who knows how high up my aircraft was at the point of my exit. I’m still tumbling and freewheeling at the mercy of many of those updraft forces. But when I do finally make contact with the ground, I don’t know what the landscape will look like.
Will it be lush and green with sunshine and rainbows? Or will I find a massive patch of scorched earth? Will I land in the midst of a community of friends or surrounded by enemies ready to stab me in the back? Will I be able to stay where I land, or will I need to pick up and venture to explore elsewhere?
It is totally unknown.
And what’s more is, the landscape that I happen to land on will look totally different than the landscape that another adoptee lands on. The rate at which I hit the ground is totally my own. Someone else could jump out of the exact same plane at the exact same elevation, yet they could arrive far ahead or behind me. And that’s ok.
It’s also ok to not like where you land and to do whatever you need to do in order to change it. Maybe you plant trees. Maybe you don’t like trees and you want to fill it with rocks instead. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get to create it. You can choose to build or not build, plant or not plant, and your landscape is only “complete” if you say it is. Perhaps you’ll live on a patch of land for decades and then suddenly decide you want to change it. You can do that.
At the same time, the fact remains that you can never go back the way you came. You can’t propel yourself back up into the air and back into that same plane. Sure, you can find an airport and board another airline–different perks, different comforts, and a whole new freefalling experience, but it’s never going to be exactly the same as that first initial jump or shove.
And that’s what this experience is all about.