Last week I received the terribly sad news that my friend Aimee Bang, one of the first Korean adoptees I met in NYC, had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. We weren’t incredibly close: we weren’t “we go back 10 years” or “bye, call me in the morning!” kind of friends, but she made a lasting impact on my life. In 2012, being new to the city and not having family in the area, Aimee was the very first person to visit me after I had my daughter, who then wore the sweater Aimee gave her in her passport picture six months later.
It’s not the visit or the baby gift, though, that I will remember most about Aimee. What will stick with me forever is our conversations about being KADs and finding our places within the community.
Aimee wasn’t the kind of adoptee who would meet you, then immediately bombard you with information and save-the-dates about adoptee events. She wasn’t the kind of person who constantly introduced you as her “adoptee friend” or assumed that every time you’d get together, you wanted to eat Korean food or throw back some soju. She just wanted to be a friend—no modifiers—and, over time, we bonded over our mutual annoyance of the aforementioned personality types. Back in 2012, Aimee blogged about that, and what I especially like about that post is when she concluded “My story is my own. It is distinct and exclusively flawed. Please do not try and take this away from me. I am not you and you are not me.”
Back in 2012 when I started this journey, Aimee showed me that it’s entirely possible and okay to be involved in the KAD community without—and I’m going to be frank here—letting everyone else’s experience, expectations, and, well, baggage weigh me down or determine how I’d continue on my own journey. In those days, I confided a lot in Aimee because she never suggested that I “see someone” or blamed my own identity crisis on my adoptive parents or told me that I should feel like a victim… she would just let me talk; she let my story be my own.
So when I say, “Thanks, Aimee, for your quiet independence and strength,” I imagine her looking right at me, smiling, shrugging her shoulders and saying, “It’s okay.”