Updated: May 23
For Sarah Wong (@metamorphosis101), the most difficult part of being adopted was finding herself. The journey led her through change after change, not just to her view of herself but her view of her place in the world. Join us on this, our final episode of season 3, to hear how finding your truth, finding your core values, finding your place in the world can make you the true leader of your life.
Highlight Reel: 00:30 The story of adoption 3:30 Adopted from birth (I didn’t realize how important it was) 8:20 The forbidden door 16:50 Adopted family’s feelings 22:40 Kicking out fear 25:20 Validate yourself 27:30 Navigating from core values 30:10 A little time travel (or The pomegranate tree)
Adrienne MacIain 0:01
Hey everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. I'm your hostess Adrienne MacIain, and today we have Sarah Wong. Sarah, please introduce yourself.
Sarah Wong 0:13
Hi, Adrienne, thank you so much for having me. My name is Sarah, and I am the owner of Metamorphosis 101, a life and career coaching business. And I'm just so excited to be here to chat with you and sort of explore where this conversation will go.
Adrienne MacIain 0:31
Absolutely. So the first question that I usually ask, I'll just throw this out here and see what this gives, what story is the world not getting?
Sarah Wong 0:42
Oh, well, something that I have spoken on a few other podcasts about, and just something that I'm really passionate about within my own life and my experience, is my adoption, and being adopted, and just adoption in general. Sort of something that I found is it's like a weird, almost taboo topic that you don't hear a whole lot about. But it's such an amazing gift that I received in my life. And I don't know, that part of my story, I think, is something that I really enjoy talking about. And that, you know, I don't think that many are out there sort of advocating for it and sort of speaking about their experiences within that. You know, I've had both good and bad come in my life because of it. But just in general, I would say that that story, and especially more positive stories of adoption... I feel like the stories that I have heard out there are often, you know, kind of the horror stories. So I like to share my positive story of adoption. That's something that I think that, you know, it's great. I love talking about it, and I love sharing it. And as well, of course, just the mental health stigma, and that sort of thing as well. That's another kind of aspect of my work and of my life that I think is being more spoken about now than before, which is fantastic. But I think that's something that still needs some more light shed on it.
Adrienne MacIain 2:17
Absolutely. So we'll dive into your story in just one second. I just want to say that adoption is something that's very close to my heart, as well, because I have an adopted sister.
Sarah Wong 2:28
Adrienne MacIain 2:29
Now she was adopted into our family when she was a little bit older, because she is adopted, originally, to a family. And the family that she had been adopted into, there was a lot going on, shall we say, when she was growing up. Her mother had cancer over and over and over again. They kept sending her home to die, and it sort of became the running joke of, like, Mom's coming home to die again. And so she and I became besties, and she spent a lot of her time just living at our house. And so eventually, we just made it official and adopted her and so she is now.
Sarah Wong 3:10
Adrienne MacIain 3:11
Yeah, so kind of a negative and positive experience there. And she's reconciled with her original adoptive family now and, you know, considers them family as well. So we all have a big extended family at this point.
Sarah Wong 3:25
Oh, that's amazing.
Adrienne MacIain 3:26
Yeah. So I'd love to know, where does this story begin for you?
Sarah Wong 3:33
So my adoption story is I was adopted from birth so that, you know, that was my scenario. And I have an adopted sister as well. She's not my biological sister. So we grew up together, we had a, just a beautiful childhood. And I always knew I was adopted. My parents were very open with me about it, which I sincerely appreciate. But throughout my life, I didn't really know a whole lot about my biological background and where I truly came from. I knew kind of minimal information. Obviously, I'm interracial, so I knew by my blood I must be half Korean. I knew I was Korean on the Asian side. And on the white side, I thought I was mostly Irish. Come to find out that I'm actually mostly British and Scottish. So pretty close to Irish.
Adrienne MacIain 4:22
Celtic, there's some Celt in there.
Sarah Wong 4:22
Yeah. I'm Celtic. Exactly. Some strong Celtic blood. Yeah. As I grew older, and as I kind of moved into my mid-20s, more and more questions started to come up about my biology and sort of, you know, that side of myself. So that's where I think the more difficult part of my adoption started to come in was in finding myself, right, and kind of finding my identity and who I am. Right? Like, I didn't realize, I guess, how important that was for me. Because I have a lot have friends that are also adopted, and they didn't have the same sort of issues that I had, they didn't have the same sort of identity crisis that I was going through. And I just felt sort of on an island by myself in this sense, and this feeling that I needed to explore that side of myself more. And even, you know, my mom, my sister, and my dad, like, kind of reinforced to me, like, That doesn't really matter, we're your family, we love you, we're here for you. But still, that pull from inside was kind of, you know, it was creating this, this kind of void inside of me. And so, finally, I decided this is something that I really need to pursue, even by the help of my therapist. I started seeing a therapist a couple years ago, and she strongly recommended, she was like, If this is something that you need to do. She's, like, So sweet that you're trying to respect your family and your mom and your dad and your sister, but for your personal growth and development, if it's something that you need to pursue or want to pursue, she's like, I think you should do that. So I decided to pursue that a couple years ago, and I finally got in touch with my biological family about a little over a year ago, November of 2019. And ever since then, it's just been this whirlwind, you know, it's like this opening of this door, of this whole other part of myself that it's like unlocking that key a little bit, where I'm like, Wow, okay, this has been inside of me for my whole life. And here I am now, like, finally being able to explore. It's really almost like there was this door, right, that I couldn't access. And I was like, standing by it, curiously looking at it all throughout my life, you know. Like, Hmm, I wonder what's behind that door? And finally, I pushed that door open, and I started exploring, and it's just been such an incredible, incredible experience, you know, to learn more about my biology and to reconnect with my biological family. And now I have a connection with so many of them. Like, I think that I consider myself kind of an empath, and like, I have, you know, like, a spiritual connection with a lot of them, because they knew about me, and they had been thinking about me all throughout my life. And I felt them, I felt them thinking about me, and that's where that curiosity was really coming from was like, you know, almost that spiritual connection, right, that I had with them. And that set like, it was crazy, because I remember, there would be times where I would feel like, I would feel it so strongly, like, one of them is thinking about me, somebody is thinking about me. You know, like, just this sense. And I thought I was crazy. You know? I thought I was completely crazy for feeling that way. And it was nice to you know, have it validated and to learn that, you know, they told me, We have been thinking about you all throughout these years, so you feeling like that was, that was something real, that was something authentic. So that's been just an, it's been an incredible, I mean, I don't know, if we want to kind of dive and dig a little deeper into that.
Adrienne MacIain 6:12
Let's go back a little bit.
Sarah Wong 8:16
Adrienne MacIain 8:16
So you started, you know, sort of scratching at this door. You started to do that research. What did you actually do? And how did you find them?
Sarah Wong 8:25
So, I've told this story a couple times, and I love telling this story. My biological mother, she wrote me a letter, and I think that was when... because the door itself was kind of like, one that I didn't really have any desire to go behind up until I received this letter from my biological mother. You know?
Adrienne MacIain 8:46
Yeah, that changes everything.
Sarah Wong 8:46
It was, like, the forbidden door. Yeah, it was like the forbidden door that I was just like, I don't have any interest in going there. And then a letter that I received from her, because I had up until I received that letter sort of just thought that maybe she didn't want to meet me, or that that was sort of just how it would be. And when I opened...
Adrienne MacIain 9:05
You have to feel invited.
Sarah Wong 9:07
Yeah. When I opened the letter, she wrote in there that she would love to meet me someday. So it shifted me from 'She doesn't ever want to meet me,' to 'Oh my god, here she is writing to me that she wants to meet me someday.' And my parents had sealed that letter. They never read it, so they didn't really know what was in there. And they waited until they thought I would be ready, like emotionally, and you know, to read it. So, again, I was 22, the same week that I graduated from college. So I think that they were trying to get me through my college education and, you know, then say, Okay, it's time to explore this side of yourself now. So. Yeah, after that, I was very curious. And I spent a few years really actually going through the hardest mental part of my life. It was, like I said, it went from this Forbidden Zone of like, I don't even really think I want to meet her, to like, Okay, I want to pursue, but I don't really know how. My parents didn't go through an adoption agency, they used an adoption lawyer, so it was a little bit more difficult. There wasn't like a, you know, like a specific resource that I could turn to. And they gave me the number for the lawyer, but for some reason, like, I never called it, I never pursued it. And I looked on Facebook for a couple of my, because I got my uncle's name, my biological uncle and my biological aunt, I got a few of their names. But they all, their last name is Kelly. And so they all have very common names. You know, when I searched for, like Todd Kelly, Laurie Kelly, there's like a million results on Facebook for them. So finding them was was quite difficult. But I submitted my ancestry DNA back in 2015. So that was kind of the first step to learning more about my biology. And it was really interesting to get back the results for that, because again, like I said, I thought I was Irish for most of my life and it turned out, I was British. So I was like, Hmm, that's interesting. And from there, eventually, you know, life took me on this crazy path, and I sort of went down this rabbit hole for a few years of exploring my creativity and my artistic side. And I had that phase of life where I wasn't really focused a whole lot on my job, more focused on finding myself and, you know, like, just being a free soul for a little bit in life. And it was really a fun time where I was able to explore. But through that this identity crisis that I was going through just kind of got worse and worse, to the point that I had a pretty bad sort of breakdown, where I think I saw in your questions, hitting that rock bottom, and I would say that I, yeah, I hit that rock bottom. And I realized that it was time to make a change. It was time to, to pursue this, because it was really important for me, in being able to move forward.
Adrienne MacIain 12:18
So when and how did that tide turn and allow you to start sort of climbing toward the light? And what did that look like for you?
Sarah Wong 12:26
Yeah, so at the time I was working at a nonprofit organization. And I was actually really struggling in my position there. I was having performance issues, I was missing meetings, I was having time management problems. And it was all, again, due to this identity crisis that I was going through. And my colleagues were sort of noticing and they... Tom, he's kind of one of my saviors. I appreciate him so much, because he is really into genealogy himself, and he does all sorts of ancestry work for his own life. And so I asked him, I was like, Can you maybe help me and try to find them? And he actually found my biological grandparents phone number.
Adrienne MacIain 13:15
Sarah Wong 13:15
Yeah. Again, this was about November of 2019. And I was like, okay, he gave it to me. And like, immediately, I had an office at the time, and I shut the door. And I sat there, my heart was racing, and I looked at the phone number, and I was like, If I don't call it right now, I don't know if I'm gonna do it. So I picked up that phone. And, of course, as it's ringing, I was like, wait, what if they don't know about me? What if I'm, like... alright, you know, here we go. And so I heard an answer, a gentleman's voice, 'Hello?' And it turned out my biological grandfather. And he knew about me, he knew who I was. And he was so pleasantly surprised to hear from me. And he was like, 'I need to, I need to give the phone to Judy!' His wife, my biological grandmother. And chatted with her, immediately learned that she was also adopted from birth, which was like, so crazy.
Adrienne MacIain 14:12
Sarah Wong 14:11
Yeah. And that was just an instant connection that me and her had was... and as well, come to find out that she also, like me, had an incredible curiosity to learn more about where she truly came from. So, like I said, it was, that was really hard for me throughout my life was in talking to a lot of adoptees, a lot of them didn't have that same curiosity that I had. And here I was now, talking to my biological grandmother for the first time and she's like, immediately, like, I fully understand what you're going through. And so she had spent years of working on our genealogy, working on our family's genealogy. So I went from knowing really nothing at all, going through this incredible identity crisis, feeling torn in my soul, to having her send me and mail me all of our genealogy. Knowing all about my ancestors, and sort of having all those answers, excuse me, questions answered. It was just such an incredible like, shift, you know? It was like, I have to say it was a little overwhelming. And I received all of this in the beginning of the quarantine when the pandemic was just starting. So here I was, like, I felt almost a little guilty, because the whole world was going into this disaster mode, and here I am, like, oh, my gosh! You know, growing and learning and feeling just so immersed into this new world. And it was, I mean, I just have to say, I appreciated the timing in my life, because it gave me a such a great distraction from the early days of the pandemic. And it was just so incredible to spend that, you know, it was a good month or so that I spent looking into the ancestors, because she gave me the list of all of them. And so I spent time kind of looking into who they were and doing my research, and I was like, oh, my gosh, this is so cool. You know? So it was really fantastic and amazing to have those questions answered. And I think I can maybe blame my ancestors for why I felt that so much, because they were like, We need you to know who we are! You know? And, yeah, I felt called to action and called to service really in my life. And, like I said, I was struggling in my job before, I was really going through a rough patch in my life in general. And now I here I am a year later, I have a fantastic job that I love, I'm working full time again. And I have my business that I'm operating on the side. So it's like, you know, it's just been an incredible growth experience.
Adrienne MacIain 16:50
So how did your adoptive family respond to all of this?
Sarah Wong 16:55
Um, not the best, unfortunately. That's been the hardest, hardest thing through all of it is... like I said, they have told me numerous times throughout my life that my biological family is not my family, that they're my family, and they're very black and white about it. And all I've been trying to do for my entire life, is just trying to pull them more into the gray area, right? Just trying to get them a little bit closer to understanding that my need to do this has absolutely nothing to do with my love for them or the care that I have for our family. And if anything, me pursuing this makes me a much more whole person, and much more capable of being a better daughter, much more capable of being a better sister, a better colleague, a better friend, a better person in general. I think, you know, not knowing answers that you really need to, that you're feeling deep inside, that you need to know, and then not being able to access or even pursue those and then having the people that you love the most sort of negatively reinforcing that you shouldn't do those things. If, you know... that's where I again thank my therapist so much for really pushing me and encouraging me to pursue it either way. Because I didn't pursue it for as long as I did because of my adoptive family and because of their feelings around it. And in time, you know, my sister, she's pretty, because of her experience, she really has no connection with her biological family, and she doesn't have any desire to connect with them. And I think that she sometimes forgets that we are separate people, that our experiences are separate, and that her feelings about that, you know, it's different than my experience, and my desire to pursue that doesn't have to necessarily be the same as hers. So that's probably been the biggest challenges with them. But my mom, I would say my adoptive mom, she's just my mom, sometimes the language is a little bit challenging, but my mom, she is probably the most supportive. She has been very open with me sort of telling her about some of my ancestral history and sort of sharing that. Her and my dad are still not comfortable with me talking about my relationship with my biological family, but they are more open to learning more about my biology, and my ancestors, and my history, and that sort of thing. But they've all, my whole family has basically said that they don't really want to know much about my relationship with my biological family, and sort of the ins and outs, and what that looks like. So that's something that was really hard for me, but I'm at a very good place with it right now, where I've fully accepted their desires, and I respect and honor their wishes with that, and I'm happy to keep it separate. And, you know, I have a fantastic relationship with both now, and it's really amazing. And I think it's taught me a lot of lessons in humility, and knowing who I should and shouldn't share certain things with. I have like, an honesty streak where I'm too open and too honest about things with too many people. You know? So it's really taught me how to know and learn how to like respect boundaries, right? Because where I want boundaries within my life, right, I have to remember that other people want boundaries within their lives as well. And that's basically what my parents and my sister are asking me for with that is, These are our boundaries. And they want me to respect that. And for a long time, it was very challenging, because I thought that they were, you know, I thought that they were kind of undercutting me or whatever, that they were disrespecting my desires to pursue that. And then all I wanted was to be open and share it with them. But I understand now that I don't have to share it with them if they don't want to, and that it's okay for me to keep it separate. You know?
Adrienne MacIain 21:19
Yeah. Nobody's life is a democracy. We all, you know, get to make our own decisions, and nobody else gets a vote. But it's very true too that other people have their boundaries, and you got to respect that, too. So it's really lovely that you've found that balance. Yeah.