In 2002, barely after my fourteenth birthday, I went back to Korea for the first with my mom and about fifty other people, all either fellow dancers (and fellow Korean adoptees) from my traditional Korean dance group or members of their families, as well as my dance teacher. I remember dancing in the hallway of the guesthouse where we stayed, between the stairs and the elevator, near the computer room. We were practicing for our performances — three of them in total — for the social workers of adoption agency through which most of us had been adopted (and at whose guest house we were staying), for expectant mothers at an unwed mothers’ home, and for children at an orphanage.
I loved it. I loved dancing; I loved being in Korea; I loved my friends; I loved the strange limbo I was in, not having to worry about school or anything else. My sole responsibility was to dance. I’ve never experienced anything like it — there’s always been papers to write, books to read, exams for which to study, job searching to do.
Back then, dance was the most important thing in my life. I wasn’t really involved with my school, and my dance group was my social life and my passion. We were, in many ways, like a big family. That isn’t to say that we always got along perfectly, but when it came down to it, we were there for each other. They were a part of my life that I couldn’t conceive of not having.
This was when everything was simple (well, dance politics were simple; middle school is filled with drama). I adored my dance teacher as I adored no other. There was a magic about her — something that made her seem like the most wonderful person on earth, something that made me feel so special. Being with my dance girls in Korea, in our birth country, was fantastic. That we were there to dance made it even better. It felt almost as though we were part of an exclusive club, and I was having the time of my life.
Just thinking back to dancing in that hallway makes me a little nostalgic. When I was there, I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone in the world. I truly didn’t think it possible that I could be happier than I was. It was as though all of my worries were put on hold, at least as long as I was dancing. The dances themselves were beautiful and familiar, and they just felt right.
It’s been almost a decade since that trip first trip back to Korea, and even though I’ve come a long way since then, part of me feels like that little girl with her friends, confident in the knowledge that life was spectacular.