I was born in South Korea on a cold December morning in 1986. My newborn wails were heard from the streets. So loud that a police officer found me swaddled inside of a trash bin. Eighteen months later, I landed in the U.S. to meet my new adopted family. My adopted mother gave me the middle name “Hope” because she said I was the only hopefor her to have a child. But all hope for a happy and loving childhood was quickly extinguished.
My adopted parents were divorced by the time I was 4 years old. My adopted father went into a substance abuse program, and my adopted mother—consumed by pain and rage and saddled with my father’s mounting debt—became my living nightmare. Many years and countless therapy sessions later, I began to understand the psychology behind her actions. But as a young child subjected to daily physical and mental abuse by her hands, it shaped every part of my world. After being constantly berated and told I wasn’t good enough, I lacked all confidence in myself and hated my own existence. When I was 13-years old, I promised myself that I would not make it to 21.
My teenaged years were reckless and self-destructive. I looked for love in all the wrong places, and I turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. As I got older, I stopped trying to prove to my mother that I wasn’t the horrible person she said I was; instead, I leaned into it and became the worst version of myself. I allowed others to take advantage of me. I gravitated towards people who could perpetuate the same cycles of abuse. On my twenty-first birthday, I remember falling to the floor of my hotel “party” room and crying my eyes out, weeping for an unfulfilled promise to a traumatized 13-year-old.
I hadn’t planned to live this long. I wasn’t sure what to do or who to turn to. I hadn’t seen my father since he left when I was 16, and I abruptly left my mother’s house at age of 17. I was completely alone.
My twenties were still riddled with self-doubt and poor judgement, but I was determined to make something of myself, mostly out of spite. The perception of success I held back then was still based on my undying need for approval from my birth mother, my adopted parents, myself, and from a society that inevitably shunned me for being weird because I was broken. So, I drove myself into the ground working feverishly, day-and-night, collecting titles and raises and ruthlessly climbing the corporate ladder. But I still felt an unrelenting sadness and unhappiness settling in my soul. I prioritized work over loved ones and destroyed countless romantic relationships in the process. I substituted my job for drugs and alcohol, and I continued dispensing my own self-inflicted abuse.
In a life that felt damned, I somehow always had a guardian angel by my side. An angel who saved an abandoned soul 36 years ago. Through all the pain and shame, my angel never left me. Eventually, after tiring of the same repetitive pain cycles, I felt an inner calling to heal myself, and I began the torturous journey to seek my dharma, or soul’s purpose. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started to hold myself accountable. I started going to therapy more frequently to better understand myself and to untangle my deep-rooted pain. I also immersed myself in the vast worlds of Eckhart Tolle, Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and other authors of their ilk. I even began a tradition of annually re-reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Depending on where I am mentally and spiritually each year, different parts of this beautiful parable resonate more deeply.
After 10+ years of soul searching and painful transformations, it finally dawned on me that the only person in charge of my happiness is me. I learned that I needed to do the work to understand what fulfilled me versus what drained me. And that meant facing the fact that the measurements I once used to define myself—seeking validation through my job, my title, my salary, my success—were actually the cause of my suffering. I felt suffocated, unheard, and unfulfilled. And as a result, I would lash out in anger. I was hurting myself and was I hurting others because I wasn’t living my most authentic life. As Brené Brown said, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
In 2020, I resigned from my job at a company where I worked for almost twenty years. The same company where my mom worked, and where I was determined to prove to her and myself that I was capable of succeeding against all odds. For better or worse, I accomplished that goal. Now, I am untethered and admittedly afraid of the great unknown, but I am finally free from my own constraints. I am not perfect and will forever be a work-in-progress, but I am grateful for my struggle. And my hope is that we can all learn to show compassion to ourselves and accept ourselves as we are.Leave a Comment
L. Britt says
Thank You for sharing your journey. May God continue to shine on you. Continued Growth and Blessings.
Fredericka McGhee says
“truth,” in small letters. Not because “truth” is insignificant; but because “truth” is such a basic element in self knowledge. We must, at least, see ourselves clearly.
Powerful, authentic and honest. Many women have complicated journeys in worlds that never wanted us, yet we knew we belonged!
I well said that just were Iam in my life… Trying to live my authentic self.
J.P. Mitchell says
What a powerful journey…I am SO thankful that that 13-year-old’s promise was nullified! Glad to read this today…
Celena Kirkland says
“I learned that I needed to do the work to understand what fulfilled me versus what drained me.” Wow..this resonates so much with me.
This article was a great read and confirmation for me on many levels as I seek my purpose. Congratulations to you for your courage and for seeking help. As the saying goes, “You do better, when you know better”.
Peace and blessings to you and know god covers all your footsteps.
Jessica, what a beautiful testimony and u’ve come out on the other side; I say that bc you u r here to share it w/us. I recently received a beautiful graphic and it says, “HOPE …SOMETIMES IT’S ALL YOU HAVE WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING LEFT. BUT IF YOU HAVE IT, YOU HAVE EVERYTHING.” That’s U Jessica HOPE Elias and never 4get, U have everything!
B. Richardson-Brown says
Truly this was an awesome testimony. So happy that this person had the strength to continue the journey of life in smite of. Applauds and prayers for their continued journey of life. 🙏🏽❤
Barbara Motley says
Self acceptance is the best gift. Each of us struggle in silence but thank you for sharing. Your willingness to share will open doors to know that each of us can do better. What helps me is to start each day first with meditation, pray and a gratitude moment written in a notebook. Actually exercise helps even stretching and perhaps a short walk in my neighborhood or walking in my basement.Goal is to be a better person to myself than in 2022.
Rosa G. says
Thank you so much for this quote:
As Brené Brown said, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Peace and Love to you Jessica!♥️
Desiree R. says
Thank you for sharing your truth.
Thank you for sharing the pain and beauty of what life is like for an overcomer.
Marie Ruffin says
I’m loving the inspirational messages, Also, I’m on a road of healing and Showing up for me.
As I approach 2023, the word that resonant with my inner spirit is Residual, No more negative residual of unforgiving
Bitterness, jealousy or anger from anyone who disappointed or hurt me in 2022. I want to be free in 2023 for real for real
Beautifully and authentically written, thank you for sharing your journey. Wholeness, health, peace and joy to you.
I have found them in a relationship with God through Yeshua.
And I started sessions with a great therapist this year.
What a journey! May you continue to heal and love yourself! Blessings on Blessings 🙌🏾
Regina Coley says
Wow. I’m rooting for your continued healing and self love. Thanks for sharing your story.
Brenda Jubilee says
Thank you for sharing your touching story. You are a pillar of strength and thank God you survived. Yes, you are special and deserve the best. Amazingly, you figured it out by the grace of God.
Jackie Warren says
Kudos to you, for being brave enough to grow into your true being!! It is not an easy journey, but a journey one MUST take if ever you are to live truly free. Congratulations and May each endeavor from this day forward be fruitful. Be well ❤️
Cynthia Daniels-Banks says
Jessica, I am so glad your twenty-first birthday promise you initially desired remained unfulfilled. I’m grateful it fizzled, and burned out … Else I/we would have missed the inspiration your writing has ignited.
Keep your candle lit.
We need your light.🌹
Raya Reaves says
Loved reading this! So happy to see your face here!
Tricia "Nailah" Anders says
I applaud your courage to become your authentic self. I hope that you have come to see and to know how very strong and resilient you are. Not many of us decide to strive to overcome the obstacles life presents to us, especially horrific obstacles, and still stand strong. thank you for sharing your story. Sending love, light, and continuous healing energy to you.
Teresa Amos says
Great story. Just as your middle name is “Hope,” continue on your journey. God is not finished with you. Love yourself and have faith.
I feel your pain and relate to it on so many levels. I’m so glad you were able to begin the process of finding your authentic self. I wish you the best as you continue on your journey.
Your story is very encouraging to me on my journey to wholeness, healing, and self-love.
Such a beautiful loving story of self-love! So glad you found you and your voice and realized you are not what others think or call you! Life is hard enough without being beat down by those who are suppose to build you! Fathers are great but without the love of a mother and her nourishment is so much worse and hard on any child growing up. I’m so happy for you that you finally fell in love with yourself, because that’s who you’ll spend the rest of your life with no matter what! Kudos to you!
I wish you all the best in 2023. You’re free to BE. Onward!
Deborah Carter says
I’m so proud of you and me
Enjoy your truth
Juan D. says
I am blessed to witness your strength – the courage, vulnerability, wisdom and grit that you possess. You are such a gift to the world and I cannot wait for you to fully grasp it and experience others witnessing in you as much as I know they are, and they will.