How does it feel like growing up as an adopted child?
Growing up, Marcus Khoo often received curious questions from his friends about his background.
They wondered why he looked so much darker than his mother. The truth is, Marcus is adopted.
"A lot of people ask me if I'm Chinese. By right, I'm supposed to be, but because of my skin colour, they always think that I'm from a different race," said Marcus.
Raised by a single Singaporean Chinese mother, Marcus was adopted from Indonesia when he was just 2 weeks old. He has lived in Singapore since and speaks like a local.
When Youth.SG met him three months ago at Orchard Road, Marcus shared his adoption story with us.
Marcus was not upset upon learning he was adopted, as he was still young then.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/PHANG JING LIN
The 22-year-old national serviceman knows little about his roots. He knows his biological mother is an Indonesian Malay, while his biological father is Korean.
But he never had the chance to meet them.
How did he find out he was adopted?
Marcus revealed: "My mum sat me down one day when I was about 3 or 4 years old and explained to me what adoption was, and that I was an adopted child."
He added: "She told me that I was adopted from Indonesia and that although she isn't my birth mother, she is my adoptive mother. [She told me] how she went to Indonesia and her friend brought her to this hospital where I was at.
"I was a very quiet baby. She feared that I would be a deaf and mute baby, so she waited for a while, but I still didn't make a sound. Just when she was about to leave, I started crying so loudly.
"That was when she felt like it was me asking her not to leave. There and then, she knew she had a connection with me."
Does he know why he was adopted?
"[My family] only had the contact of my biological mum but…she had no interest in keeping contact with me or anything. So, I guess our contact was cut off from there," said Marcus matter-of-factly.
While Marcus does not mind answering queries from his friends about his background, he admitted he is sometimes bothered by it.
He said: "Honestly, it was annoying at first because I was like, why are people so curious and wanting to dig up so much information. At first, I didn't share much because back then, I didn't know that adoption was such a huge deal. But after a while, I just got used to it."
So, he became more open about his adoption background in secondary school and polytechnic.
He said: "My classmates would be a little more cautious and sensitive when they want to know more about my adoption. They would ask me if I was comfortable to talk about it and how I felt about it. I always tell them that I'm open to sharing and it doesn't really affect me."
The mass communication graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic added: "As I grew up, I realised that I can share about my adoption [background], it's nothing. When I was younger, people didn't really understand, so I tried not to talk about it.
Marcus is grateful for the love and attention his adoptive mother (pictured) and grandparents gave him.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARCUS KHOO
But while he says he is not bothered by his background, he admits he often cannot help but wonder: "Why would anyone give me away?"
He said: "It's something a lot of other adopted children will feel as well. It's that inevitable question that they may or may not struggle with, but it's always at the back of our heads.
"It's a question that will always remain unanswered until we decide to find out the truth."
But Marcus is thankful for his adoptive mother and grandparents.
He said happily: "As an only child, it can get a little lonely growing up, but that's where my mum and grandparents try to compensate by giving in to me a lot and going the extra mile.
"My grandfather also knows that I loved eating McDonald's McChicken burger as a kid and he would always buy it back for me after he's done with his work, even when I didn't ask."
He added: "I wouldn't have learnt a lot about love and compassion for others and what it's like to be grateful for the things I have and the people around me. They shaped me as a person and taught me that love has no limits."
Marcus with his mother (left) and grandmother (right) at his graduation ceremony last year.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARCUS KHOO
So, does he intend to search for his biological parents one day?
Marcus replied hesitantly: "I'm fine with where I'm at. It's also hard now if I want to find them because the contact numbers have changed, and they may or may not be around. They also had no intention to keep in contact.
"I live by this saying, 'Sad beginning, happy ending.'"
"Although my beginning wasn't as bright or happy to begin with, I believe that it will end well," added Marcus, who hopes to start a business one day.
BANNER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/PHANG JING LIN
This is part one of a series exploring how youths grew up in different environments.