Dear Adoption, Rawr!
I can’t show my face because each time I speak about you, Adoption, someone tries to stop me and talk me out of my feelings. I think they think they’re being encouraging but they are just shutting me down and I’m tired of being shut down.
I feel emboldened when I can speak and show you who I am without actually showing you who I am.
I have never experienced a situation in which I bring up adoption grief and don’t receive push back. In 35 years of trying to get people to hear me I’ve become exhausted.
I’m a very happy, content person. I have had ups and downs just as we all have. There is only one area of my life that I feel is consistently tumultuous, though. It’s you, Adoption. It’s that I’m an adoptee.
6 Years Old
I heard my mom tell a friend that I’d be rotting in a filthy orphanage if they hadn’t adopted me. I asked her what it meant for a person to be rotting. She said I certainly wouldn’t have my barbies or my bike. Is that really what it meant to rot; no barbies or bikes? I guess I should stop thinking about my country, my orphanage and my birth family because I really do like my barbies and my bike.
9 Years Old
I have routinely listened to family and friends say disparaging things about my country for years. They talk about how weird Asian cultures are but how at least we have Chinese food. They are not being intentionally mean or hateful, they are just talking. They don’t realize, though that they’re talking about ME. I’m China. I’m that rotten orphanage. I’m a weird Asian person. I decide to be less Chinese by declaring Chinese food is “so gross” and that “I hear Asian people eat cats and dogs” (something I heard my uncle say). I refused to even eat rice because everyone made it clear that China is weird and gross so they must think that about me too. I better distance myself from rice.
12 Years Old
My friend at school asks what it’s like to be adopted. She wants to know where my real family is? Why didn’t they want me? How much does it cost to buy a person from another country? She didn’t know she was asking all the exact questions I had been wondering too. I’ve asked my mom those questions a few times but she never gives me good enough answers. She just says how God brought me to my real family and I was always supposed to be with them. She says it was never God’s plan for me to grow up in China. I belonged to them. My mom never saw the tears welling up in my eyes or how my whole body started to tremble as she was talking. I decided I needed to forget about the other person or life or whatever was in China. I just kept wondering why God made me Chinese and had me be born in China if it was His plan for me to be in my adoptive family all along? I was confused but committed to not being Chinese and not being adopted. And I was committed to not asking my mom about either for a long time. Maybe forever.
15 Years Old
I climb into the car for the first time as the driver with my crisp Drivers Permit in my purse. My brother says, “Oh great! Another Asian driver on the road!” Everyone laughs. I say I don’t feel well and get in the back seat. I think that maybe if I can change my face I will start driving, so I start experimenting with heavy eyeliner to make my eyes wider. I never got my drivers license because I don’t want to be an Asian driver.
18 Years Old
At college everyone thought I came from a Chinese family. It was so embarrassing. “So your family is all white?”, they’d ask. I would proudly state that I was basically white too and that I didn’t know anything about China. Heck, I didn’t even eat Chinese food. Not in front of other people, anyway.
22 Years Old
I’ve been trying to share my grief over being adopted with my parents and my friends for about 3 years. They all seem so shocked when I bring it up. Don’t I love them? Aren’t I grateful for everything I have? What could they have possibly done wrong? Could I even imagine what my life would have been if they never adopted me? All signs, according to them, point to the fact I would probably be dead. So I decided maybe it was better if I was dead. If I was supposed to be dead then I should probably just die. Maybe my parents interrupted fate. Maybe they interrupted God’s plan which was for me to die. They hate my country = they hate me. They think my country is weird = they think I’m weird. They think I would be dead if I wasn’t adopted = I should just be dead.
23 Years Old
I thought about being dead a lot. I still think about being dead and I have to work very hard to live. Most people see my joy and have no clue about the tug-of-war raging inside me. Still no one will listen. Still I’m told to be grateful. Still my parents become defensive when I bring up my true feelings about China which I hid from them for years.
I’ve thrown my hands up. I can talk until I’m blue in the face and still not be heard. My childhood, while riddled with racial micro-aggressions and zero acknowledgment of any sadness I might feel, was generally great. I’m not an outwardly angry person. I don’t speak with a harsh tone to my parents. I’ve sat and sobbed to my parents and my brother and with our family trying to get them to hear me but they just can’t – or won’t.
But here I can RAWR. When I can hide behind the mask of anonymity I can be bold like a lion. I can tell you I’m hurt, Adoption. Rawr! I can tell you I wish I could just forget about being abandoned and adopted but I just can’t shake it. Rawr! I can tell you I’m devastated that I’ll never know who my mom is and that I’ll never know if she misses me or thinks about me. Rawr! I wish I could say these things out loud and just be listened to. I’m one of the most thankful people on earth but I just want to be able to tell you, Adoption, that this is very hard. Being adopted is very hard and when you bring up that I would have died if it wasn’t for you, it doesn’t help me, it just makes me think I should be dead.
I don’t think I’m supposed to be dead though. I think I’m supposed to RAWR.
I’m hoping I can get up enough courage to rawr and show my face at the same time. One step at a time, Adoption. So for now, Adoption-Parents-Friends-World just hear me RAWR.