gallery Dear Adoption, I’m Tired

Anh Dao Kolbe

Dear Adoption, I’m Tired

Worn out from years of explaining who I am and who I am not. I have grown weary of trying to assimilate into countries and cultures that ask me to be for them and not with them. I have grown fatigued of tracing a story that befits only a partial narrative, left only with speculation and the inability to reconcile the truth of the story. And I am one of the lucky ones—one of those whose story gaps were nearly filled after looking so long for the answer. But there are no complete answers, only more questions. I am tired of the questions left hanging like a string of lights above my head, filaments twisted on the inside and no longer producing a spark. They will remain unchanged—my once-steady hand exhausted from stretching out to change the bulb, the ladder I’ve used all these years weakened from my constant climb. I ache, after 40 years, from the moments I had to reel myself back in from feelings of loss and inadequacy, trying to find value in a space that wanted to compartmentalize me: my feelings, my worth, my identity. I am weakened by decades of trying to articulate what it means to be adopted, knowing that even in the best circumstance I could have been given, in many ways, I still lost. I was lost. Shuffled under damp blankets that suffocated me, weighted down by tears that accumulated in the taut threads of longing and silent suffering. Words left swallowed back down when I knew that I could not say what I felt. Hurt. Lonely. Sad. Simple statements you’re not allowed to voice because you’ll sound foolish. Ungrateful. Incomprehensible. I have typed out these ideas over decades—arthritic fingers connecting with black keys that are stiff from constant use, trying to capture the sentiments that sound like a betrayal to what I have been given. But they’re not. They’re just words, coalescing over waterfalls of ambiguity that I have lived with all these years. They’re just thoughts, simmering under surfaces of loss that I drag behind me. I am exhausted from pulling. The ropes are beginning to fray from the weight of all the time I was trying to find my worth because of one moment that makes you feel worthless forever. I am tired, Adoption. Not because you gave me everything but because sometimes, you gave me nothing.

Joie was adopted from Vietnam in 1973. She was raised in New Mexico by a loving, supportive family who always gave her the space to be proud of being different. She has spent much of her life articulating the adoptee experience in journals and Word documents, some of which has made it out into the world within the pages of a master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation. In 2015, she was reunited with half of her biological family after finding her birth father with the help of DNA testing and caring friends. She flew to Vietnam to meet him just before he passed away at the age of 94. She currently lives in Colorado and is an educator, writer, mother of three children, and guest speaker on topics related to Vietnam’s orphans of war.

Photo taken by Anh Dao Kolbe as part of a Vietnam Adoptee portrait series titled “Misplaced Baggage”.  Anh Ðào is a social justice photographer and social worker.


  1. Hello……As a fellow Adoptee, and Facilitator of Adoption Searches and Triad Support Group for years, I can say that no matter where you are born or what your situation is or how wonderful your adoptive family was…..if you are adopted,,,,,,you most likely at some pointin your life when you really get in touch with YOUR true feelings will go through an identity crisis……WHO AM I? WHere did I come from? What is my heritage……..? What were the circumstances of my adoption? What is my current up-to-date medical history? Every adoptee has the right to know if that’s what they want! We arent looking for Mommy and Daddy…….we are looking for IDENTITY!
    People need to be educated and informed what this adoption experience is all about. If you want the answers, be proactive and get them. You will get a sense of peace when you find your truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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