Monday, January 15, 2018
Hello. It's Been a While.
At the age of 25, I started blogging as a way to try to find my original family. Once reunited with my original mother, two brothers, and 26 first cousins, I transitioned this blog to writing about my experiences within and perceptions of adoption.
I have been known somewhat for writing about my personal experiences, but more so for my focus on a socio-political lens, research, and theory. There is a reason for this. As a white, middle class, young-ish adult adoptee, adopted through private domestic infant foster/adoption, I am subjected to highly specific biases from agencies and parents currently navigating same-race, middle class, private, infant adoptions. Namely, my narratives and quotes have tended to appear in blogs, newsletters, articles, and beyond as professionals and parents alike have attempted to figure out how to navigate their adoptions and parenting so their children should or should not "turn out like me."
This is because I present a symptom that concerns many.
I am an adult adoptee who speaks.
Foremost, it has been difficult for those in the adoption constellation outside of the adoptee population to agree if adoptees speaking about adoption is a good thing (it is). This is because our perception differs from dominant speakers (adoptive parents, adoption professionals)--understandably because we stand in a different place. But a different lens applied to adoption means challenging what we currently know and accept about adoption. It means changing theory. It means changing law. It means sharing power in adoption practice as adoptees rise to become parents and practitioners, speakers, and teachers themselves.
Change is uncomfortable. Empathizing and companioning those whose stories are new and whose perceptions are not your own can be uncomfortable. It can require advanced skill, immense personal insight, and a willingness to be humble and just listen.
And no. People do not always think this is a good thing.
Of course, foster care adoptees, intercountry adoptees, and transracial adoptees experience far more pervasive and insidious biases and impositions onto their narratives than have I. There is a privilege in the type of bias I have faced where at times the greatest challenge someone pouring over my narrative in their own writing has faced is worrying that their own child will call both mothers "mom," as I do for my mothers.
Nonetheless, I have stuck in large majority to what seemed "sound" for me to say. To what no one could say, "well that was just you" or "your parents must have done something wrong" (don't all parents? I parent "wrong" all the time) or "you must have had a bad experience" (being displaced between families is a bad experience we should want to avoid for children, when possible). I obtained three degrees and a license. I completed all the requirements for multiple advanced clinical standings including the advanced license. I started practicing therapy with a highly sought-out concentration in adoption and placement stability. I wrote a book and compiled/edited/contributed to a dozen or so others. I went on radio and TV shows, became an expert witness on child welfare for my state capital, and presented my policies before Congress. I became a field instructor. I accepted a position as an adjunct professor teaching advanced policy to social work juniors and seniors.
I built a wall to keep criticism out. But this wall also kept pain in.
In spending my early years blogging about adoption to open an avenue and normalize our visible and audible presence in adoption spaces, the skills I built to protect my psyche with the push-back I received hardened me for truly caring for myself. I saw myself as valuable--if I knew the answer. I strove to be like my mentors, sometimes haphazardly, but the pedestal upon which I placed them created a receding horizon for me in which I would never deem myself as "good enough." I fell into people-pleasing and rarely giving myself a break from projects and advocacy.
So I took a break. I suppose two years is quite a long one. But in this time, I have learned to love myself and put myself first. I have learned that I don't need to know the answer or even speak to personally be convicted of my inherent worth and value. I have learned to share my story without fear of hearing, "Well that's just you." Why? Because it is just me. My experiences have individual and collective truth. And my words have value beyond what someone can extract as "useful" for parenting advice.
I am someone I do hope your kids "turn out like" and also "not turn out like." I hope they are like me in that they love themselves, they are prepared to tell their truth and their perceptions of what is around them freely, and they put themselves first. I hope they are not like me in that having degrees or books or blogs doesn't matter but in that they are supported into expanding forward into becoming their highest and best selves.
Being who we were born to be is far better than becoming anyone or anything else.
Please join me once again as I resume writing here in this space. I have missed you all, and I look forward to the new faces this next shift in my writing journey.
I began blogging in 2009 to try to find my original family and ended up becoming an author and activist for the adoption community. Two degrees in social work, two kids, multiple legislative campaigns, multiple published books, two collegiate teaching positions, a clinical practice, and advanced licensing later....I'm still at it and not giving up any time soon.