I spoke at a conference in San Diego this past weekend. The event— Embrace Who You Are—was organized by Oleg Lougheed and his non-profit group, Overcoming Odds.
Oleg has a vision to create space for adoptees to share their experiences and overcome their challenges. He believes, like I do, in the power of story. Yours, mine, and his.
The day was transformative! It further strengthened my long-standing opinion that adoptees have a universe of wisdom to share with the world. All we have to do is assure them that it’s safe to open up and let that wisdom flow.
Have you ever thought about your story as your superpower? Or, even your swagger? I understand if your answer is no. So very often, the broken parts of our stories leave us feeling weak and inferior. We don’t see ourselves as superheroes. We lose our strut. We don’t remember how to rise. Confidence becomes a stranger. Embracing our flaws seems impossible.
Yet, on Saturday, as I listened to stories of adults who have walked the journey of foster care and adoption, I saw—right in front of me—individuals committed to unstoppable growth. Determined to move through the struggle of their lives and on to success in all areas of living. Each possessed a psychology of strength, forgiveness, gratitude, and an over-arching ability to love unconditionally.
In a blogpost I wrote here, on May of 2017, I shared these thoughts on my life as an international adoptee: “Beyond the bounds of birth heritage and birth history, I have come to learn a deeper sense of identity. One that has been, on many levels, unexpected: my nationality—over and above all else—is adoption.
What does this mean? For me, it means that there are no people on this planet of whom I feel more akin to than those who live within the skin of adoption. No people of whom I could be more proud to say I’m related to. Adoption is a proud heritage, even though the history often comes with pain and sorrow.
Adoption says that I have survived the unthinkable experience of being severed from the life I was born into. Adoption speaks of the gratitude I feel for being able to forgive and even bless those who walked away. Adoption expresses my ability to love beyond the borders of bloodline. It exemplifies my ability to see the events of my life as happening for me and not to me. In other words, I am not a victim. I am a victor, and I choose to thrive.
And, when I stand with others who share this nationality called adoption, I am able to share my story and know that I am safe because I’m understood. They understand because they live a similar journey. Within our differences, we are one. There is room for all voices within this nation, there is room for diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective.”
As I listened to others share in San Diego, I felt a surge of pride in this community of adoptees. The future is in capable and loving hands. We just have to keep sharing. Openly. Honestly. Never judging. We must be willing to listen. And, to love. Lifting each other up, and up, and up.
And, as we stand together—as one united force—we show the world that we’re not broken. We’re beautiful. Our stories are beautiful, too. Difficult? Yes. Hard? Sure. But, beautiful. So, so beautiful. This is the mindset we must strive for, daily. Younger generations of adoptees are watching how we move.
What I saw and what I heard this weekend was cause for hope.
We’re claiming our identities now.
We’re learning how.