Why do I write so transparently about the adoptee experience?
Because I know that there are other adoptees in the world, right now, who feel isolated and are frustrated by this sense of isolation. That’s not to say that these same adoptees are not loved and cherished by their adoptive families, it’s just that adoption—for the adoptee—can feel lonely.
Who do you talk to? Where do you turn? How do you grab hold of emotions and questions that you’ve stuffed way down inside of you and bring them up to the light? Will you still be loved, included, if you do?
Fear of rejection is real for the adoptee. Often, our initial reaction to this fear is to push with all of our might away from the rawest parts of ourselves. Pushing is a protective mechanism for the person of adoption.
Adoption is hard. It’s so very hard. And, it’s beautiful. Adoption is heartbreakingly beautiful.
I understand the complexities of adoption.
I’ve lived them.
I live them.
Adoption never leaves you. For the adoptee, it’s a journey that spans a lifetime. Being adopted is an experience we didn’t ask for, or even cause. There are real and raw moments when it seems that the pain and confusion of adoption cannot be overcome. Asking why, often times, seems pointless when answers are hard to find. Adoption can seem unfair. Unjust. Adoption can hurt. You may wonder if you’ll ever move beyond the disempowering feelings.
My Adoption Story
“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.” —Fleur Conkling Heyliger
March 24th will always be one of the most important days of my life. On this day, almost 29 years ago, I flew from Seoul, Korea, to Michigan to meet my forever family.
As an adult, I know that many stories begin like this. However, as a child, I never thought about what adoption really meant. I’m not quite sure my schoolmates knew either. My classmates just knew me as the girl who always shared cookies, cake, or cupcakes and celebrated her adoption every March 24th. Each year, my mom or dad helped educate my friends and classroom about my “Plane Day.” We would even bring in little folded handouts to give to everyone.
On this episode of The Greater Than Podcast, I speak with Loren Michaels Harris.
Loren Michaels Harris is a survivor of the foster care system. He draws upon his upbringing to motivate and inspire others in overcoming their obstacles to success and achieving the life they want.
Loren is a motivational speaker and message discovery coach. He assists individuals in realizing what they can do with their own personal stories and messages—how their stories can be used to help others reclaim their lives. It’s the “power of we” that Loren so eloquently shares with us.
If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: the adoption community is a healthier one when its experiences and stories are shared out loud. We’ve learned, over many years, that silencing the voices and perceptions of those within our community will never help to forge deeper levels of understanding and inclusion.
What was once thought as a healthy choice: distancing adoptees from the truth of their birth stories, is now known to be of great disadvantage to their overall well-being. We’ve learned the importance of supporting and hearing all members of the adoption triad. We’ve arrived to an empowering place within the adoption conversation as we speak this declaration: the adoption community will no longer be treated as a secret society.
Currently, there are over 400,000 kids in the foster care system in the United States. Children and youth enter into the system because they, or their families are in crisis. Often, they have been removed from their parents because they are unsafe, abused, or neglected. These kids are displaced from their homes—and sometimes—even their schools and/or towns. They are often moved from home to home, and live in a state of instability.
It seems so long ago that I was walking around the bustling halls of my high school. My hair was platinum blonde, I had a ballet-slipper pink backpack, and I walked around with a sense of determination. I was known as “the singer”. It was a fitting name since I spent nearly all of my time either in choir, singing lessons, singing competitions, or shows. I would also go around campus singing everywhere—in classrooms, in bathrooms, in the halls—it didn’t matter. I was most happy when I was singing, and so, I sang everywhere!
When I turned eighteen, I became homeless in the winter in Scranton, Pennsylvania. That was hard, guys. It was the hardest thing that I had ever had to deal with, and that’s saying something! This wasn’t foster care’s fault. It was mine. It was my choices. It was my actions. We all know what consequences are, right? Well, I finally realized what that meant when I had to sleep under a car, with no blankets. When I say sleep, I mean that I was sitting there, wide awake, afraid to sleep because I was scared every single day. I didn’t know where I was going in life. I didn’t even know where I could live in the near future. The cold kept me awake, but my fear of finding a home to live in, on my own, was the worst part of this situation. I had no options. Remember, I pushed away every foster parent, caseworker and person in my family. I really messed up and regret that I did that.
It’s March, which means it’s Women’s History Month! A perfect time on the calendar to bring focus to a powerful movement that is, right now, in the process of making history and shaping the lives of girls.
The Girls Rock Camp Alliance is an international coalition of organizations, empowering girls and imparting skills that can help guide them throughout their lives. What tools are they using? Music lessons, workshops, group activities and performances! While every Girls Rock program is different, some have year-round classes offered—in addition to summer camps. Girls Rock Santa Barbara, for instance, offers an after-school rock band, private music lessons, toddler rock, an amplify pop choir, music journalism, and even photography and filmmaking classes.
Several years ago, on a beautiful night, my sister and I walked together through Downtown Disney; everything was lit up as sections of the bustling crowds broke off into various restaurants and stores. I don’t remember how the topic came up, but we were soon discussing the crime rates in Modesto and Stockton, California, both of which had skyrocketed in previous years. As my sister discussed the use of a greater police presence, my heart sank. The thought of people going to jail and being stripped of their families and communities broke my heart. I knew all about the crimes that the jailed had done, and even though they were horrible, something inside of me knew that there was a better way: that we didn’t have to solve the problem with guns and bars – that there had to be a way to stop the problem before it ever began.