A month ago, my friend, let's call him Kevin, and I were webchatting like usual until we started joking about taking DNA tests. At one point, I mentioned "to be fair, I don't look like anyone in my family." He was at first puzzled. I cheerfully explained to him "I'm not related to anyone in my family. I'm adopted."
After a short moment of shock, he said "Wow, that's crazy! I'm adopted too! I've never met anyone else who's adopted. In my life!" He then apologized if he had offended me. I assured him I wasn't and described years of personal questions from friends and strangers. They usually start with "Where are you from?" and end with "Who do you think you would've loved more? Your adoptive mother or your birth mother?" (By the way, don't ask people this. It's a really obscure and emotionally loaded question.)
I think people get the wrong idea after seeing how adoption is written on TV. It's used for conflicted backstories on the CW and ABC and weird motives on crime shows. It's not a branding or disability, it's another part of your life.
He just laughed hysterically. "I've never had that happen to me before!" After we joked a bit more, Kevin asked me the hard-hitting question "How do you feel about being adopted?" He had reserves about it, since he only found out a few years ago.
My response was "I feel fine with it. It's just another fact of my life that makes me who I am. I have a little bit of information about my birth family and where I might've been left, but that's all something I can discover in the future if I want." Maybe I was well-adjusted because my (adoptive) mother revealed everything to me when I was very little. Still, I understood the emotional implications that come with being adopted.
The one thing I believe we all share is the realization of "I'm different." I think every orphaned child ponders at one point "Why would anyone give me up?"
You don't always get answers. I came from China, where there are several adoption agencies to connect orphaned Chinese children with American families. China has a one-child policy, that's still carried out today, to combat the country's overpopulation. I got a letter from my birth mother, that I've never read, and a jade bracelet, that I never saw. "I don't even know when my real birthday is," I mentioned. "It's a guessed date."
The last thing Kevin asked was very emotional for him. "I'm just wondering since you're adopted too, how do you feel about family? Like your family is a bunch of people you're not related to at all."
Having an unclear background makes you wonder where you belong. We both had troublesome childhoods with less than ideal relatives. But Kevin had the benefit of looking like his parents. My mother looks nothing like me and everyone had an opinion about it.
My relatives thought I was a disgrace. Strangers think it's like being one of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's motley gang of children. They think your parents performed a service, like they don't possess that unbreakable parent-child bond their own have. And the people I do share a heritage with think I'm not one of them.
What I told him was "family doesn't need to be defined or limited by blood." My relatives treated the term "family" like it was leverage for self-fulfilling purposes. Because of this, I've always thought true family was love for your friends, neighbors, or whoever you have a deep relationship with.
Family is who will stand by that. You need to act like a family to earn the benefits of one. I love my mother and brothers no matter where we're all from. It's ridiculous to define family by something as ludicrous as whoever's womb you came from. They should be the people closest to you and honor what the bond of love means.
This video chat was great clarity for both of us. I think it helped Kevin relieve some confusion that was weighing him down. And it was from someone who knew what he was going through. For me, it was a moment that reminded me not just how dear family was, but how bonds of friendship could be just as fulfilling.
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