This is near and dear to my heart, the piece that started it all. This is my chapel talk from my senior year at Webb. The day I gave this talk was the first time since the day of my birth that I had my mom, dad, birth mom and birth dad all in one place at the same time. That will probably never happen again. Well….maybe on my wedding day if I’m lucky.
I wrote this when I was 17, in the middle of a mental breakdown, getting ready to graduate, and finally either brave enough or crazy enough to vocalize my feelings about being adopted in front of all 4 participating parental parties. This is when I seriously started working on understanding myself in terms of being an adopted kid and started to work towards understanding other adopted kids and adoption situations.
So, here it is….
CHAPEL TALK (2007)
I am adopted. There tends to be a generalization that adoptions occur only when parents don’t love their child anymore so they “give it away.” My entire life I have known that this was not the case in my adoption story. I had an open adoption, meaning that my biological parents wanted to keep in contact with me …so I figured they must have loved me. And then of course my adoptive parents had to love me, because they chose me, and how could someone not love something they chose?
From the time I was a sun kissed little girl in a baby pink tutu this knowledge of love from two sets of parents had always kept me strong and confident. Because of my confidence there have always been a few facts that I have never hesitated to tell anyone: that I was adopted, I never lived with my biological parents, I know my biological parents, I was never in an orphanage or foster home and that it is my adoptive parents who I considered to be my “mom and dad.” For the majority of my life these facts were enough to satisfy all of the questions that I ever received regarding my adoption, and to convince myself that I was completely comfortable with the fact that I had in essence been “given up.”
In reality knowing that the first day of my life I was rejected by a woman who I had been so dependently connected to for 9 months and by a man who was by her side the entire time was the scariest piece of my life’s puzzle I had ever had to handle. So handle it I did not. I put my reality away in a little envelope in my heart for safe keeping to re-open when I was emotionally strong enough to bring all of the pieces together. I knew that I would not be ready to face such a large vulnerability in my life until I was concretely aware of who I was and what I believed in and until I could look at people for who they truly were underneath the surface and only let the ones that I loved and had faith in into my life. The time for the grand opening of my heart’s little envelope came just this past summer sometime after my seventeenth birthday.
Initially it was my birth parents that I had questions about. My birth father Jamaal is a movie-maker/artist/lover of all things peaceful. When I was a little girl he stood as the epitome of perfection in my eyes. Jamaal could do no wrong. The first time I fell in love he was more supportive than anyone, and when my heart fell to pieces he was the only one who could cure my insanity. My perplexity with him was one that not even I could see for quite some time, but I see it quite clearly now. The word “father” is often used to describe Jamaal when his friends or members of his side of the family are talking to me. I always hear “you are definitely your father’s daughter.” I have been repeatedly taken aback by this use of words. I know that through nature I am his daughter and he is my father, but handing him the title of “father” I feel gives him un-due credit. By blood we are bonded, by love and understanding, connected, but for reasons unknown to me, he did not stay by my side and raise me to be who I am today. He didn’t drive me to dance every night of the week, take me to the doctors, teach me to drive, take the brunt of my bad moods, make sure I ate all of my vegetables, watch me cry over multiple friend’s deaths or watch my first steps. I feel that the relationship we have is one that has not yet been named. Because there is no name, it is difficult to define his place in my life and without definition there could be no permanence, so with Jamaal my heart is always saying : “What does it feel like to give me away yet stay so active in my life? I appreciate it, just please don’t ever leave me again.”
As for the second and most detached piece of this half of the puzzle. My birth mother Abby; I have always known who Abby was. From the time I was about seven I only remember seeing her about every two years, our visits were full of movies and museums and rollerblading in central park but still haven’t developed into talks about my adoption, which I think places a barrier between us, that once broken, will allow us to become much more connected on a friendship level. It crushes me that in theory she could be integrated into my life but in reality she isn’t. My perplexities with her, are plenty: what was it like for her to make the decision to go through with the pregnancy instead of aborting me, what was it like to give me away, what was her relationship with Jamaal like, will my little brothers ever know what relationship I have to them, did she love me then, could she love me now, does she think about me ever, could she guess that I think about her almost everyday, and does she at least remember my birthday? Since I never had a solid base of knowledge of her personality, and I couldn’t just assume that we had the same reactions to things, I could never muster the courage to ask her any of these questions. I have come to the realization though, that these are not the core of my heart’s worries regarding my birth mother. The one thing always at the forefront of my mind is: If she decided to leave my adoption open, then she has every right to be involved in my life, and that is exactly what I want, but I do not feel that I have the right to ask her to be involved in my life because she did legally sign off on all responsibility of me. I figure that she is likely distant from me because of her own emotions towards the adoption, but now I am willing for us to solve our uncertainties together, instead of waiting for them to solve them selves; and while I would love more than anything to tell her that, although I barely know her I somehow still love her and that I wish we could talk more like best friends than like strangers, I am not confident that I really have the right to say to her: “you gave me this life so please walk with me as I live it.”
Now for the two lovely souls who have walked with me as I have lived my life since day one. My mom is a graceful little woman who I love immensely, she lets my innate free spirit do whatever it wishes and allows me to be whomever I feel I am at the moment. She is my sense of comfort because I never fear being rejected by her. My dad is the authoritarian. His nurture will forever be in battle with my nature. But because he is so involved in planning everything out for me and has always put all of his love and energy into making my life wholesome, I see him as my personal cheerleader. Despite my undying love for them both, I have always had a slight resentment towards them for not being, by definition, my “real parents”. Because they are not biologically connected to me I have never accepted concreteness in our relationship and I often wonder if they wish that they could have had a child of their own instead of having to adopt me. Because they are together I think that there could be secrets that are being kept just between the two of them and disclosed from me. The most prominent secret I wonder about it what they feel towards me: have they ever wished they could give me back or trade me in, have they sensed the struggle to feel entirely connected to me as I have to them, what went into their decision to adopt a child, and what were their initial feelings surrounding my adoption? I know that they love me, but are they okay with the fact that they will never be able to change who I am?
I have something in my life that I get to work to understand on my own. While my adoption poses many questions for me to answer and times really pulls at my heart, I love that it is part of my life. Figuring out its complexity helps me to figure out who I am and therefore helps me grow greatly as a person so I can be the me that I want to be.
LOVE always and forever,
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