Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
I see you, sitting on the floor of a comfortable bedroom in a central Illinois town, that is not your own. I see your anger, your uncertainty, your hurt. I see your desire for connection in a world you are terrified that you might be drifting away from. You were never supposed to be in this situation, after all.
So, you did the only thing you could think of, when the maelstrom that is your emotions, your very rapidly changing self, became too much to contain.
You wrote. You poured yourself onto a page, some of the deepest most fundamental parts of you, and dared to send it to an author you admire, in hopes that you were talented enough to lend voice to something you desperately hoped you were not alone in feeling, and maybe, just maybe, help someone else.
M, your instincts are good. Hold on to them. In just a year, so much will change. You will return to college in the heart of Chicago, pursuing your passion of teaching special education. And that piece you wrote? That will get published, on Portrait of an Adoption just like you were hoping it would.
But it will have a bigger impact than you could have ever imagined. Turns out, more people care for you than you can even conceive of right now, even ones that have only encountered the version of yourself you put in that article, the hurting, angry you whose kernel of hope was dormant.
The trick though? You can’t close yourself off and revive that kernel of hope. You have to be willing to LIVE with it, even through the bad stuff. Throw yourself into your classes, and into your student teaching.
Embrace your unique lived experiences, as a woman, an American, a person with a disability, a person who survived a difficult home life, an adoptee. You will need every ounce of it.
Your students? You will see so much of yourself in them. Your experiences will help to guide your responses and nurture them in the best way possible. But you will also see them cope with and conquer things you never even considered, let alone experienced. Be willing to learn from them. Seek connection. Be vulnerable with them because your honesty will earn their trust and honesty in return.
Love them unconditionally. That will confuse more of them than it should, and they may respond with difficult behavior or harsh words. Those things are not really meant for you. Love them through it. Help them grow past it. The impact you will have on them is immeasurable, as a teacher who used to need help just like they do now.
Adults will doubt you too, falling back on old prejudices to conceal their cognitive dissonance. Smile, however, grudgingly, and push through it until you prove them wrong. Another year, and you’ll find yourself needing help, as those prejudices nearly wash away everything you’ve worked so hard for.
Take the help, with both hands. Because you need to be your best self to be an amazing teacher, friend, mother, sister… you are so much to so many. You can’t give up yet. But please know, stepping back is not giving up.
Even the military teaches recruits that sometimes a tactical retreat, to regroup and re-evaluate, can mean the difference between ultimate defeat and ultimate victory. Fight for what you believe in and use your voice, and before you know it, you will be out the other side, a licensed teacher. But be honest with yourself, too. You can’t do this alone forever.
But you don’t have to.
B, your Sensei? He loves you, and no matter how frightened it makes you; you love him too. There’s a future there, M. Build it together. And a year after you graduate? You’ll meet a puppy named Jenna, who will become an INCREDIBLE service dog for you.
It will not be easy, but I promise, all the work will pay off. It WILL be worth it. She loves you unconditionally, on the days when the PTSD, the anxiety, the depression, and the cerebral palsy that is ultimately the root cause for those other diagnoses, is overwhelming. She wants to help, and the hardest thing you’ll need to learn is to accept that help. Her place in your life is unique, and your partnership will be a rebirth of sorts.
I can almost see the unasked question in your eyes, M. Your parents- that relationship is complicated, as it is for so many people, but you don’t want to abandon it. As much as some childhood memories hurt, there are nuggets of connection and joy in there too. So, what to do?
Once you get a handle on being a more authentic version of yourself, rebuild. But let go of the notion that you have to sacrifice the parts of you that others, even close friends, and family, may not agree with.
You need to be your own person. That’s a tall order, I know, but it’s also a gift. It means you have the right to set boundaries and make choices that will move you in the direction you want to go in life.
Honestly, if D wanted anything for you, I think this skill would be it. Part of the reason she chose to place you for adoption is because she didn’t want her poor decisions to be harmful to you. She wanted you to have a fulfilling life, whatever that looked like. It was an incredibly brave and selfless thing to do, to give you that chance. Don’t waste it.
I’m sorry I don’t have more to share with you. It’s 2020 now, and the world has changed rapidly in just this year alone. If I’m honest, it’s been a year of pain, loss, fear, and conflict. But the important thing is that there is hope too. Quarantine from a deadly virus is draining as the world seems to stop. But I’ve taken hold of this time with both hands too. My love for Broadway musicals has been rekindled, and I’m singing again.
Unwilling to stay dormant even when the whole world is essentially on pause, I’m working on learning Spanish and American Sign Language. Writing is a reprieve too -it’s how I process and decompress, and still dare to dream. Freestyle rap is a new skill, but I love it. I’m continuing to grow, and that’s what matters.
I’m planning my wedding, and building plans for a family with my partner, and where once I would have shied away from adopting children myself, I now see it as not only an option that may be necessary, but even preferred, because of the opportunities it provides. It would be a great way to honor D too.
I want to be a loving parent, a mentor, a guide. I’ve wanted that all of my life. It’s scary sometimes, because I wonder if I’ve really broken free of the negative patterns I am still working tirelessly to combat. But I know, and so will you, that fear is a good thing. Instead of letting it hold me back, I let it motivate me to be better. I have so much to offer my children someday, students and legal children alike.
By the way… in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m you, M. This is your future self, writing this letter. There is so much ahead of you and me. So much is out there for us. Let’s do this.
Yours in solidarity,
Misha is a returning guest blogger to the “30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days” series, and this piece is a direct follow-up to her previous one, found here. She’s accomplished more than she ever thought possible in the time since her original post was featured, and there’s no way she’d have made it this far without her fiancé, and her loving service dog. She encourages everyone reading this to use their voice and stand up for what they believe in; persistence is a key element of change.”
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter