If you don't have a desire to search, what would you say to those who wonder why you have no interest in knowing where you come from?
I count myself fortunate, with all the comments I get on a regular basis, one I have not gotten (as of yet) is someone telling me they believe I was unhappy in my adoptive family or had a bad childhood as an explanation for the reason I searched for my natural family.
However, there may have been occasions where they have assumed this without saying it. It seems to me that people being curious by nature, need an explanation for everything and many times, when they don’t have a true understanding of the dynamics of adoption, they go with the most convenient explanation, rather than digging deep.
Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves.
- Adrienne Rich
On the surface, one might assume that an adoptee would begin a search because of unhappiness and on some level this may be true. I don’t particularly care for the word unhappy unless you want to say that I was very unhappy with my situation of not having any information about why I was adopted. Then unhappy doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings about my predicament.
Freedom is knowing who you really are.
- Linda Thomson
So I will replace “unhappy” with lack of a complete identity. We all start out in life with an incomplete identity and as we grow up, we build our identities. In adopted people, this identity has large holes.
All of us, adopted or not, strive to engage in life choices and activities that enhance rather than take away from ourselves. The search, therefore, could be seen as a “stage of life” for an adoptee, not unlike any normal stage of life all of us go through as we grow up.
Until we see what we are, we cannot take steps to become what we should be.
- Charlotte P. Gilman
It is about understanding oneself in a deeper way, similar to the quest of adolescents. I have never been an adoptee who didn’t want to search. I wanted to know from the time I could speak about why I was adopted and where my other family was. My parents had no answers for me.
Many adoptees had unhappy childhoods and being treated like a state secret didn’t help in that happiness. Many adoptees had a wonderful childhood but still felt unhappy about their adoptee status. Many adoptees had a wonderful childhood and never questioned what they were told (or not told).
The precept, "Know yourself," was not solely intended to obviate the pride of mankind; but likewise that we might understand our own worth.
It is really not for someone outside of your family to judge about whether you were happy or not. I believe the unhappiness card gets thrown about when the non-adopted -- who believe the stereotypes of adoption -- want to blame the adoptee who may choose to speak out, go against the grain, or open Pandora’s box.
We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.
- Ursula K. LeGuin
We are labeled “unhappy” because we make people uncomfortable. We say things about adoption that others don’t want to hear or believe. Some people find it highly offensive when we don’t prove to be the grateful adoptees others think we should be. We upset the apple cart by proving the social workers wrong that we would be just like a biological family.
If you were adopted as a child without any say, something was taken away from you. Family, names, choices. You don’t have the understanding to fully realize this fact until you are an adult.
Sometimes it takes years to really grasp what has happened to your life.
- Wilma Rudolph
I believe the search (whether it be physically reaching out or just questioning what people tell you about yourself and life) is really a quest to become whole.
Some adoptees want to propel themselves forward in a full-blown investigation and others want to sit back and hope someone comes looking for them. Still others deny any need, curiosity or desire to search. Each of these people are in different stages of growth. The non-searcher of today may be the woman on a mission next year.
Ninety percent of the world's woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.
- Sydney J. Harris
As a person who was always been a searcher, what I want you to take away from this blog is that my searching had very little to do with my adoptive family; however for many, the decision NOT to search has very much to do with them.
In other living creatures the ignorance of themselves is nature, but in men it is a vice.
Loyalty to the adoptive family and hurting people’s feelings is one of the biggest reasons adopted people postpone their search (sometimes indefinitely). Fear is the enemy of all searching and fear of upsetting the adoptive family (and extended family) is very powerful.
Many adoptees search after the death of their adoptive parents which to me says the desire was always there, just laying dormant waiting for the right time.
Sometimes a person has to go back, really back-to have a sense, an understanding of all that's gone to make them-before they can go forward.
- Paule Marshall
From the time I was a child, I have always felt it was my right to know where I came from. I believe we are born with this need and expectation. When the need is not met, we will feel fragmented. I questioned my mother like a prosecuting attorney throughout childhood with nothing to show for it. Once I became an adult, I requested all information that my agency could legally give to me. I received it on my birthday the December before I got married. It wasn’t until my late 30’s that I could take the giant psychological leap toward actively seeking out my mother. But that’s a story for another blog.
I was never looking for my Oprah moment when I searched . . . only the moments of truth that I was forced to grow up without.
The important thing I want to say about my searching is that it had very little to do with the quality of my adoptive home and whether I was happy or not, but mainly in my belief that I had a right to know and wouldn’t stop until I did.
Somehow we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
- Eleanor Roosevelt