I don’t want my adoption to define me. In the past, when I was first learning about my history, I became fascinated with where I came from and I immersed myself in research into my past. I’ve discovered difficult truths about my biological parents whose lives were not easy, and in the case of my mother, tragic. I’ve found half siblings and half-nephews and nieces—a whole lot of people who became part of my life. It was emotionally rewarding and exhausting to do this archaeological dig on my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My adoption story was a huge part of who I thought I was. For that reason, I’ve called myself a relinquishee and joined communities of other people who were given up for adoption and immersed myself in that world.
However, similarly to how I’ve dealt with addiction, I started to realize that I cannot allow adoption alone to dictate how I identify. That’s because I am so much more than a relinquishee, and as I get older, I am less inclined to put myself into certain categories. I am, like all human beings, much more complex than some label I used to slap on myself or allow others to use when relating to me.
I no longer say “My name is David and I’m an alcoholic” because it strikes me as absurd to call myself that, as if being dependent and then recovered from alcohol was the only thing in my life that gave it some kind of a deeper meaning. Yes, I was addicted to alcohol and yes, I am in recovery, but I can no longer lead with that – allow it to dominate how I relate to the world or how it should relate to me. And the same is true with having been adopted—I cannot go on in life as if I was made up only out of those two stories because I gave them enough time and attention. I am much more interested in speaking about recovery and recovery from all kinds of things—adoption and addiction and other trauma.
I know that recovery is beautiful and an on-going thing in my life, and I’m thriving in it – and know that others can too. This is why it’s important for me to talk and write about it—I want to spread that message to people because I’ve been lucky enough to have a platform to do so and some knowledge and research behind me. I find others’ stories of recovery inspiring, and I know that by sharing our stories we can really help one another. I also find others’ stories of adoption inspiring! So when I say I don’t want to be defined by my adoption, I don’t mean I’m no longer interested in those stories. No, I’m just saying that I gave it enough of my time and energy and I’m happy to expand my repertoire. There are so many more stories to tell.
This is why I encourage you too to look beyond what you’re accustomed to defining yourself as. There’s always so much more to discover about ourselves. The potential is as big as the attention we give it, and if we give energy and attention to keep evolving, we’ll be richer than we ever thought possible. I don’t mean literally—I mean we’ll be richer in what life has to offer and we won’t simply stop and resign ourselves to being held back by our past. The future is here and it starts now with shedding all the labels that imprison us, and becoming our true, expansive selves.
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