Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hamster in a Wheel

At times, it starts to feel like we as adoptees are hamsters in a wheel--thinking we're getting something done, but in reality getting nowhere, and in the meanwhile, folks are watching our every move sometimes for research, other times for what they call enrichment, and still other times for a form of educational entertainment, not unlike a reality TV show (and I don't make that comparison in a complimentary way).

But what can I say? In part, I open myself up to it--no one is forcing me to blog my heart out. I do it of my own accord. However, I will say that, of course, I did not choose to be an adoptee. And if I could un-choose it, I would.

It's this odd contradiction--I both despise and embrace being the hamster. Aka, I both despise and embrace being an adoptee. I despise it, because if I had a choice, I'd choose not to be an adoptee. But because I can't not be an adoptee, I choose to embrace it--that is, to a certain degree.

I embrace it as much as I'm willing to talk about it via blogs and the cyber world. But in "real life"--every day life outside of this cyber world adoption community--it's almost like my secret identity. I rarely talk about it to a soul, but I FEEL it every day, I DEAL with it every day.

Another part is that I simply don't want to be "the adoptee." I am an adoptee, but I am not ONLY an adoptee. And yet, there is this constant tension of wanting the hardship and pain of being an adoptee to be recognized and acknowledged and yet also wanting it to be forgotten.

I both want to belong and not belong. I feel dizzy even trying to explain the constant back and forth and tug-of-war that takes place in my mind.

As I wrote in an email to a fellow adoptee:

To add to that for me personally, I'm also still generally insecure, even at 36 years old--I still never assume or believe that anyone would even want to know me...So, a lot of the time I don't attempt to initiate, because I often feel that doing so would be adding a burden to that person's life...furthermore, I loathe being boxed in or identified with any one particular label, and yet I also long to "belong" in some small way...if I've figured anything out about my adoptee experience, it's that it's full of contradiction...

As I share thoughts and experiences like the ones above, I know I often direct them to adoptive parents. I think in part I do this, because I think they need to know--because, well, their kids are going to grow up to be adults who just might think critically about their adoptions one day.

I know AP's can feel a lot of pressure from adult adoptees, but adoptees feel just as much pressure, if not more, to perform and be a certain way. I figure the least an AP can do is give an ear to adult adoptees. Maybe that's presumptuous. But, hey, if it's not presumptuous to assume that a child would want to be removed from his or her birth country and people to live in a foreign country among foreign people with a set of strangers...

...Not that one presumption justifies another--exactly, I think you get my point...

But setting aside AP's and other adoption community members, really I wish your every day person would listen. I wish the every person I encountered could read adult adoptee blogs so that conversations like the following didn't feel so laborious and uncomfortable:

"Is your mom Korean?"

"Uh, well, no, yes, I mean [oh crap, here we go], uh, [awkward smile] I'm adopted [inward rolling of my eyes at myself for still fumbling and not knowing how to handle this question]."

"Oh, really."

"Yeah, but I reunited with my Korean family two years ago--"

"Oh. But your adoptive parents are your REAL parents, RIGHT?"

"Oh, right, yes, of course [churning, sinking feeling in my gut]. I mean, well, I see it as I have four parents, or well, six or seven if you count all my in-laws, but really it's very complicated, it's hard, it has been quite a journey--[cut myself off, I'm such an idiot, why do I even bother?]"

Gah.

Chances are, though, even if your average person was to read this, he or she might still shrug shoulders and say, "Huh?"

But I guess it would be the effort and thought that would count for something--comprehension would be like the cherry on top...or really, maybe more accurately, it would be like finally getting to eat my spaghetti and sauce with a fork in my hands instead of with my mouth while my hands are bound behind my back. That's messy and hard to do--you get up from the table even hungrier and more frustrated than when you began...



8 comments:

Anonymous said...

if it wasn't for blogs like yours i would have never asked my daughter why she is so angry and tries to sabotage joy...she replies...i don't know...i ask her is it because you look different than me..is it because your adopted.... and she says yes...with a relief in her voice......i can't imagine what it feels like to have APs poking your brain and heart and soul.....but you have given me and other APs invaluable insight to what our adopted children may be thinking.......

keri

Von said...

All we need now is for mothers to get it too.

Beyond Normal Mom said...

While I totally believe this (quoted below) sums up feelings for a lot of adoptees, I have to say that I totally relate to it as well. I'm not sure my insecurity comes from anything quite as deep or traumatic as adoption though. Thank you for showing me at least one area where I can feel what my child feels and show her how it has affected me throughout life.

"I still never assume or believe that anyone would even want to know me...So, a lot of the time I don't attempt to initiate, because I often feel that doing so would be adding a burden to that person's life...furthermore, I loathe being boxed in or identified with any one particular label, and yet I also long to "belong" in some small way..."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. As an infertile woman I, too, yearn for a life I will never know, that of having a biological child, a genetic connection to the future. And how weirdly it separates me from most of the world...in a way it sounds like you feel separated from so much of the world.

And this:
Another part is that I simply don't want to be "the adoptee." I am an adoptee, but I am not ONLY an adoptee. And yet, there is this constant tension of wanting the hardship and pain of being an adoptee to be recognized and acknowledged and yet also wanting it to be forgotten.

I could substitute the word 'infertile' for adoptee and have written this sentence. I didn't choose this just like you didn't choose being adopted. And yet we are both faced with the idea that we have this one life and have to figure out how to go about living it...

I don't know if I will adopt. I get the feeling from adult adoptee blogs I read that my desire for a family shouldn't justify an adoption and so I end up feeling like I really don't have any options other than being childless NOT by choice.

But thank you for your honest voice. It helps me to see that maybe for some of us, we just can't have families because we have bad luck. No matter how much our hearts want only to love and parent.

mhn7700 said...

Oh, the contradictions. The "Well, on one hand..but then on the other...but then again...and sometimes...and then other times..I also feel like....".

Q: What's your favourite colour?
A: Blue
Q: Really?
A: No
Q: You sure?
A: Yes
Q: So what is it then?
A: Blue
Q: But you just said..*is confused*
A: *is even more confused*
Q: So what is it really? You HAVE TO choose
A: ..red....
Q: ???
A: ???????
Sorry, long and lame comparison. It just clicked in my head.

I think the profound contradictions about some of the core issues (are you happy/sad you were adopted aso) are some of the things you almost have to be an adoptee to fully relate to (I know all (or almost all) people have their issues/insecurities/struggles, but I'm talking specifically adoption related here). at least I haven't been able to talk to a non-adoptee and getting the feeling "This person UNDERSTAND".

I'm not saying this in a negative way. As someone on "the inside" I'm not expecting non-adoptees to be able to fully grasp this. Heck, I barely grasp half of it!
All of this is merely to say, that I so appreciate you sharing and caring and making me think.
I miss you making me think. I'll be a better reader after this darn wedding's over >.<

Yes, I look at the hamster to help me figure out how this damn wheel works!

Oh, and I also have to say, this ->
"Oh. But your adoptive parents are your REAL parents, RIGHT?"
OMFG (Sorry)! Who (or how old!) are the people you are talking to about this?! Or is this a normal reaction/question?? I can't even... >.<

And yes, tl;dr even for me :P

mhn7700 said...

I'm sorry! I seems angry today :D

ms. marginalia said...

I am 42 and get the "your APs are your REAL parents" stuff all the time, even from people my age when I open up to them about my reunion. It is ridiculous. I find that kids say it much less often.

Amanda said...

I, like you, both embrace and abhor being the hampster on the wheel. The fish in the fishbowl.

I will and want to share...but on my terms (as it should be. It's not an adoptee's job to educate the world on adoption, though it is necessary).