China’s one-child’s policy led to my adoption – and a more privileged life.

I am among the more than 100,000 children from China by Western families since the early 1990’s. I was born in 1996. China’s one-child’s policy was established by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to restrict communist China’s population growth and limited couples to having only one child. Most of us girls, byproducts of China’s one-child policy which compounded the cultural gender bias. Few us know about the families we left behind- or in many cases who left us. Fines, pressure to abort a pregnancy, and even forced sterilization of women accompanied second or subsequent pregnancies. When I learned about the preference for boys in China it made me question myself in a way. I looked down on myself quite a bit. Like was I part of the reason my parents gave me up because I was a girl? China has a lot of farmland, and many families’ survival depends on the success of their farms so boys are valued for their utility when it comes to phsyical labor. Boys also provide care and insurance that aging parents will be looked after since a wife is understood to marry into her husband’s family and obligating her to care for her in-laws ahead of her own parents, and boys are positioned are better positioned to carry on their own families honor, since only a man can pass his own surname onto the next generation. But it’s not simple as simple as liking boys better than girls. Over the years I kind of learn to accept it but it wasn’t always easy. Rather than feeling not wanted and all I am extremely fortunate when I glimpsed how much harder life is for my family in China – and would have have been for me if I would have stayed. I have been very blessed with so many wonderful opportunities that life has offered me so far and have met incredible people along the way. I still don’t know to this date what drove my parents to leave me and there are so many questions that I have unanswered, but what I hope is true is that the decision was made out of love.

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Lost

I’m not just American. I’m Asian-American. It shouldn’t make a difference which phrase I use right? I’m still considered American. But no. There is a difference. Despite my Asian ethnicity, until more recently, I haven’t connected much with Asian heritage and culture. Attending predominantly white schools with lots of privledge as well as being surrounded by majority white people, I saw myself as one of them. I remember a day trip I took to Chinatown in Chicago (where I live) with my parents realizing all the people walking past by me and trying so hard not to stare at them because I was not used to seeing so many people that looked exactly like me. It was a weird feeling. I felt like in a way I did not belong because I do not speak the language (I only very little), I felt so out of place. I felt lost. At times I wanted to try to speak to them but I knew they would speak back to me and I would not know what to say and I would feel bad and sort of ashamed that I can’t speak my language of where I am from. I consider myself more American than Asian. My identity ought to be American-Asian instead Asian-American. Because I feel more American at heart, I grew up American. Yet, “where are you and your family from?” is always the first questions people ask when they meet me. I can’t avoid my Asian identity. I am currently in the proccess of learning Chinese it will take time but I hope by the end of the year I am able to write and speak it well. When I hang out with my non-Asian friends I don’t think much of it considering I am the only Asian in the group. Yet, when I am surrounded by my Asian friends, I become very aware of my race and the fact that we’re all asian. To this very day, I am still struggling to find my place in the world. Thus, the importance of the hyphen. I am not just one, I am both.

Not All Rainbows and Smiles

Being adopted is simply not something that can be erased- it’s always with us. This is not usually a bad thing, it’s just a fact. We were at one time or another “given up” even if it was for our own good. This in part, makes it more of a challenge- depending on the circumstances of our adoption process to allow ourselves to get too close, to trust, and to see ourselves as a new part of a family no matter how much that family may want us. Some people who try to get close to us take our distance as rude or rejecting. It’s not always easy opening up to people. Adoption is not always a pleasant experience for anyone involved, except maybe the adoptive parents. I’m sorry to ruin your fantasies, but it’s the truth. Being adopted has lead me to identity issues, and I know from talking to other adoptees that this is often true for them. Think about it, imagine you were raised in a family that you weren’t biologically related to, and that you might not know anything about your blood family, ever. You might have different personality traits, health conditions than the people you call family. See, it doesn’t sound all peachy when I explain it that way, does it? Don’t get me wrong I love my family and I appreciate them for all they have done for me and respect them. I have often felt misunderstood and longed to have moments where you realize how much you resemble someone. Please don’t idealize the experience for someone else when you don’t know how they feel to begin with. Remember: adoption might seem like a fairytale but can often be a nightmare in disguise. You just never know how it will turn out, it’s different for everyone.

Self-Love

Self-love has to be one of the most important things that I’ve taken away with me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told by friends to make sure you put yourself first and that there’s no such thing as being too selfish when it comes to your needs. If you asked me before if I loved myself, I’d say yes but when I lied in bed in a severe depression continuously thinking to myself with thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve it” or “I hate myself” I realized I was far from truly loving myself. So what is self love? It took me a few months to understand it. Self-love is one of those concepts that you just get. You don’t logically understand it, you feel it. I am still in the proccess of learning to love myself and accept myself for who I am. At a young age we envision ourselves to be a certain way or the way we want to look, but at the end of the day you got to be the best version of yourself that there is. Stop comparing yourself to others because it won’t get you anywhere. You are your own person and no one can change that. Love yourself for who you are because there is no one out there like you. Stop worrying if others like you or not because not everyone in life will like you some for a reason and others for no reason. You shouldn’t care what others think about you because at the end of the day the actions you take shouldn’t benefit them, just you. Self-love isn’t all bubble baths and massages. It’s loving yourself and accepting yourself as well as taking care of your physical and mental health. Remember self-love is a journey. It takes dedication, devotion, and practice.

It’s a Wrap

2018 has been such a year for me. At the end of each year I take time to myself to reflect on the year. I’m extremely happy with how I have grown into a strong individual, lots of experiences this year have shaped me into who I am today, both good and not so good experiences. In my opinion I don’t think there is such thing as a “perfect year” for anyone because everyone faces obstacles and challenges that come unexpected. It just shows that no matter what life throws at you, you can get through it no matter how big or small it is. You got to keep going for what you want in life and never give up. One of the biggest lessons I learned this year is self love, you have to love yourself before anyone else. Make sure to always find time for yourself, it can be something so simple from taking a 20 min walk on the beach to spending the night at home taking a nice warm bath and laying in bed watching something on Netflix with candles lit in your room. Never feel bad for putting yourself first, because at the end of the day your mental health is what is important and your own happiness, not anyone else’s. There’s so much I want for myself in 2019, what I hope I gain from this upcoming year is more growth as a person, we all have room to grow in different areas and to be more independent and not rely too much on others for my happiness, because at the end of the day all you have is yourself. Most importantly, I want to thank my family and friends for being there for me and creating many unforgettable memories this year, without them I would be lost, I love you guys so much! Here’s to a new year coming in just a few days filled with new opportunities and experiences. I’m looking forward to what 2019 has to offer me.

Holding On

Are you ever just sitting down and all the sudden all the feelings just hit you at once. You have no control on how you feel, it’s just a feeling of sadness and mad at the same time. I can’t be comforted sometimes. That’s me right now, I was literally on my break during work and I came across a post about if anyone know’s where there “found location” is and I read all the comments and they brought so many tears to my eyes. Some of us left outside of hospitals, government buildings, and in parks. How could someone that gave birth to you do that to you? I get it maybe they were going through a hardship and couldn’t afford to raise the baby, but what a difficult decision that is to make and I believe no one should ever have to face such a agonizing decision. It makes me so sad that sometimes you’re not in the best place in life to keep/raise a baby and you have to do what’s best for the baby but it just hurts as an adoptee, to know that you were given up. I was born on April 17, 1996. That is my actual birthday (it was on the note left attached to my clothing with my Chinese name) and I was given up four days after I was born. I don’t even know what to think at times because it happened so fast for my birth parents, I often wonder did my parents cry when they left me, was I crying, did I have a worry look to my face? Questions that still go through my head to this day and will always be with me. I don’t ever think you can recover fully after going through something so traumatic especially so young it’s literally stuck with you for the rest of your life, and it sucks that your life feels not complete, but I hope to find peace within myself one day.

‘Till Next Year

As National Adoption Awareness Month comes to an end it’s been nothing but a roller coaster full of emotions. Over this past month I’ve gotten the chance to read many other adoptees stories that made me both smile and cry tears of happiness and sadness. Each story stood out to me it’s own way. By reading these stories it has helped me understand that we all faced similar struggles but in the end we’re not alone and that we’re in this together. I have currently been a member on a Facebook group called ‘China’s Children International’ (CCI) since late August and it’s been a great platform for not only me but other adoptees to express how they feel or certain struggles they may face. It feels so great to know that there are others like you who went/are going through similar experiences in life like you that maybe your non-adopted friends can’t relate to. Just to know you are accepted is everything especially when a majority of your life you wanted to fit in and be friends with people like you. To be heard has been such an amazing feel as well, to know your voice matters and that people can say “I can relate” means a lot. Being open about my adoption wasn’t easy, for awhile I just brushed it off and I didn’t want to discuss it because it made me so sad- it still makes me sad but as I have talked about it more it’s gotten easier. In conclusion, I think this month has been one of the hardest because last year I wasn’t really open about my adoption but since I have been these past few months it hit me hard with many emotions; such as happy, sad, mad, upset and let down but I’m glad it’s coming to the end, I’m not saying to forget about how it made me feel but to remember this is just the beginning.