Throwback Thursday to 2014

I contributed these words to a dear friend, writer, a role model.  Submitted 9/27/2014

  • How old ere you when you first began getting together with other adopted people, and discussing what it felt like or meant to be adopted?

When I first got the idea to seek out other adoptees and support, I had just returned from my first trip back to my country of origin, India in 2009. I had spent two months in India searching for my birth mother and when I came back, I had a lot of emotions, thoughts, fears, insecurities, uncertainties that I needed to process. I was in search for people who I could have a conversation with that could give. I was already surrounded by people who listened, but had nothing to contribute, and that was what I was in desperate need for at that time.

  • Had you been wanting to have this experience before it actually happened? (ie., did you seek it out and how?)

 

Yes, I wanted to always know other adult adoptees. The desire to know other adoptees felt like just another fantasy. I was never really motivated to search out others or support prior to 2009. I always felt I was fine and that I would get over it soon. Ha, well that didn’t last long at all.

  • Did you know other adopted children when you were growing up? Did you ever discuss adoption with them?

I have four cousins that are also adopted, but I would rarely see them because they are all older and we don’t live close to each other at all. We would only see each other at major family events and those would only last a short period of time so our conversations never went to that level.

  • What was it like to be adopted BEFORE you had this experience of meeting other adopted people?

Being adopted was confusing growing up. What I mean is that all I heard were the great things about adoption, “you are so lucky,”” this is your only family,” “love is all that matters,” and “your life is so much better now.” While hearing all this shit, I was feeling just the opposite. I felt lonely, sad, disconnected, empty, broken, isolated, and hurt. Something just didn’t add up for me. I remember crying to my best friend in college about how I hated being adopted. She had nothing to say, and that’s when it clicked for me… she doesn’t get it. Nobody gets it.

  • Describe your relationships and interactions with other adopted people. Are these relationships part of an organized community, or individual? 

Oh my goodness, I love my adopted peeps! I feel such relief that it’s literally indescribable. A few words explain a lifetime of experiences. A few words validate a lifetime of feelings. A few words provide a safety net for personal expression. A few words create healing dialogue. A few words spark a commonality that doesn’t need words. My relationships with other adoptees have been made possible by adoption organizations like PACER and Pact an Adoption Alliance. Through the sharing of my film, I have also created some friendships with other adoptees via social media, but there is nothing like meeting and talking in person.

  • Is there any specific “sub-group” of adoptees that you are involved with, either formally or informally (international or transracial adoptees, parent adoptees, domestic, foster alumni, etc)

I am a part of the transracial adult adoptee subgroup. My relationships with other transracial adult adoptees stem from Pact an Adoption Alliance.

  • How often are you in contact with other adoptees, in your everyday life? How often do you speak with other adoptees about adoption issues that come up for you?

I am not in physical contact with other adult adoptees on an everyday basis. There are PACER meeting that I enjoy attending when I am not in school. I connect with my transracial “tribe” via social media, emails, text messages whenever possible and I reach out whenever I am in their neighborhood. I mostly send out an email or text message to friends that I think about in the moment. I am interested and trying to plan an adult adoptee dinner/gathering every couple of months or so just to stay in contact and develop friendships/bonds.

  • What is it like to discuss your adoption experience with non-adopted friends or family?

Discussing my experience is quite difficult. Growing up, my parents, family, or friends never really brought it up and if they did then it wasn’t really an authentic conversation. I never felt safe to discuss my adoption with my family because for some reason, my feelings would be mistaken as an attack which would cause family members to get defensive; I would immediately withdrawal. At this point, now that I have my adult adoptee tribes, I don’t really feel compelled to share too much with those that are non-adoptive, unless they ask of course, then I will be more than willing to share how I feel about my story.

  • Can you remember the first time that you were first in the presence of a group of other adoptees? What was that like for you?

The first time I was with a group of adoptees was when I attended a PACER meeting back in 2009. It was a triad group and it felt great to not only be around other adoptees, but also birth mothers. The women that I met made my birth mother real for me. Their presence pulled my birth mother out of my fantasies and made her real, with a story, with feelings, with heartache, with grief, sadness, shame, pain, and anger. The truth that those women spoke helped me realize that I was never abandoned or given up.

My first raw experience of being with other adoptees was when I first pulled up to the Pact Family Camp in July 2014. The first thing that I saw were little black children running across the street to the pool with their white families following. That’s when my heart dropped and I started breathing heavy. I was in absolute awe to see a family built like my very own. I thought I was seriously the only one. After I spent some time alone, getting myself together and prepped for the week, I attended the welcoming presentation that introduced the camp, the facilitators, the counselors, and the weeklong programming. Again I was speechless when seeing all the families gathered together in one large room. When Beth Hall asked for all the adoptees to raise their hand, I began to cry because I was so overwhelmed to see that about 80% of the room raised their hands and they were all adoptees of color. Kids, counselors, staff members, foster care alumni, even parents raised their hands and I immediately felt like I was with my people. That moment was life changing for me, I realized after that week at camp that being connected with other adult adoptees has been the most important, validating, gratifying, peaceful experience that I have ever felt before. The men and women that I have met, and have yet to meet in the future has contributed to my own mental health, physical wellbeing, and emotional stability. I am forever grateful.

Her returned letter read:

Nisha, reading your answers made me cry. Thank you for your honesty. Such a powerful response. I’m overwhelmed myself now!

oxox
Susan

The Casual, Not So Casual Meet and Greet Convo

Meeting new people is always so interesting, uncomfortable and invasive or me. Of course most strangers don’t know that I am adopted, but confusion seems to arise when I answer their basic questions about myself and my family. Over the years, I began to notice that I was disclosing my adoption within the first few minutes of meeting someone, only to relieve their confusion about my answers and not for my own personal desire to want to share. There have been times where I chose to leave the conversation when they get that blank stare on their face just to avoid having to tell them the missing link in my story line. In those moments, I have to decide if my adoption is going to be part of my identity or a part of me that is really no ones fucking business.

A brief conversation I had with a kind woman at my weekly mediation group proves my point. Note: personal thoughts are told in parenthesis

Her: Hello, how are you? You are awfully quiet.

Me: Yes (well, we did just get done with a 40 minute meditation session)

Her: Is this your first time here?

Me: No, I began coming last fall, but had to stop due to my school schedule. I am now able to return because my Thursday evenings are now open.

Her: Great, what are you studying?

The conversation was lead to discussing my masters program and blah, blah, blah. Then it begins.

Her: Are you from Fiji?

Me: No, I am from India.

Her: Do  you speak Indian?

Me: Do you mean Hindi? (For reals? You look to be at least 80 years old and you still think Indians speak Indian?)

Her: Oh yes, do you speak Hindi?

Me: No, I do not.

Her: Do your parents speak Hindi? (Oh shit, here we go)

Me: No, they only speak English

Her: Its amazing how families come over and lose their language, their culture, their heritage and everything that comes with being Indian. (Oh gawd, you’re right. It’s amazing and it kind of sucks)

This is when I tense up and get a reality check about my losses. I quickly analyze the situation before my next move. I seem to go through the same questions before responding. Do I feel safe? Do I want to disclose my adoption to this stranger?  Who the fuck is she? Is she on a need to know basis? Is this a learning opportunity for her? Why do I feel like this? How do I get out of this? Should I just avoid her and nod my head in agreement? What do I do?

With a sunken feeling of sadness and shame, I chose to answer with some honesty.

Me: Well, that comes with adoption. I experienced all of those losses with being a trans-racial adoptee. (There it goes, I dropped the most personal bomb)

Her: Oohh, a trans-racial adoptee?

Me: Yes, I was adopted by a white family.

Her: Oh, interesting.

She begins to tell about a family friend’s child (8 years old) and his recent awareness that his skin is darker than his mothers due to his estranged father being black. I think this is something that is not very common in her social groups, but I respect her for trying to relate. I followed her story about the importance of having dialogue around racial identity during a child’s development and that its usually due to white privilege that white parents are not having these conversations with their children of color. I blatantly said that its doing a disservice to children and during their early years of development.

So, going back to my original point… this was the first time I met this woman and I felt obligated, pressured, and stuck to go deeper with a stranger than I ever intended to just to straighten out her assumptions. Yes, I didn’t have to, and yes, I could of politely excused myself from the conversation, which I have done before. My point is that this is not the first “casual” meet and greet conversation I have had that lead to me telling more than I want. Some other triggers that take the conversation to a deeper level of intimacy is when I get asked if my parents cook Indian food, if I have family/relatives in India, or if they are surprised that I don’t have an Indian accent. I can usually avoid saying too much and I have figured a way to dodge my adoption story, but it’s rare.

I guess this shit is what comes with being adopted. I’m just glad she didn’t mention how lucky I am because then I probably would have lost my shit which is not ideal after meditating. 🙂

New York Screening of YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past

NYIf you are in the New York area on July 14th, then please join me in watching my film about my search for my birth mother in Goa, India. After the screening, I will be available to answer any questions about from the audience.

To watch the trailer and learn more about YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past, please visit youfollowthefilm.com

To purchase tickets to the New York screening, please visit wearegazillionstrong.org

Gazillion Trailer from sharmila ray on Vimeo.

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The Colorblind Game Failed

Whenever you are sad, who do you talk to? When you are depressed, who do you confide in? When you are confused, who do you speak out loud to? When you are lost, who do you go find?

During my moments of feeling sad, depressed, confused, and lost I had no one to run to. Yes, my family was there, but what I had to say was not going to be something that they wanted to hear. Growing up, my family played the colorblind game with me and acted as though I was no different and just one of the family members. They are not to blame, considering the education around transracial adoption was very limited thirty years ago. I blame the adoption agencies that were only out to make money and close files.

My adoption, my loss, my mental health or that of my sister’s was never a topic of conversation. Without the dialogue, I grew up confused and learned to repress my feelings as if they were not important or valid. How can I speak up about my loss and confusion surrounding my adoption if it was never acknowledged? As a child, how could it be left up to me to yell out? As a child, I didn’t want to draw any more attention to how I was different than what was already apparent physically.

As a young adult, I have tried reaching out to my parents. I remember giving them both the book, 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew with  highlighted sections that spoke to me specifically. Neither one of them reached out to continue the conversation. I talked to my dad not long ago about how hard it can be sometimes to be adopted and he replied that he had no idea about it all and was silent. He has yet to bring it up again. When I speak to my mother, she takes a lot of it personal as if I am telling her what a horrible job she did as a parent. I can understand that. A the same time, what I need from my parents is for them to listen and validate me. I need them to bring up the conversation first, I need them to ask me questions, I need them to take care of me. As much as I push away, I need to them to keep coming after me because I keep drifting farther and farther away.

Now that I am an adult in my thirties, I think I must look to others for support because what I need is not going to come from my parents at this point. It has been very tough to accept this.

The feelings that I have about my adoption are not great feelings. At this point in my healing process, I am not really a fan of adoption and the joys that it brings to everybody else’s lives. Even till this day, I still catch myself suppressing feelings of loss and sadness. I didn’t want to continue this unhealthy cycle, so I started this blog to release the tension and break down my barriers. I haven’t told my parents about it, nor do I think I will. I’m hoping this outlet will lead to acceptance and the belief that my life is suppose to happen the way that it is set up now. I’m not there yet, but maybe.  As much as I want to talk to my parents, I don’t think what I have to say is what they want to hear. I think at this point, it is better that I now play their colorblind game and take my sorrows to therapy and my blog. 🙂