To travel, or not to travel…

…That has been my question.

I just finished graduated school and I walked across the stage a few weeks ago. I finally feel free and able to make any choice now.

My schedule has opened up and traveling back home to India has been my plan ever since I started school. I have been wanting to go back to India to live, not work on a film, but to just live and become part of Goa. With those desires at bay, I am currently figuring out how to balance my personal desires with professional opportunities and set new goals for this year. As I have been exploring my next trip back, I have asked my parents if they ever thought about going to Goa, India.

Before I get into their response, some background information. I was adopted 30+ years ago and the agency did not require that the prospective parents travel to India and probably didn’t even recommend it. My parents had the luxury to just find a way to LAX to pick me up.

There was a few times when my mother and I talked about traveling to India with my sister while growing up, but it stayed at that. Just talk. The financial burden and raising children seem to have put India on the back burner. I quietly accepted it and buried it.

Years later as an adult, I went on my own (with friends) and I am so glad that I finally did at the age of 26. From that moment, my mother thought that I wanted to go without her.

Fast forward to the last few weeks and an opportunity to travel to India with her sister and her adopted daughter came up. Immediately I felt uneasy, uncomfortable, angry, sad, offended, and hurt. Didn’t really know why these feelings came up so I just sat with them and observed never really expressing much interest in going with them.

Although I am in an uncomfortable and hurt place, I am trying to stay fluid and move through processing these feelings that have made their way to the surface. I talked to my PACER support group members and they mentioned some possible feelings that adoptive parents sometimes feel when they hear that their child wants to return to their home country or when they are suggested to visit their child’s home country. I took it all in and changed how I was going to approach my mother about this topic.

After the meeting, I went home and began to water her plants. She was in the backyard and I casually asked her what the update was about our possible trip to India. She replied that her sister was not going to go. I asked if she was planning on going anyways, and she replied no. I asked why and she basically said that she couldn’t afford it (she was offered the trip for her retirement present from her sister). As suggested by my peers, I asked if any of her reasons were due to fear of loosing me or realizing that there is a whole country and heritage that she couldn’t offer me. She denied ever having those feelings, but went back to the money and taking all the time off of work.

I told her that those reasons are no longer good enough for me. I expressed why I was hurt and offended because here she adopted a child from India 30+ years ago and never really made a true effort on talking, planning, researching, or saving for a trip to India. There was no talk about saving $10/month and go when you are 16, or 18, 21, or when I retire. So the whole money excuse is no longer good for me.

As far as not being able to take a month off of work is also a bit weak because even 2-3 weeks during the 30+ years was still not possible? That’s when the offensive reaction comes into play because how can a family adopt a child from another country and never have any interest in that country whatsoever? Hell, I just found out that my mother has never stepped into an Indian market. How is it possible to have an Indian child and not know anything about India or make a legitimate effort to travel there? The bottom line here is that the obstacles that laid before her could of have easily been solved over time, over 30+ years.

After I shared these feelings with my mother, she understood. She expressed herself by confirming that she has wanted to go, but again there has not been much of an effort until her sister wanted to go and even that was shortly lived. She did express that she imagined us going together but since I went with my friends that she suddenly couldn’t go. I understood that she felt that way. There is a part of me that doesn’t necessarily want to go with her, but I still want her to go. I want her to go because I am her daughter, but I don’t want my presence to be the only reason she goes.

As far as my father goes, his response was similar. I want to go, but…

Even though I have expressed my feelings about how my parents remain separate from India, I know that their efforts to travel to India are probably not going to change anytime soon. And if they do, I will be happily surprised and give them lots of travel tips!

 

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. 🙂