Pact Fall Fundraising Gala Speech

Pact Has Changed My Life Forever

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In my mid twenties, I embarked on an adventure back to my first home in search for my family in India, in search for what is rightfully mine. With my future children in mind, my dear friends and I documented my travels that ended up eventually becoming a feature length film. Unexpectedly, knowledge of my film began to travel through the adoption community. And that’s how I was introduced to Beth and PACT. Beth was so kind to invite me to the Pact Family Camp to present my film to adoptive parents. She was the first person to call me a transracial adoptee. I had never heard of that label before but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Something so small as two words helped me settle years of confusion about my experiences and my place in my family, with white parents.

With no expectations about what camp was going to be like, I packed my bags and drove up to Lake Tahoe. As I drove up the driveway, I saw a little brown child running across the street towards the pool and their white parents following not too far behind. My heart sank and tears began to flow. That was really the first time I saw myself from the outside. 

Opening ceremony welcomed all families into the conference room. I will never forget when Beth asked all adoptees, foster care youth and alumni to raise their hand. I saw at least a hundred hands in the air! This rush of validation, acceptance, and unconditional love went through my body. Coming from a family that didn’t speak about my adoption, India, my first family, adoption language, or the possibility of searching and reuniting, I was absolutely overwhelmed to see so many other families built like mine, all in the same room. I immediately knew that I was where I was suppose to be.

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Since my first Pact Family Camp in 2014, I have met, listened to and became close friends with other TRA’s, Foster Care Alumni, natural mothers, and adoptive parents. In fact, they are the reason I moved to Oakland earlier this year. Together they all have honored my voice, my experience, and gave me credit for being an expert in adoption. Through the authors, bloggers, filmmakers, theatrical performers, and poets that PACT has exposed me to, my perspective have expanded around race, gender, sex, identity, parenting, and language. The most precious gift that I have received from PACT is my support group for TRA’s of Color. I’ve been allowed to cry, mourn, express anger, laugh, and roll my eyes without having to defend myself. I am not alone in this and my self esteem and self love have heightened to a level I have never experienced. I consider everyone that I have met through PACT an extension of my family. A family that understands me as a whole person, without having to say one word.

So tonight, I am here to celebrate and highlight the work of the dedicated, strong, insightful, gracious and compassionate staff members, including all the counselors, volunteers, panelist, and board members of PACT. Transracial Adoption is complex with so many unexpected challenges. But with the all trainings, webinars, annual family camps, consultations, education, support groups, placement services and more, PACT truly is a leader in providing the best opportunities to learn how to move through the challenges with the adoptee’s best interests at the core.

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Myself, along with so many other adoptees and foster care alumni have been given the open space to share our experiences, joys and challenges. We hope to create a better experience for those that walk this path beside us and behind us, and sometimes before us. I want to personally thank you all for coming tonight and supporting the much needed services for those that are the most vulnerable. I am proof that PACT can change lives and support a healthy and open narrative around adoption. Thank you Beth and my dear PACT family for making me a better person. I love you all dearly.

 

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Nothing Has Changed

A ride through my mother’s village.

The purpose of my last visit to Goa was simply to live everyday in the present moment. I planned nothing except my flights and AirBnB rooms. The rest I left up to my natural instinct… I chose to travel alone, for the opportunity to practice my natural instinct, my internal navigation system.

I tasted new beers and food, shared my dinner table with strangers, made new friends, talked politics, meditated, made love, took risks, explored, all while getting acquainted with new feelings. I was genuinely happy being home in those moments.

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 It was during the latter part of my time in northern Goa that made me quickly think of my mother’s village. Again, not having any desire to search or look for clues; the brief images of driving through her village came and went.

I arrived to Agonda Beach and settled into my little bamboo framed beach hut. The days passed with sights of the Arabian Sea, sounds of traveling musicians, and the taste of fresh sweet coconut water.

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The bare beach was a place to feel alone, yet still have just the right amount of people to watch from afar. Thats when I notice him, perched up on a rock in the middle of the seashore. I was to later find out thats when he noticed me.

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Time passed and he approached me with a gift, sweet coconut water. New experiences and new feelings with him for the next few days.

One afternoon, we changed our plans and he offered a trip to a neighboring beach town up north to pick up his clothes from the cleaners. With no hesitation, I accepted and jumped on his bike. The thought of my mother’s village came back to me. I noticed that we would be passing through, so I asked if we could drive through on our way back to Agonda. Without hesitation, he replied yes.

With the sun setting and his phone battery dying, we found our way back to the place I left a piece of my heart, just a few years ago.

He drove slowly, taking sharp turns with ease so I could observe the streets she used to walk, the people she probably knew, and the shop that she probably visited. We followed the flags that lined the roads from a festival that had just passed.

I was still.

He reached his hand back around and touched me.

How are you feeling?

I am angry.

I didn’t resist and I began to cry. He pulled over and wrapped his arms around me. The anger grows, and the tears flow.

At that moment, I realized my anger was towards the village, the people, the customs, the traditions, the detachment to the human experience of motherhood. It is their fault that my mother had to choose to…

 We hear a voice from down the road.

“You can’t do that here. You need to leave. There are children out here.”

Our explanation of our relations and my tears did not convince him that I was simply crying while being gently hugged by a man.

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If we were not welcomed to hug on the public street corner, I am sure single, pregnant women are still not welcomed back home.

Nothing has changed.

 

Allow Me to Clarify

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Since my latest blog was shared on Dear Adoption, some confusion and rumors have been present among my family and friends.

I received emails and phone calls asking if I was moving to India forever. I was a bit surprised because not once did I mention the word moving or forever. After talking to my sister about it and reading my words again, I realized that there may have been a couple things that set the tone and created an image of me moving back to India forever. Allow me to clarify.

Mentioning that I have a one-way ticket to India I’m sure didn’t make sense to a lot of people. When I was originally planning my trip through Southeast Asia, I knew that I wanted to start in India, finish in another country and then head back to the US. The first ticket I purchased was from San Francisco to Mumbai. My heart sank and I wrote my last blog. At that point, I didn’t know where else I wanted to go and when I was coming back.

Another contributing factor is the meaning of the word home. For most people living in the same country that they were born in may see themselves as having one home. For me, I was born in India and grew up in the US, so I call both India and the US my home. For me to state, “I am going back home,” simply means that I am going back to my first home, whereas for someone that claims they only have one home may see my use of the word home as meaning forever.

This is a dilemma that some adoptees battle with. Where is home? Which one is home? Which one is my family? Do I have to choose one?  Why cant I have/claim both families? Do I have two birth certificates? Do I have two birthdays? Do I have two names? Can I have two homes?

Now that I am out on my own, it is my responsibility to build a bridge between my two selves and between my two homes.

I Am Ready for Another Chance at Love

I am going through a separation; the final separation.

It was about two weeks ago that I called my ex-boyfriend who just moved back home to Indiana. We had talked about me visiting him and possibly meeting in Chicago. I made some arrangements and gave him a call. He gave me the worst news. He was in a new relationship. I dug deep and expressed some genuine feelings of happiness for him, but my feelings on the surface were quite different.

First girlfriends have always been very difficult for me. I tend to analyze myself and how I was in the relationship. Was this another relationship where I always left first in fear that he would leave me again? Yes. Did we trust each other? No; trust was broken very early on in our relationship and trust continued to be broken throughout the four years. Did I love him? Yes. Was I selfish? Yes. I have noticed that being in grad school had a big part in my choices; my choices to choose me instead of us. Did my adoption journey have something to do with my push back? Yes. I don’t think I understood how to love anybody else because I lacked love for myself.

I will admit, these last few years as I tried to make sense of my loss and really accept that I have no access to my family lineage hasn’t created the best opportunity to love myself. I looked to my college and career success as a way to love myself, which is why I chose to be selfish while I was in school. But there’s so much more than degrees and finding a job.

He was right in many ways when we reflected on our four year on and off again relationship during our last phone call and text messages. I didn’t want to be with him in a real way. I have thought about his words and what that means to me. I agree, but didn’t stop there. I asked myself why, why did I not commit to him the way that he deserved? The way that we both deserved.

I cannot change what happened, but I do know how I want to change today. My feelings about a relationship and commitment has shifted and I am now ready to admit out loud what it is that I want, what I am ready for, what I deserve and hope for.

I want a real relationship too. I want to build on trust, transparency, respect, and love. I want to commit. I want to stay and not run when arguments arise. I want to give and receive love. I want to feel like I deserve love. I want to make sacrifices. I want to compromise. I want to take risks. I want to feel, and not think so much. I want to admit that I need help. I want to balance my independence and a partnership. I want to build a home and a family together. I want to open myself up and allow love in.

He was caring, loving and very patient. He is greatly missed. Now, I just need to snap out of it and stop hoping that he will text me. :/

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Travel Visa: Granted

As mentioned in my blog posted on October 4, 2016, I was ready to apply for my travel visa for India. I had waited to complete my Renunciation of Indian Citizenship and there were a couple of bumps along the way, but quite minor. Once I received my paperwork of completion, I was ready for Part II.

Now that the scary part was over, I was ready to review my travel visa application again. I went down the checklist that CKGS provided and made sure that I had all the required copies and my documents were in order.

I made an appointment and headed back to San Francisco.

After unexpected traffic, searching for parking for what seemed like hours, walking in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes, I managed to arrive on time. I checked in at the front desk and waited for my number to be called.

After removing layers of winter clothes and 20 minutes of fanning myself in attempt to cool down from the unexpected high temperatures, I was called up to the counter. The CKGS staff member looked over all my paperwork, checked my IDs and then casually asked for my marriage license.

Not again!

I remained calm and explained how my name changed due to my adoption and that she could find my father’s name on my Indian passport. Luckily I had it with me again. She copied it and added it to the stack of papers to be submitted. As I began to pack up my belongings she stopped me again.

Oh, now what!

She stated that my application number does not match up with my appointment number. Yes, I created two applications because I was confused and tried to get by without submitting my Renunciation certificate. I think she could tell that I was a bit stressed, so the lovely woman printed out my other application and assured me that everything is now completed.

I wait.

I added each layer of clothing back onto my body, swung my backpack over my shoulders, strapped the safety belt across my chest, took a deep breath and walked out to attend Adoptee Night at the San Francisco Giants baseball game.

Three days later, I received my passport back and there it was, my travel visa for India. That included a small picture of me sporting my untamed eyebrows. I was officially allowed to enter India, as many times as I wanted, for the next 10 years. I was ready to go back home.

My Rebirth

Seems a bit dramatic, right?!? Well, in my case it kind of is. Let me explain…

Like I mentioned a few days ago, an intense pull for change was happening and I needed to make sense of it. As I continued to drive north on Highway 1, I was able to sit in silence and feel what was happening and how I wanted to react to it.. Do I want to doubt and ignore, or ride the waves? This pull was happening and there was no way that I had the energy to pull away from it, so I surrendered.

During my time with Riz, he pointed out that it all comes down to choices. Have you ever asked yourself if you chose this life? Did you choose your parents? Did you request to live this life in a previous life? Did you choose your life partner before your birth? You may have your answers, but how do you know they are true. Will we ever know if we chose this life or not? No, probably not, but we do have a choice in what to believe.

Growing up, I used to always question why I was given this life. Why was I separated from my birth family? Why am I different and why am I suffering?

Like most, I was told to play the cards I was dealt. Looking back now, playing the cards I was dealt allowed sorrow and pain to slip in because I didn’t have any control over what cards I picked. Nobody asked me what I wanted in this life, so I was left with how to make the best of what I was given. I didn’t know how to do that so I was lost.

It wasn’t until Riz asked me, “How would you feel if you did choose this life and your circumstances?” I sat there for a moment and I felt a shift of weight within my heart. What if I did choose this life before my birth? To say that I chose this life or not cannot be proven, so why not take control and say that I did choose this life of being an adoptee.

The shift within opened me up to so many more possibilities. If I did choose to be adopted in this life before my birth, then that gives me the power and control to use my experiences as I please instead of falling victim to the confusion and pain of what was given to me. I am not saying that my confusion and pain just suddenly perish and became non-existent, but now I seem to have control over what I do with the confusion and pain that comes with being an adoptee. To say the least, I felt empowered!

Riz followed up by telling me that I was a storyteller in my past lives in one way or another and that I wondered what it was like to be adopted. It all started to make sense to me. I chose to live this life to find out what being an adoptee is all about, so now that I am experiencing it first hand, I am here to tell my story.

Huh, come to think of it, I guess I have been telling my story all along through sharing my film and now this blog. 🙂

Now that I am home safely and getting ready to move on with my life, I am confident to say that I feel settled and comfortable believing that this life is what I asked for and I have no reason not to tell my story. Who knows, my shift with may lead to a shift in my physical world very soon.

Coming across this photo a few days ago confirmed to me

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that I am on the right path.