Adoptee: one who is adopted
[Adopted: to take by choice into a relationship]
For those of you who don’t know, I was adopted at 11 months old from Lima, Peru. I grew up in a very diverse and beautiful family of women in Fort Collins, Colorado. We are the Dull pact: a strong group of women with different stories, backgrounds, talents, gifts, and struggles.
Growing up I always felt comfortable sharing my adoption story with those who asked, and honestly, I was fine seeing my story as a very special piece of who I am. Being the only adoptee in any community of friends, coworkers, or classmates became my norm and I assumed it would always be that way. Explaining to others that I was adopted made me feel like I had some super power that nobody else did. In fact, anytime someone would prompt the question about something unique or special about us, I would proudly mention the fact that I am an adoptee.
Even though I wore my “adoptee badge” proudly on my sleeve, I remember times where I saw my adoption not as a super power, but rather as my kryptonite. There were moments where there would be swarms of questions flooding my head as I would try to understand what it meant to be an adoptee. I had questions about myself, my birth family, Peru, my characteristics, my identity, and my life. Those questions seemed to always be there, like a shadow, but I would always go about my life not knowing what to do with them.
I remember one moment in junior high where I really let those questions sit heavy on my heart. I went to the bathroom during class and ran into a few friends, which for teenage girls is completely normal. As we chatted for a bit, I noticed my friends were fixing their makeup and hair. After a minute or so they dashed off to class, and I went to use the restroom. When I went to wash my hands, I noticed my friends had left their foundation on the counter. I picked it up, looked around and thought to myself, “Hmm maybe I should use some of this”. As I proudly convinced myself that my friends wouldn’t mind me using a dash of their makeup I glanced in the mirror and froze.
Before me stood a young girl, who had dark skin, bushy dark hair, thick dark eyebrows, and dark brown eyes. “Who is that girl?” I asked myself.
It took me a quick moment to realize that that girl was me. I shook it off, looked at the foundation and chuckled since I realized that it was made for someone who had very fair skin- which is why my friends could use it, not me. It would be obnoxiously evident to everyone that I had borrowed someone else’s make up which would have been so EMBARRASSING. To this day, I am grateful that I decided to just put the makeup in my pocket, go back to class, and continue on with my day.
While I was glad I didn’t become the laughing stock of my school, I reflect on that day and realize how defeated I felt. I think about how on that day, in that moment I somehow forgot who I was, or better yet I recognized that I didn’t know who I was. In an instance, I realized that my identity was one that I did not understand.
I wish I could say that was the only time I was at a crossroads of understanding my ethnic identity, but the truth is, it isn’t. Growing up I was surrounded by people who had didn’t look like me, which somehow made me think that I didn’t look like me. I mean thinking about my friends, neighbors, teachers, or extended family members I always thought we were the same. We act the same, talk the same, think the same (to a degree), and are the same…except for the small detail that we don’t look the same.
I was adopted which means even though at moments I feel white, the reality is I am not.
My example above is just one of the many moments I and other transracial adoptees may have. We see ourselves one way, and yet the world sees us through a different lens. I walk this fine line of “playing my cards right” because I can either identify with my peers, who mostly are white, or I can try my best to fit in with other Hispanic people. Either way, my presence is quickly made known as people play the game of “why are you different?” The reality of being a transracial adoptee means I have felt like a white girl stuck in a brown girl’s body. Evidently, this makes my life not the easiest to navigate when understanding who I am.
So now, as an adult I take my identity day by day. I know that I am me, and I accept myself for that. I try to not conform to how others want to see me or even their expectations of how I will act; instead, I simply try to be me: a beautiful, quirky, complicated, and curious adoptee.