One of the arguments proponents of adoption often raise is that it gives adoptees a better life.
Better than what? And who’s to know?
Ask a non-adopted person to discuss adoption and they’ll probably tell you it’s a chance to give a child a better life. Maybe, and maybe not. One thing that’s certain adoptees like me, though, is that being adopted means having a different life than we might have had, one defined by a distinctive set of emotions and experiences.
Is different better? Not always.
For the adopted person, “different” often equals “other” — forever being a square peg trying to fit into a round hole of someone else’s making.
You were getting ready to say, “Everyone feels that way sometimes,” weren’t you?
Adoptees aren’t aliens. We share the same human experience as everyone else. The difference is that our life journey is framed by a complicated, confusing sense of identity: the person we are struggling to understand the person we might have been while we figure out who our authentic self is.
For those of us relinquished during the closed-adoption era, the struggle is further complicated by alack basic information about our origins and family history. We run through these mental gymnastics with few facts to go on.
Karen Caffrey, an adopted friend and therapist, once explained to me that for adoptees, life’s typical milestones — adolescence, embarking on a career, getting married, having children — are extra challenging to navigate because of our sense of identity is complicated by having been relinquished.
I know just what she means. I have a great life — love and support from family; terrific friends I don’t deserve; an exciting career that has me learning new things constantly.
Yet I struggle to live it.
Being adopted marks me. I second-guess myself constantly: Do I measure up? Am I doing it right? Can I blend in with everyone else or can they tell how unsure of myself I am? Could I please stop apologizing for myself? Worse, I hold myself in reserve or push people away rather than risk being rejected, ironically keeping myself the outsider I hate being.
Is it a better life? I’ll never know.