The Beginning – Audio version
Blog Post read time – 4-6 min.
I remember when I found this picture while looking for a journal to write in because I’ve had a bunch of different thoughts that day some positive some negative and I just wanted to express what I’m thinking more clearly and to process it all. Well, when I was looking through some old things of mine from college and childhood years, I found this little album. I knew what it was immediately as I picked it up because I’ve kept that album close to me for many years, it being my baby pictures with my mom. I soon realized that this album was my beginning. Many of you may not know this but I was adopted as baby by my mother. This album documented my first year of life before and after we entered each other’s life.
As I kept looking through this album, I stopped on this one photo that held my attention. It was a picture of my mother holding me as my foster parents (at the time) were loading up the car for me to go home with her. I saw a woman who was so put together, so stylish (the 90s were really good to her) holding me close to her neck. I felt a wave of deep appreciation for what this photo represented. The beginning of my life with my mother. This marked the start of my adoption journey.
From an early age, my mother told me I was adopted. I did not fully understand at the time what that meant, because all I knew was, that she was my mom. I was adopted in 1994 from Knoxville TN, where I was born. I was born out of wedlock to a young woman barely out of her teenage years with an unknown father who was not in the picture. The only thing my mother told me growing up was that my biological mother could not take care of me and that her mother was adamant about giving me up for adoption as they were not socially or economically prepared to raise a child. I struggled over the years with this lack of information and too many questions.
For most of my life, I questioned my identity as a result in more ways than just this one. Have you ever experienced this kind of uncertainty? The desire to search for meaning in your life when faced with hard questions?
There were times where I had complex emotional issues, wanting to know where I came from with such intensity, that I began searching on social media, websites, and even trying facial recognition in public places hoping to find my biological mother and father. As adoptees, this desire is normal for many. I want to share that in case no one has told you, it is okay. I eventually found clarity and more understanding, securing my identity.
I love my family, and only recently have I ever considered them as my adoptive family, which was hard to process at first. Although, the information I began to learn reignited the desire to explore my origin. It was time to claim my story. In my family, most of them knew that I was adopted seeing as I have many cousins who are older than me along with various uncles and aunts. It did not matter to them though. I was just their cousin, nephew, brother, and son. And most of the time it did not matter to me either. I love them. However, there were also those uncomfortable but important life questions I asked myself in private. If my adoptive mother had not adopted me, where I would be and who would I become? What kind of life would I have had if left in the foster care system? All these questions propelled me to discover where I came from. Now I have more answers than I imagined possible. My hope is that what I share next will help those seeking, embarking, and discovery parts of themselves that they cannot just deny any longer.
My parents have consistently explained to me that their main goal was for me to be emotionally stable and mature in handling whatever information I gained from my adoption journey. As a child, I longed for answers out of sometimes confusion, frustration, and curiosity. Some of you like me, always want to know the “why” in life. With hindsight, I now understand that I was not ready to embark on this journey until more recently. I needed to grow and work on healing parts of myself before opening that door. The desperation of wanting to know if my biological family looked like me and if they cared about my existence was difficult. Were my biological parents even alive? I would take anyone if it meant there was a blood connection that could tie me to my roots.
However, my mind was determined. I began to take more responsibility and initiative in discovering where I came from. I realized this wasn’t anyone else’s journey but my own. This is what is required to become one’s best advocate has been learned. During undergraduate college years, I decided to take the plunge and fill out an ancestry DNA kit from 23 and me. I was nervous and excited. Prior to this I took a genealogy course in scouting as a child and fell in love. I enjoyed discovering other people’s family histories and the stories that came along with them. I also began watching a show on NBC called, “Who do you think you are?” This program explored celebrity DNA ancestry stories with a historical context. I imagined what my story could be and who I would be in it.
After a few weeks, I got my results back and was intrigued by the ethnic breakdown of my DNA makeup. I am a lighter-skinned black male, so seeing the combination of significant African ancestry was neat, along with various other ethnicities. However, I was disappointed because there were no close familial matches to connect with at the time. Only 4th, 5th, and more distant cousins. But later that year I was surprised to see I had a predicted 2nd cousin matched, in the local Nashville area. I reached out to connect with her to assess how we may be related. We had limited information to share proving relevant to our connection, but I was determined to stay in contact with my cousin with the hope of discovering more.
At the time, I was in college and this cousin suggested we meet up to get to know each other better. My excitement was overridden by overwhelming uncertainty with making a biological connection like this, so I felt pressure and decided to put that journey on hold. Perhaps with more time and space the desire would return again.
Let’s keep going and see where the journey continued…