Our Identity Thing

Last week my daughter emailed me asking for the best resources to point someone beginning their identity journey to.  I realized I couldn’t give her a straight answer, despite being deeply embedded in adoption land for many years.

My own journey didn’t start until I was in my mid 40’s.  After my parents died.  It was a different media world back then, and the only information online at  that time were mostly forums for people wanting to adopt and some fledgling personal blogs by adoptees.  The adoption politics and identity politics landscape was more binary and divided back then, so it could be pretty brutal to participate in debates and research on adoption was in its infancy. There were adoptee organizations all over the world having activities, but there was very little discussion by adoptees to adoptees.  Not like today, where there are dozens and dozens of Facebook groups and adoptee-run on-line magazines and organizations and schools with adoption studies and thousands of books and memoirs.

I must say, I miss those old days.

Not the dearth of information, but the blogs!  I miss the less self-conscience very personal voices poignantly speaking in the wind to nobody/anybody at 3 a.m. and sharing their heartaches, joys, confusion, and pain.  It was very very real. And they would invariably fold.  And that was a good thing, because they were moving on. It was therapeutic for them and therapeutic for us readers.  And we began to talk to each other.  Real conversations.  Real 3 in the morning supportive conversations. And we didn’t feel so all alone.

But today it seems like everybody has all the answers.  You can go to x adoption sites and find all you’d ever want to know about adoption and then some. We find our tribe and echo each other’s voices because it’s all been written already and then we get comfortable being part of a tribe and never have to leave. And, I would argue, we never have to grow or challenge ourselves either. It feels to me like the desire for presence, collective front, aggregation, political critical mass, etc. has occupied all the space and its near institutionalization has cleaned up what was messy but dynamic into something slick and sterile and nearly negated the individual voice.

Which makes me sad, because let me tell you – I credit blogging to saving my life.  It’s one thing entirely to journal for yourself, another thing to write a letter privately to a person, and another thing entirely to write for yourself publicly.  It’s a game changer.  It means you’re accountable.  It means you have a responsibility to not misinform, to not spread bias, to not let emotion cloud reason.  It’s a skill that must be learned: not only writing, but also editing yourself. It means you have to consider your words and test them and ask yourself if it’s the truth.  It means having to work your shit out.  And because it’s in front of others it means you can’t fake it, because it can’t be unseen once published. It becomes a consistent self check. It becomes a practice.  It progressively clears away all the lies you tell yourself to skate by with as little work possible. It makes you more observant. It makes you consider others more. It heals.  More than any therapy or dozens of self-help books, the act of blogging takes your trauma and dissipates it, rendering it powerless.

So that’s what I did; I searched for my identity in real time publicly for over four years.

And my conclusion (which I don’t expect anyone to agree with) is that identity is, at its core, everything that persists that defines your essential you. No matter what was taken away.  Despite whatever awful thing happened. It’s intrinsic.  So, to me, I didn’t lose it. It can’t be taken away.  It isn’t as superficial as my citizenship or a society or a culture. It is bigger than all of this adoption shit. Not to say adoption isn’t freaking traumatic and awful, because it is.  And yes you had a destiny that was rather violently curtailed.  But you are still you and you survived and you are teeming with human potential. Your identity is the ONE THING that you can actually always count on sticking around. Love and cherish that!

It just seems to me that, since we’re in this existential crisis club, shouldn’t we also be talking about strategies and tools to break free?  To just live and have happily ever afters?

So how do I point adoptees to the best resources for their identity exploration?  The past year I have been studying language acquisition methods and my favorite one is called, “The Discovery Method.” Basically what that means is you try to engage.  You allow yourself to make mistakes and be inadequate. That experience tells you what you need to learn.  You then have a goal to fill that hole. You now know where to focus your energies for research. You remember that lesson the most. And this kind of serendipitous, messy journey is how you become agile and learn to learn and accelerate your progress.  I think it’s also called “Free Climbing.”

And write.  Write like there’s no tomorrow.  Write to anybody who will listen.  Stream of consciousness. Reason for yourself. Form your own thoughts. Adjust, correct, grow! Flex those muscles. Be true to yourself.

Oops, got a little rapturous there!

I forgot to add that I, personally, wouldn’t want to steer anyone to any particular place because the journey is way more important than the conclusions of others.  I’m a far different person with a far different mindset than I thought I would have when I started.  And I’m grateful the path was not straight.

All that aside, I am always interested to hear what other people think identity is.  What’s helped you get through identity crisis personally.  What your process is for your learning style.  Maybe you can give my daughter a more satisfying answer!


Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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