Thoughts from an 18-Year-Old Adoptee
‘You’re adopted? Oh.’ Stunned silence.
That’s the typical answer I receive when I tell people I’m adopted. To be honest, I’ve gotten use to it and now find amusement their reactions.
‘Do you mind talking about it?’
That’s usually the next question. I could’ve found it annoying after a while but I know it’s asked out of consideration and kindness. It’s not always easy. There are lots of misunderstandings and judgemental stares when people see a young Asian girl walking with an older white man (who happens to be my father). I’m willing to bet that people have thought me to be a gold-digger or prostitute. There’ve been multiple times where I’ve walked from a distance just so people wouldn’t make incorrect assumptions.
Adoption isn’t rare but it’s enough to make people stare.
I remember a person once asking me whether I ever thought about finding my birth parents? I told him, ‘of course I have but I don’t know anything about them. I don’t even know if they’re alive’. I use to try not to think about it often because the more I think about it, the more I think about questions that I’m not sure I want answered.
Why was I put up for adoption? Are my parents alive? Were my parents together, or was I the result of a one-night stand? Was I the result of a rape? So many questions and no answers.
My adopted mother told me my mother was most likely a refugee who fled Vietnam to Hong Kong. She told me that giving me up was probably the best for me, that it secured a decent future for me. I know that — but it’s hard not to feel bitter at times when I wasn’t left with anything to remember my birth parents by, not even a note or photo. I have no way of finding who they are. If there was some way to locate them, I would’ve tried by now. For all I know, I could have siblings. I probably have a family out there I know nothing about, and it’s plausible they don’t know anything about me either.
I’m ethically Vietnamese but that’s pretty much the only thing that connects me to my heritage. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and adopted by an English family. If anything, I consider myself a Hong-Konger by heart, and British by nationality. This has lead to some confusion when trying to introduce myself to new people. Conversations usually go like this:
‘You’re from Hong Kong? You’re English is really good.’ (Said many times when starting university in England).
‘Thanks, I grew up speaking English.’
‘Oh, are your parents Chinese?’
‘Actually they’re English, I’m adopted.’
And back to the opening sentence.
I’d never though I would find someone like me but within the first year at university, there was another person who was Vietnamese and adopted by a white family. It was amazing finding someone who could relate to you, someone who understood what I’ve been through. I asked him once if he ever thought about finding his birth parents and he said, ‘yes’. It made me wonder how many other people like us are out there, wondering about their birth parents and what their life could have been like.
Looking back, I have been extremely privileged which probably wouldn’t have been so if I wasn’t adopted. In the end, I’ll never know truly know but I am so thankful for the people in my life. Even though I’ve missed out on a life of what could’ve been, I’m lucky enough to have one full of amazing experiences and wonderful people.
Thinking about my past and origin has helped me come to terms with my situation. Of course there’ll be the occasional night where I think about my birth parents and what my life could have been like. Or why I was put up for adoption. Sometimes I cry, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Even though they may never see this, I want to tell my birth parents that I’m doing fine, and my life is great. Whatever your reason(s) for giving me up, it’s given me amazing opportunities; I’m attending university, have a loving family and have the best friends I could’ve asked for.
So thank you.