Relationship Struggles

I’ve always said that I’m bad at relationships. In fact, I even started a blog post last week with “I’m bad at relationships” as the opening statement. It’s still sitting somewhere in draft form.

I’ve been mulling over that idea for the past week. It’s one of those ideas that tends to float around in the back of my mind quite often, but it’s been closer to the forefront lately.

I think my adoption has a lot to do with the way that I relate and interact with people. I was watching a show earlier this week that has a strong adoption theme interwoven into the plot, and I think it’s the most fascinating part of the story. It shows the strong desire to connect with family and loved ones, but the hesitancy to really get close and let people in.

This has been my main issue: the struggle between trusting others with the most vulnerable parts of me and trying to acknowledge that there isn’t something inherently wrong that people will somehow discover, then choosing to no longer invest any time in a friendship. It’s something I’ve discovered a lot of adoptees struggle with to some degree. I think it has to do with having the knowledge that somewhere out in the world, there is someone who didn’t want you enough to keep you.

I know there are extenuating circumstances to almost every adoption. I know that in many cases, giving a child up for adoption is the most painful and selfless thing that a mother could ever choose to do. I know that it’s probably not fair to blame attachment and trust issues on a mother who was only trying to make sure her child was given all the opportunities possible. However, knowing these things doesn’t always heal the pain. It doesn’t erase the struggle that I’ll most likely fight for most, if not all, of my life.

I can’t speak for adoptees as a whole, but I know that for me, my relationships have struggled because of my pain connected to my adoption. My adoption story isn’t really one of abuse or despair. I was put up for adoption because my mother was a selfless woman who couldn’t provide what she wanted for me as a single mom, and I think that’s an incredibly brave act. But I see girls who were younger than she was working and fighting every day to give their children every opportunity possible. I see these ladies doing everything in their power because they want to take care of their kids. I see all of this and wonder why my mom wasn’t the same.

Rationally, I know the hurt doesn’t really make sense. I know that my life would have probably been even more difficult. But being given up leaves an emotional scar on your very soul. It’s part of your identity whether you want it to be or not. And unfortunately, it seeps into other aspects of life. If a woman who spent nine months carrying you and essentially nurturing you doesn’t want to continue doing that, how can friends or even a romantic interest think that you’re worth the work and energy for a serious relationship?

So when I say I’m bad at relationships, I think I mostly mean that I’m bad at trusting relationships. No matter how wonderful my friendships are, there’s a tiny voice in the back of my head that whispers that I can’t possibly be worth it for the long haul. Instead of facing the core issue head on, I’ve always tended to just end a lot of my relationships, with friends and otherwise, before they get too close or too involved. My incorrect rationality has always been this: “if I’m not worth keeping around anyway, I might as well end it sooner to avoid as many hurt feelings.”

It’s stupid and ridiculous and probably shouldn’t even be an issue, but your past and experiences can do a lot to effect your subconscious. They don’t have to control it as long as you’re aware of them, so I suppose that’s what this post is supposed to accomplish: acknowledging the issue with the intent to be more aware of it and hopefully more willing to try and change.

Eiserner Steg, Frankfurt, Germany - September 2014
Eiserner Steg, Frankfurt, Germany – September 2014

listening to: The Kooks

Not Quite Resolutions

I’ve never been one for New Years resolutions. In fact, I can’t remember a single year when I sat down and thought to myself, “this is the year that I accomplish this one big thing I’ve been meaning to do.” I have goals and wishes for the year, but it’s not quite the same thing as a resolution.

One goal I’ve made for myself in the past few months is to experience at least one new place a year. Ideally, this would be a new country and a completely different culture, but as I’m trying to be more financially responsible with my life, visiting a new country this year doesn’t seem quite feasible.

A couple weeks ago, I made a big decision. As I’ve written about before, I’m adopted. It’s part of my identity that I’m extremely enthralled by, and I want to learn as much about my past as possible. At the end of June of this year, I’ll be flying up to Washington to finally meet some of my biological family. While this isn’t a new country, it is completely out of my comfort zone, and it’s a trip that will undoubtedly be cause for a massive spike of growth in my life. However, it does occur to me that since I’ll be so close to the Canadian border, I might still be able to cross off another country visited on my list if I figure out a way to make a day trip up to Canada.

This is quite possibly one of the most intimidating steps that I’ll have taken in my life thus far. Meeting my family has always been a dream of mine and after finding them a year and a half ago, that dream has just gotten stronger. My plans to move to Alaska fell through and I found myself with more than enough air miles for a roundtrip flight within the continental US, so I jumped at the chance to scratch something else off of my bucket list.

I’m mostly going to be visiting and getting to know my aunt who was only 10 when I was born. She and I have several things in common, and there isn’t a very big age difference, so I’m very interested to see how we interact in person. It would be a dream come true to meet my other aunt, uncles, and especially my biological mother, but seeing as I haven’t heard from her in over a year, I don’t have high hopes. This will be a great first step in learning about where I come from, so I’m grateful for that more than I can figure out how to put into words at the moment.

This might be a bit strange to admit, but I’m also excited about this visit because I feel like it’ll be a perfect addition to the book on adoption I’m working on. The strange part is this: ever since I’ve started this blog, I’ve noticed that I’ve started to live my life in a way that would make a great story. I’ve always said that at the end of my life, I want to have lived a life full of interesting stories, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve begun to intentionally make decisions that will lead my life down an interesting path of growth and change.

As my trip creeps closer and closer, I have a feeling I will equally become more excited and nervous. I am happy that I’m pushing myself further and further out of my comfort zone and that protective bubble I allowed myself to live in for so long. After all, change only happens when you make yourself just a bit uncomfortable.

Potter's Marsh, Anchorage, AK - August 2014
Potter’s Marsh, Anchorage, AK – August 2014

listening to: Young the Giant

Lack of Communication

I think the hardest thing about being adopted and knowing that you’ve found your biological family is when the communication stops. When someone acts like they’re truly interested in hearing from you and getting to know you, but then the emails just mysteriously end, it’s a hard thing to digest.

I found my biological mother in April of last year, and we emailed back and forth for several weeks. The emails slowly subsided, but I got a birthday email last August. I responded, but after that email, I haven’t heard a single thing from her. It’s not like I haven’t tried to contact her. I’ve emailed occasionally, and when I went to Alaska this summer, I hoped that telling her about that trip would inspire her to finally get back to me. I was wrong.

For me, I think it’s been harder having that communication just stop, than for her to have told me she didn’t want to hear from me. When I was 18 and read the line in her letter to me that said she hoped I want to meet her one day, I’ve held out hope that there would be a possibility for some sort of relationship. I’m not looking for another mother or for her to treat me like her daughter. I have a family, and I know she’s got a family of her own. More than anything, I just want a friendship with her. I don’t want to intrude on the entire family I know exists out there and demand that they make me a part of their life, but I do want to feel some sort of friendship and be able to write or call without feeling all panicky just typing out a few words.

That’s one of the hardest parts of being an adopted child- feeling caught in limbo. I’m not a child of divorce, but I had to deal with enough fights growing up to know what that balancing act can feel like. The adopted balancing act is a bit different because both parties aren’t always trying to win your affection. There’s one party that wants to make sure they don’t lose you, and can sometimes feel somewhat insecure that you might decide you prefer your biological family to the one they created for you. Then there’s the other party that you want to make sure you aren’t intruding on because their lives went on without you and they’ve adjusted. It’s more of an internal struggle trying to decide between what you want and what you know you should do to keep everyone else happy more than anything else.

Part of me tends to feel forgotten. I held on to the fact that I had a birth mother who wanted to get to know me for six years, but then after I finally found her, she dropped all communication. With my people-pleasing tendencies, I’m constantly going over the few messages I’ve sent in the past year, wondering if there was something I might have said to make her change her mind- to make her not want to talk to me anymore. There’s also my birth father to take into account, who knew I existed but wasn’t ready to become a father. I want to at least know his name, but there’s nothing else I can do because I haven’t heard from the one person who knows his information. I catch myself asking if there’s a possibility that he changed his mind and wanted to know who I was at some point. If he had other kids down the road, maybe some sort of paternal nature kicked in and he got curious about me but had no idea where to begin to start looking.

I could go into how these reasons have affected my psyche and the way I connect with the people I meet, but that would be delving even deeper than I think I’m ready to publicly go. More than anything, I want answers. I want to be able to feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and while I know better than to expect an immediate reply, I want to know that I’ll get answers eventually. I try to be understanding and I try to be patient, but it gets so difficult at times knowing that there was something that must have changed her mind. I know there are more than one side to every story, but sometimes I just want her to know mine, so that maybe she’ll know how important communication, however infrequent, is to me.

Alaska- August 2014
Alaska- August 2014

listening to: Damien Rice

The Daunting Dream

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dreams, goals, and what I want my life to look like in five or ten years down the road. At 24, I’m in a perfect transition period in my life: I’m living in a different country, learning a new language, making friends with people all over the world, and learning a ton about myself. I’ve taken to journaling almost every day, and nothing could have been more healing and eye-opening in this life-season. However, I’m aware that this is just a season, and I’ll eventually need to figure out what my next step will be.

In the past year or so, I’ve had one major life goal: to write a book. I realize a lot of bloggers want to be published, but it’s more than that for me. On my old blog, I wrote about my adoption story semi-frequently because it’s one of the stories that makes me different, which I’m learning to embrace. Last year, after finding some of my biological family, I started recording the moments so that I would be able to remember all the little details.

Adoption has become a huge topic almost everywhere I look. Facebook friends, several celebrities, and more bloggers than I can count are all celebrating the fact that they’ve chosen to adopt. While I’m all for adoption and think that it’s a beautiful way to extend love to children that might not get to know it otherwise, I know that many people who adopt aren’t aware of the way it can affect their adopted children. There are so many books on the topic, but most often from the view of the parent or a psychologist. There are nowhere near enough books giving the adoptee’s perspective, and I believe that point of view is the most important. Because of this, I’ve started to use some of my journaling time specifically for covering my thoughts on adoption. Perhaps within the next five years, I’ll be able to combine all of those thoughts and turn them into a book.

The main goal I have in writing this is helping parents who are thinking about adopting or have newly adopted realize a little more what they’re committing to. Adoption isn’t something many people decide to do lightly, but the emotional and mental repercussions on the child can be overlooked. There are many issues I’ve struggled with throughout my life that I’m just now able to recognize as stemming from being put up for adoption. I’m not blaming any of my problems on that, but it’s important to pick out the moments and events that help define a person, and adoption is a major one.

The idea of writing a book is very daunting. I’ve never been a very confident person, and the idea that other people could be interested enough in something I have to say sometimes feels almost laughable. However, adoption has always been a huge part of my life and I feel like I have enough to say that writing a book might be crazy enough to work. I’m fully aware that my opinions on adoption aren’t the only ones worth sharing, so if you’re reading this and think that I’m onto a good idea, I’d love to get some help. If you’re adopted and want to answer a few questions for me, please email me at thekostory@gmail.com or leave me a comment and I’ll get those questions to you!

The day of my adoption
The day of my adoption

listening to: John Butler Trio