For me, the hardest struggle about being adopted was self-acceptance. I lived in a place where other kids looked like their parents, and I couldn't help but feel a little odd and left out. I couldn’t help but wonder about my birth family or what I was like as a baby. All the things that normal kids knew about themselves, I didn't. It seemed impossible to be proud of my past and to accept myself, but coming back to China has changed that.
I was adopted from Henan province when I was six years old. My mom says that I was really fast at dropping my Chinese and picking up English, probably because the only memories I had from living in the orphanage were nightmares, and I wanted nothing more to do with them. I tried to lose my native language and everything that went with it. Of course, I wasn't completely successful at mentally erasing the first six years of my life; some things are impossible to forget no matter how hard you try. It was especially tough to adjust to my new life the first year, and I drove my mom crazy several times.
My first two years of school in America, I had a love-hate relationship about China, adoption, and my past. I remember being so amused at my classmates’ expression when I told them I was born half way across the world, and when they asked me if I could say anything in Chinese, I would count from 1-100 with pride. However, if they asked anything about what it was like or what I remember, I would just shrug.
In second grade though, that love-hate relationship turned into complete hate. We were in Social Studies and I forget the details, but somehow we got to talking about China. Then a boy, Ross, asked the teacher, “Since Lindsay was adopted from China, does that mean her real parents didn't love her?” I wanted to smack him and tell him he was wrong and it was none of his business anyway, but all I ended up doing was crying because deep down, I wondered the same thing. After that, I never willingly told anybody I was adopted, and if they asked, I would tell the truth, but then change the subject. I guess I was afraid they would assume the same thing as Ross, so I lost the little pride I had in China.
When my mom asked my opinion about going back to China and serving the orphans there, I don't know what I was thinking (or if I was at all), but I said I was willing to go. Maybe I wanted to get out of America, where nobody seemed to understand anything about orphans or adoption, maybe I was ready for an adventure, or maybe it was really God leading me, but whatever made me agree, I'm glad I did.
I can't decide if coming back to China at first made it easier or harder to accept my past. It sometimes hurt to be back, but at the same time, it was eye opening. It hurt because being so close to my old orphanage brought back some of the memories I tried to forget. I also thought more of my birth parents because I was so close, but so far from them: they could have been on that same bus I was riding, and I would have never known. More often, I thought of what I looked like as a baby, my real birthday, my birth family and what they might be like. I thought about how much I don't know about my past and who I was, so it was hard to accept myself.
However, at the same time, it was also easier to accept myself because our work put my problem into perspective. While I was thinking how unfair my life was, there's one little kid who will never walk, one who won't ever be able talk, and one who just aged out of adoption completely, and yet they could still smile and play. It made me feel less alone in the world because these kids probably also wondered about their own family: I had a bond with the kids we worked with because I was like them. On the other hand, while I had a family, my own things, and everything we tend to take for granted, these kids didn't, and it made me realize how lucky I really was. Those kids put my situation into perspective, and I'll never forget the day when I felt more sad for one of them than I did for myself.
It was a hard process, but I finally learned that in the big picture, all the tears, struggles, worries actually made me stronger. They taught me to be thankful for who I am and how far I've come. For me, self-acceptance doesn't mean you never get sad about your past, but when you do, you know you'll be alright. It doesn't mean that you never wish you could change your history; it means you can believe that no matter where you came from, God still has a wonderful plan for your future.
Then...Lindsay with her Mom and big sister (and foster parents).
And now...Lindsay with Selah in the Foster Home.