Community Garden

Embracing Every Identity

Embracing Every Identity
Cathleen Daly

Adoption is not the most important fact about me, but it has been one of the most impactful aspects of my identity journey. 

I was adopted from Zhejiang Province, China at 18 months old by my amazing family – my mom, older brother, two older sisters, and little sister – in New Mexico! 

Growing up, as a Chinese adoptee in my hometown of Rio Rancho, New Mexico meant I was pretty much the only Chinese adoptee in my community. I didn’t feel that I fit in anywhere because I looked different than everyone around me including my own family, and I despised it at the time. That mixed with being extremely shy as a kid made me want so badly to just blend in with the crowd and not do anything to draw attention to myself. It also made me want to have nothing to do with my cultural heritage. 

However, as I entered my teenage years, for the first time my heart actually began to open up to learning more about where I came from. I got curious, and that curiosity led me to discovering Adopteen. My mom had told me about it growing up, but due to my lack of interest in learning about my past, my lack of pursuing the organization any further also waned.  

But in summer 2012, I was finally ready to open that door. I found out Adopteen was hosting a Camp-Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The night before registration closed, I, very much on a whim, filled out my registration and bought my plane ticket to Hotlanta! 

I arrived at my first Adopteen event that summer of 2012 with really no idea what I was getting myself into, and I quickly realized it was everything I needed and more. The energy was so open and positive. It was a community where I did feel that I fit in and where I didn’t feel like I had to explain, not even once, the complicated reasons of “Why I am adopted” or “Why I didn’t look like my family.”

Along with the experience, surprisingly a new challenge that I had never been faced with before in understanding my identity emerged; suddenly, I didn’t stand out anymore solely because of how I looked or because I was an international adoptee. I was so used to standing out that fitting in almost felt more foreign to me. However, there was something so special about this community; there was so much acceptance and embracement of everyone’s individual personalities, strengths, and stories that I knew that these were my people…and it didn’t matter what we looked like, it just mattered who we were as people and the connections we made with each other. 

So, I got involved. I attended every Adopteen Camp, Midpoint, Adoptees Giving Back Service Trip, and Committee I could throughout the rest of my high school experience.

In being immersed in this community, I learned how to develop and celebrate my identity beyond just my adoption. I grew in my faith, my relationships, my interests, and later on my professional career. I learned that my identity story was more than just my adoption story.

Now, as an adult adoptee attending programming like Beyond Adopteen and staying connected with the community has been instrumental in building my confidence as both an adoptee and as a person. The community, regardless of the age group and the seasons I am able to be involved in, remains the same: acceptance and celebration are at the core of everyone’s unique story and it has taught me to embrace others in the same way. Today, I am proud to embrace every identity that makes me, me (and all of the future identities I have yet to discover too): A daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, a cat mom, a young professional, a creative type, and yes of course, a Chinese adoptee who now honors her past and all of the curiosities that come with it.