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. 

Grounding Work
Julia Miracle

Julia and her mother

Fall 2020: If you had asked me how I felt about adoption, I would have said that I was all good — that I felt pretty solid in my identity. Fast forward to Spring 2021, the Stop Asian Hate movement was quickly sweeping across the US and Canada. I felt so detached and ungrounded, with no one else to share these feelings with. It was shortly after this that I was sent the application to apply for The Park as a Digital Marketing Intern.

I had visited The Park in 2019 on a family trip and was in awe of the programs that were offered for kids and teens like me. It was comforting knowing that adoptees had a space to gather and it was something I wish existed closer to where I grew up in Ohio. I realized this internship would be the perfect chance to connect with adoptees and gain work experience: an opportunity I wouldn’t find anywhere else.

I remember being asked, “how are you connected to adoption?” It seemed like such a straightforward answer: I am adopted. Then I realized, that was about as much of a connection that I had. I began to doubt my ability to work in an adoption support organization. After all, I barely identified myself as Chinese; I was raised around white people and white culture; and I grew up knowing only two other adoptees and rarely engaged in anything related to my culture or adoption.

Despite my doubts, I received an acceptance email. I was thrilled! Little did I know how transformative this internship would be. I understood very little about the adoption process: how I got here, what my mom went through to get me, and all of the politics and international relations at play. Moreover, I did not realize how incredibly powerful and grounding it would be to be surrounded by a team of adopted and Asian women.

I loved my work and creating content for The Park, but the moments in between were by far my favorite. Learning everyone’s stories, sharing feelings and thoughts I had never been able to completely articulate before, and learning how to intertwine Chinese culture with my own upbringing was gratifying. I came in with so many preconceived notions about who I was, how I could feel, and what I believed in that were turned completely on their head.

The Park staff and interns helped me connect with my truest, most honest self, and we did it together. I connected with the interns and staff in a way I have never connected with anyone else. Coming from a lifetime surrounded by white people (sorry Mom), I was conditioned to give the short and sweet version of my background. Suddenly, I was graced with the beauty of not having to explain myself and, even better, my unknowns and my feelings were not only understood, but relatable. Never have I been able to relate to so many people at the same time in my life. This in itself was worth doing the internship. I know my fellow interns and Amy, Ali, and Claire will forever be in my corner, as I will be in theirs: always supporting each other, laughing together, and eating boba.