I’m sitting here at one of my favorite coffee shops on the campus of Arizona State in between classes. I just met with my thesis chairperson to discuss my progress and address some questions I had. The past two weeks have been a lesson in time management. What I’ve learned is that despite best efforts in keeping up, I have to be flexible and okay with my inability to finish every required reading assignment, etc. Not easy for those of us who tend to fall into the category of perfectionist. Surprisingly, I’m doing pretty well with it. I think I’m operating on “let’s just get through this” mode at the moment.
I’ve been a bit panicked lately feeling the pressure of completing my thesis on time, that is before graduation in May. My defense must be scheduled prior to April 21st, and we’ve set a date for the week of April 13th. Meeting with my chair today relieved some of the anxiety that I’ve been choking back lately. This endeavor has certainly taken on a life of its own. I talk a lot about my thesis, so forgive me if I continue to ramble on about it. It’s just that the focus of this project is very near and dear to my heart, and despite the painstaking process that it is, I’m gaining so much from it. One of the things that I see about myself through this process is just how much my perspective on my own personal experience with adoption has changed over the years. I guess you could say that I’ve reached mid-life (geez, where did all of the time go), and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. It’s occurred in stages, which kind of goes right along with what’s typically considered the life stages of development. I have a much clearer picture of who I am now that I’ve reached the middle stages of life. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long for me to get here, but I guess that’s life, right?
So, when I was a kid growing up in Bossier City, Louisiana, fitting in was the most important thing in my life. I was Asian, but wanted to be white. I rejected anything related to being Asian. I was raised by white parents, so despite my outward appearance, I thought and still think like any other American. I didn’t understand it when other kids treated me different because of my physical appearance. I thought just like they did, why should I be treated differently? This is when I began to understand that maybe looking different, being different wasn’t such a great thing. In fact, I thought if I could be just like everyone else around me, that would make me acceptable. It took a long time for me to shake that one off. I’ve spoken of this before, but the development of identity for adopted persons is like a long and winding road, and where it leads and eventually ends is a curious thing. The road came to a fork for me when I found my adoption papers and learned a big truth about myself that had been hidden for a very long time. It took an event of that magnitude for me to even have the smallest desire to learn about my cultural roots (which I learned were not Japanese and Vietnamese). We all have turning points in our lives, and for me, that was one of the biggest ones I’ve ever experienced. It set a new course in my life, one in which I’m still following.
So much has happened in between that turning point and now. I’m getting my master’s degree in social work because I ultimately want to effect change in international adoption. Furthermore, I want to continue to conduct research related to international adoption and adoptees and their families. I would never have thought long ago that I would end up where I am now in the middle of conducting a research project on international adoptees. It feels pretty awesome though, and I’m grateful for the long and windy road. At times, I’m so overwhelmed by school, family, the thought of adding a new internship soon, that I just lose sight of how much I value conducting this research and the adoptees who participated and shared their stories with me. Instead of enjoying the process, I get frustrated with how long it’s taking and how tedious the work is. One day when it’s all said and done, I hope that it will begin a conversation, or perhaps continue the conversation on how international adoption affects the lives of adoptees. One thing I’ve learned about this project, which I think is fair to say, is that adoptees are resilient people, and that is certainly a strength and something to be valued and understood. So, I guess I’m giving myself a little pep talk to keep forging ahead – that maybe one day all of this will matter. I can only hope so…