Learning Through Pain

Knowing what you know now, what would you say to your six year old transracially adopted self? At twelve?  At eighteen, etc?

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4 thoughts on “Learning Through Pain

  1. At six, I would tell myself what I kind of told myself anyway, that the library was a world to escape to; that books were worth spending all my time with.

    At twelve, I would tell myself that nothing within the realm of my class acculturation was of any value; I’d explain that in addition to French I should probably learn Arabic.

    At eighteen, I would tell myself that the class ladder was a ruse; that those I was taught to avoid were actually worth my time; that there is a glass ceiling that I can’t see yet; that the place I sought to get away from would one day be my saving grace in terms of “belonging”, so I should spend some time getting to know it as much as possible.

    Beyond that, I would probably just remain quiet; crying silently.

  2. Love the question!

    To my inner six year old:

    ‘Tell me about Bangladesh, tell me about your mommy and daddy and your family. Would you like to go back? Who would you want to see again the most? What do you miss the most in the whole wide world since coming here? What do you like about here? What don’t you like? What scares you? Its ok to talk about you. Its ok to show and feel sorrow and anger for the loss of your parents and family and especially when you know that they are still alive, but you don’t know what’s happened to them and why you were made to be put in such a situation. Your adopters are not your parents, they are not allowed to hit you and touch you down there. They are not allowed to come in the bath with you and walk around naked. They are wrong they are bad’ – I would perhaps also be more physical with her, meaning I would cuddle her, hold her close and kiss her. I’d let her sleep with me if she was scared or lonely or missed her mother so. I’d comb her hair and tell her that her mother must be as beautiful as her. I’d play with her, laugh with her, draw with her and get her to tell me her story that way as well. In fact, I’d find out through play, talk, art and therapeutic books for children, whether she liked what her adopters were doing to her, what her life at home & school was, whether her older sister was looking after her and if she was happy.

    To my inner 12 year old:

    ‘Scream and yell until they (the adopters) listen to you or at least until others notice something is not right.’ ‘Tell the nice teacher who gets you to read to the whole class and praises your art, that you are being slapped and shouted at every day by your male adopter and that he does worse things to your sister. Tell them how scared & sad this makes you feel and that you know its not right, but don’t know what to do. Ask if anybody could help you trace your family in Bangladesh. That you are not alone that there are many adoptees like you. That Bangladesh is more than what the western media shows and what your adopters say. Talk about the art, history, food and rich culture. Demand to learn your language again, to visit Bangladesh and search for family. Demand to be heard and to get them to stop hitting you and touching you inappropriately. That being touched on your breast and between your legs is NOT a sign of affection and is NOT ok, but ABUSE. It is ILLEGAL in the state of Texas to use corporal punishment. You never asked to be adopted, did you? What they do and say hurts you, right? Would you like it to stop? They have no right over you just because they give you food, cloths, education, a roof over your head and because they are bigger, physically stronger and white. What they are doing to you and your sister is wrong no matter how ‘naughty’ you are. Infact you weren’t even naughty, you just dropped your fork on the table by accident while trying to eat as best behaved as possible at the dinner table. You are so worried about not upsetting them yet they are upsetting and hurting you every single day and it can be stopped.

    To my inner 18 year old:

    Weird, I can’t remember that year. I remember 16, 17 and 19, but not 18.

    ‘You don’t owe the adopters anything. What they have done to you since your adoption is abuse and assault. You have the right to report them to the police. You ….’ Oh, this is tough, cos I felt by then like I had no power what so ever, that I was condemned for life. I just wanted to kill myself or die through promiscuity (i.e. catching a disease or being killed by one of the men). Those were my fantasies. But because I lived in such a cocoon & protected environment, thank goodness I was not surrounded by the wrong influences. At 19 I took action and literally did not care anymore what happened to me, but thank goodness the wrong people were not around at that time in my life to influence me with drugs, alcohol, demeaning sex. I would have done it all and more at 19.

    Apologies for the long read. I could go on forever.

  3. I’m thinking if I were to speak to myself by some magical voice in childhood, I would take it to authoritative and I’d believe it. I’m not sure what words I’d say, but something like…

    1) you will find others like yourself, you are not completely alone; don’t be afraid.
    2) your hurt, your pain will change and it won’t always be so intense.
    3) you are good, don’t be hard on yourself.
    4) your mama and papa were also good, they were very human
    5) the stars tell you true but you will not become an astronomer; that is fine because you will find ways to learn what you need.

    Then I’d take these words to heart and…

  4. I would tell myself, at whatever appropriate age:

    * You can’t remake history. You can’t invent history. You can only work on the future.
    * Your role as a child in your family will soon be over, just as your role as a parent one day will not last long. Your impossible today will be history tomorrow. Be patient and your troubles will pass. And you can be free…
    * You think to be strong that you don’t need affection because that’s a sign of weakness, but you do.
    * Everyone will disappoint you. But you need to forgive them. Because carrying bitterness in your heart only hurts you and drives those you want to know away.
    * You are worthy of love. But you have to let people in and risk being abandoned.
    * Never put aside your dreams for anyone, for any reason. Therein lies your true identity.
    * It’s ok to not be perfect.
    * It’s ok to say no.
    * Instead of seeking others like you, seek those who can smile and laugh. They have much to teach you.
    * Write. Write. Write. It is the poultice to all your poison and can heal all the suffering you’ve been through.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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