Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.
By Lucy Sears
It is February 23, and I am staring at a picture I have taken on my phone of a photo that sits in an album eight hundred miles away. In it, my mother hugs me close to her chest. There are tears in her eyes, but her face speaks a volume of joy that has been incredibly captured in a single shot. My father stands behind her, with a similar look.
This is the first photo that was taken of us, as a family. The date is February 23, 1998. It is not the day that I was born, but rather, it is the day I like to say my life began.
I was adopted when I was two years old, from China, with seven other girls. Our parents called us the Rat Pack, a clever play on words, on their part, due to the fact we were all born in the Year of the Rat, according to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar. This name stuck, of course, and we have called ourselves The Rat Pack for as long as I can remember.
Our bond is a unique one. For many summers and holiday seasons, we were able to have a reunion and catch up with each other. These girls were the closest group of people I had in my life, and we had a relationship that was akin to a kind of sisterhood. We shared together, the similarities of how it felt, growing up, often feeling lost and insecure. We shared the understanding of the unique experience of having to explain to our childhood friends, the idea of adoption; from the obvious reality we didn’t look like our parents, to not having any baby pictures at home. For me, personally, it was facing the repetitive questions of, what or how I would feel if I could meet my “real” parents, or the reminder from others, that I am lucky I didn’t end up in a factory in China, making children’s toys for fifteen hours a day. There were subtler remarks, but these were the few that often made their appearance over the years. With these questions and conversations, came replies that were very carefully rehearsed.
It is rare, even to this day, that I find myself able to casually talk about being adopted, where much of my story—and other adoptees’—is layered with complicated emotion. Part of it for me, comes from the basic understanding that the first two years of my life will always remain a mystery. This is a truth I have come to accept, where I do not desire to one day travel back to China, in a quest for my origin. Instead, I see those two years, as a time I was alive, but it wasn’t until February 23, 1998, when my parents first held me in their arms, that I became who I am today.
On this day, I do not mourn the lost life of something that I never even experienced. Instead, I celebrate the life I have lived, and still live today. I look back at all the profound joy and happiness I have had, where eighteen years ago, my parents traveled across the ocean in order for our family to finally be together.
Lucy Sears is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently studying English and Communication Arts. She grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and is learning how to survive the cold winters in Wisconsin. She has her own radio show and spends most of her time on her friend’s futon, which is the comfiest piece of furniture she has ever encountered thus far.