The One You Left Behind

It's 11:30 p.m. at night, and I'm sitting in bed, bawling my eyes out (silently). Why? I can't even pick up my thoughts.

Recently, my mother asked if I wanted to go to the orphanage in Shenzhen, China (where I was adopted from) to retrieve any files before the orphanage would be taken down. The first time she asked me, I sort of shrugged and left the question unanswered. I wasn't sure. She asked me again just the other day and I guess I hadn't properly processed what the visit would entail. Until now.

I was in the orphanage for about 3.5 years. But in those 3.5 years, I had no memories. No identity. I was just a somebody. One of the many possible hundreds of thousands of babies and children who were left alone in this world, for any number of reasons. I guess I have about 16 years of pent up anxiety, sadness and ignorance and anger, waiting to be let out. I'm 19 years old now. But I'm not ready to dig into my past. Not into those three missing years.

I guess my main anxiety surrounds the notion of "who," "what," and "why." Who am I? Who was my birth mother? Although I've been repeatedly told that they didn't know who she was, maybe there's a part of me that secretly wishes those undisclosed files might contain an answer. What happened? Why? Why was I left behind? Maybe I'm hoping there'll be something on those files.


(Me doing yoga on the Great Wall, as you do!)

The main reason I am so on the fence about going back is anxiety. It's a consuming, strangling feeling that wraps your brain and your mind in a dark cloud. I guess I'm anxious about what it's going to be like to go back. I haven't been back since I was about 7 or 8 (I could be wrong). I wasn't mature enough. I was too interested in the yummy fruit jellies being passed around. But now I am older. I guess my mind conjures up images of what it would have been like. I see crowded rooms, screaming babies, overwhelmed nannies and a shortage of food and comfort. I envision sickness, fighting over toys and other depressing images I associate with orphanages. But that's just me. Some adoptees are lucky enough to remember what it was like and to have had a good experience, and I'm happy if you are one of them. Essentially, I don't know if I am ready to open the floodgates, i.e., the 16 years of anxiety, sadness, anger and ignorance. Will I cry? Will I laugh? Will I turn away? Will I feel complete?

For the last 16 years, I have often avoided sharing any intimate thoughts on being adopted. I guess it is a sore topic. I'm sure there's a few adoptees who feel the same. I know I am fine to tell people I am adopted, but I'm not ready to open further. I don't even know how I feel myself. The teenager's life is a path of self-discovery and I've only but taken a few steps.