This is my journey of how I’m slowly learning to accept my adoption.
My story begins far beyond 1996. Like a violent river carving through rock, so my history was being shaped while I was smaller than a grain of salt. And like nature’s ability to recover and thrive no matter the challenge, so my story begins to solidify.
I was born in the aftermath of Chairman Mao. His regime had morphed into something new but the consequences of his rule lingering in the air like smoke stinging your eyes. In the wake of his urge for a bigger population, the One Child Policy was implemented. In poor areas where boys were prized, this meant an uncertain future for girls.
The problem with poverty is that people are trying to survive, and it’s considerably harder to be altruistic if food and health aren’t guaranteed. I will never know what my birth family went through, but from what history tells us, I can imagine it was through sheer will power they survived.
My birth papers say I was born on 5th February 1996 in Luoyang. My parents and family members are unknown. The story told to me was that after my birth mother gave birth to me, she left me on a doorstep so I could be found. I was lucky, most babies are usually hidden away left to die a lonely death.
In the vacuum before my adoption, I alternated between foster parents and the welfare centre. At 2 years old, I made the one-way journey to the UK.
Growing up I often struggled with this history. I understood that life was better in the U.K. I had access to education and eventually work. But as a child such a history is heavy, and I had not learned how to acknowledge it without drowning in it.
All I knew growing up was that I was different. My face betrayed the features of a country that I was a stranger to, while my mind became saturated with Western ideals. It never once occurred to me that I should demand less than a man. Or that education should be secondary to my domestic or childbearing abilities. As is the case in some parts of the world.
But, all the while in the back of my mind, locked far away from conscious thoughts, were the feelings of why was I not good enough to keep?
For years I resented China’s One-Child policy; the blatant preference for boys even at the cost of female lives. I knew that my birthplace was poor and modernity had not yet caught up with it. But I couldn’t shake that feeling.
I always knew that I wanted to live life vivaciously. If life was an orange, I would want every last drop and then some. If I was to be happy, I knew I needed to find myself by losing myself in the deep waters of life itself. I didn’t quite know how I’d achieve that; I just knew I would.
My university years were perfect for this. Long conversations with friends, the taste of Malibu and coke as we played drinking games before going out, kissing different lips and swaying hips in crowded, fluorescent nightclubs. Eventually falling in love with my now fiancé.
I remember watching a play in London National Theatre with Katie Leung as the lead actress. Her character is a Chinese peasant born in humble beginnings and her migration to the city for work. Her desire to prove that she was more than a girl born into pig shit felt familiar to me, even though I had never uttered the words.
That pain and desperation to be validated, was a very well-acquainted spectre. When I did finally graduate from University, rather gloriously resplendent in my robes and graduation hat, did I feel that I could say, “I told you” to China and anyone who ever thought me less of a person because of my gender?
And still, that feeling to prove myself persisted.
In a job interview, my to-be boss asked me, “what motivates you?” I gave an answer I thought was sufficient, but he probed more. Maybe it was my period hormones. Maybe it was a rare moment of complete honesty and vulnerability. But I finally uttered the words that had imprinted themselves silently into my psyche: “I want to prove that I am more than being left on a doorstep.”
Life prevails. I feel at peace. My past is an event beyond my control. It is a well-worn memory that no longer stings when I think of it. I am living life in all its inexplicable and chaotic glory. I am a sister, friend, fiancé, and daughter. And I am engaged to a man I love, a proud cat Mum, and a working woman who can indulge in her vice for iced coffees and books.
I have grown up in Wales, a beautiful country where nature rules queen. The green hills rolling towards the sea; a marriage of land and water. I have travelled to Greece, Sardinia, Prague and hopefully more countries. I am living in a bustling city that traded nature for towers and traffic lights.
Perhaps I’ve been looking at my beginning from the wrong point of view. Perhaps my birth mother saw that my life was to be lived without the shackles of history. That my life was to take place on the other side of the world, where opportunities lay waiting for me to find. Just as I traded Wales for opportunity and self-discovery, so she traded a limited life for me with the expanse of the future. A future where we would never know each other.
I doubt I’ll ever find her. But I acknowledge the second most important action she did for me. She gave me life, and the chance to live it all those years ago.
I have learnt that happiness is not the absence of sadness, but the ability to accept it and not let it take more than its due. It is an idiosyncratic fusion of the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. How to live with both, and enjoy life regardless.