I'm one of those people that gets passionate about pretty much anything put in front of me. I think I've discovered a lot about how I view the world and myself through that ability. And I think that learning is my driving passion in life - and connection. And sharing that with other people.
I think even back in my high school journals, I just didn't really ever have a clear picture of where I saw myself in the future as an adult. I just couldn't even imagine. The closest I got was like, me as like a raisiny old little grandmother with white hair. Middle-age didn't exist. Anything past 27 didn't exist. And it's really interesting navigating that after just celebrating my 27th birthday. On one hand, it's terrifying to feel so listless and uninspired and like you've lost your train tracks.
Conversely though, there's also a weird liberating sense of freedom and possibility. And I think that might be the silver lining that I find to keep myself from going completely bonkers. But I think it's easier for me to think about the world that I want to help shape. I don't think I see myself individually as a human being on their own path in the world, but I think I really envision ways that we can choose to shape our lives, our relationships, and our systems into a world that we want to see. And the world that maybe the youth want to see.
I’ve got a big heart, you know, and I think there's all these things that we know and hold to be true about ourselves that get overshadowed by the fear and anxiety and the trauma.
There's a reason that I take a flowchart of my family to any therapist appointment ever. It's just so complicated… I know my birth mom. We have probably the most established relationship out of any of my biological family. She would come to celebrations and life events, milestones, and she would bring my little half-brother. And we're still really close. I’ve never met my dad. And that's the thing that has been such a time investment of my adolescent life, searching for answers. And here I am. I'm the explorer, always looking for new information, looking for answers, and looking for knowledge. And yet, my birth mom never talks about him. I do know that my birth dad comes from indigenous ancestry - we think, or at least, we thought. It's just kind of what we always knew to be true. This is where it gets complicated.
After years and years and years of scouring the internet, trying to find his family and coming up with nothing, one random day on Facebook, under the People You May Know suggestion was a woman who looked familiar. Definitely older and had the same last name. I was like, oh, this is a person I hadn't investigated yet. Lo and behold, it was his mom. So I added her on Facebook. We’re friends. She sent me a couple messages every now and then. She was really thrilled to hear from me and reconnect. And this is where we get into a huge, wonderful identity spiral where I asked her, “hey, I know that I'm indigenous, what tribe?”
And she was like, “Um, I don't know. I don't really think that we are,” and that kind of thing. That sent me on a really great path of reckoning with identity (and also cultural appropriation). Also, honoring indigenous lifestyle.
I don't think I've ever tried to express this before. I feel like on one side, I've got experience and lineage. Where my biological parents have this innate lineage and history, that is coded into our DNA that I now share. And as we know, trauma can change DNA. So, we've got that coming from one side. And I mean, culture isn't blood quantum, but the history and the lineage shares culture. And I think that's, that's the thing that my biological family really means to me: that prolonging of their story. And then on the other side, I've got my adoptive family, who I have very little in common with. But I have been afforded experiences that have shaped me to be who I am for better and for worse. The family I live with now is wealthier than my birth family, and that afforded me so much more privilege on its own.
I feel like, as far back as I remember in my childhood, I don't think that I've ever felt that innate sense of connection to my adoptive family. And I just, I never have. And I think I maybe always harbored that as a little bit of guilt because, I'm surrounded by people all pouring love on top of you and saying, we fought so hard for you to come with us, and then… to not reciprocate that can feel a lot like shame.
I feel like the removal of attachment, that innate attachment with my family, has really influenced the way that I view myself. I feel like I'm a very detached human being in relationships, in friendships, in my family life. I mean, clearly the way I described as seeing myself in the world as a wisp of wind, you know. I'm a detached person. And I think that attachment structure that I developed early on in this environment has followed me in ways that I'm still unfolding, I'm still learning and discovering every day.
I vividly remember in fourth grade, we had to do an autobiography. And I think everybody has to do that at one point in elementary school. I'm an overachiever and one of those neurodivergent gifted kids. I just made a full-on f*cking scrapbook. Like, an actual scrapbook. It was like, write a paragraph. And I’m like, no, I'm going to include 3D pop-out pictures on the pages. Because I was that kid. But on that research journey of my youth to outline who I am, where I come from, one of the questions was, what's your ethnicity?
I asked my adoptive mom, and she's like, “oh, yeah, you're Native American.” (Cuz you know, that was the hot lingo back in the day). “You know, you're Native American , German, polish, and you’re Irish.”
And I was like, okay, cool. And that really ignited me on this pathway of wanting to know more about - I don't know - just wanting to know more about me. And that was all reinforced as well. For years and years and years. And it became very much a part of my identity, especially exploring the indigenous side, which was my dad's side. And that was just known truth. It was unquestioned. Until I found his mom on Facebook.
I would not be surprised if that was an attempt to reach out and connect with somebody who had never been around, or somebody that I didn't have any information on, as a way of feeling anchored to an identity. It's something that I think I'm still reeling from a little bit. I can feel myself wiggling in my chair right now. Like, that's how awkward identity can be. Especially when, perhaps, you've known yourself to be one way pretty much as long as you can remember. And then, question it. Especially when it comes to cultural identity. And (TED Talk) - I really want to do a big old TED Talk about this and how to also navigate your sense of identity, especially indigenous identity while honoring it as a lost culture and a way of life and living with land, that was attempted to be eradicated.
A large part of my personal narrative, not the whole thing, but a very large looming part is that self-talk and that thought that I'm unwanted. And a large part of that self identity and that self talk and self image view is that “you're unwanted,” or that “you're not enough.” And I don't think I ever had any interpersonal family experiences that should have led me to believe that. In school, absolutely, sure. But in my family, there was no actual reason for me to feel that way, but I still did. Always. Childhood trauma. Adoption trauma. You know, I really genuinely think it's that birth trauma. That removal.
It took me a while to get here, but relinquishing a little bit of that perfectionism and making, or doing, or creating, something that I want to do because I want to do it. Not because I want a perfect end goal. And learning to accept those little flaws, I think has really helped me make peace with being human. And to worry less about being enough.
There's a cool little philosophy, especially in indigenous basketry and beadwork. There's something called the spirit bead where maybe it's one bead that’s out of place of the pattern or a different color because it was accidentally picked up on the needle, but once it's woven in there, it stays. You don't unpick it. You don't fix it. It was there for a reason and that imperfection is the reminder that we're human.
This is something that I've been thinking a lot about, like, just this whole year. I'm great at finding silver linings because when life sucks, you’ve got to have some sort of hope to move you forward.
One of those silver linings for me, is that in these feelings of disconnection I am also kind of untethered or unanchored. Which does give me a lot of freedom to build communities when and where I need them and to seek out the people that I want to include in my life. Like, finding a community in choir class. And then they become your extended family. Or going to school and really clicking with the person you sit next to and then all of a sudden they're like your sibling. With that sort of pillar, that center pillar of attachment, for me, not being there, there's support beams holding up the building that just looks so different. A lot of different little support beams and pillars, and I think that's really cool. And you learn so much!