“I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly.” -Oscar Wilde
Do you find it natural to be yourself or do you hide behind a facade?
What does it mean to be “authentic”? As an adult adoptee, these are the questions I’ve grappled with for a lifetime. This quest for “authenticity” may not be true for every adoptee, but for me it is central.
That said, for the past five years, I’ve been on a quest for truth in defining myself. In my case, there was always the feeling that a biological child would have been the first preference of my adoptive parents. Even though assured that I was “the chosen one,” I grew up fearing I was a substitute for the child that might have been.
Ever since I could hold a pen, I’ve kept a daily diary A lifetime of chronicling every day generates many volumes. Four years ago, I decided to dig through my journals, particularly those from childhood into early adulthood. I pulled out the sections that pertained to growing up adopted and turned them into The Goodbye Baby-A Diary About Adoption (AuthorHouse, 2012). I’d written guidebooks (Santa Fe on Foot, The Santa Fe Trail by Bicycle), books about WWII (From Calcutta with Love, Beast of Bengal) but never a book about my own journey.
The diaries, 40 small volumes of “notes to myself,” revealed how being adopted
shaped my decisions and my life’s trajectory. With a sense of Duty to Self and the hope of helping other adoptees, I opted to “go public” with the past in all its aspects. I was able, after publication of The Goodbye Baby, to move forward. It was liberating; it was necessary; it was illuminating.
Whether you were adopted or not, I’d like to offer guidelines for a personal “excavation.” To gain a better understanding of how YOUR past has shaped you, be willing to do the following:
1. Dig with your pen. Trace your life. Consider the choices you have made up until now. Is there a long-buried dream that calls to you? Perhaps you now have the wisdom to make alterations in your dream so that it can come true.
2. Write a brief personal history. This could even take shape as an outline, to be expanded into a future memoir. Recall the home of your childhood, fast-forward to your teenage years, more ahead to your first home. This need not be comprehensive. Instead, pick details that resonate in memory.
3. Adopt what Henri Nouwen calls “The Discipline of Gratitude” Use your daily life as a cause for celebration. In the extreme, this could mean taking the worst moments of your life and turning them into blessings.
4. Finally, reorder your priorities. This requires peace of mind and clarity. With modern life’s fragmentation and the intrusive nature of technology, however, this task is more important than ever. Use meditation, yoga, and days spent in silence —whatever it takes—to realize what’s most important.
In the final analysis, by excavating to see who you really are, you’ll be able to identify what truly matters in your life. It may be the most important journey you’ll ever make.
What has helped you in finding your true self? Please share your comments!