My name is Jessica. I am a Third Culture Kid from Western Europe. I currently live in Tennessee and work at a local private school as the Receptionist, Student Health Assistant, and Communications Assistant. Over the past year, I feel like my city in Tennessee has actually become my home, which is a very odd concept for me (you’ll understand why later).
Does this mean that I don’t experience restlessness and the need for change? Absolutely not. Does this mean that I have fully adjusted to living in the American South? No, I am reminded everyday that I am not from here and that I will never be a Southerner. Do I still have a lot of issues with the Bible Belt and culturally white, middle-class Christianity? I most definitely do. But there is no perfect place. We make each place we live our home, in theory. Now for the nitty-gritty.
Let me be real honest: I thought I was “over” the emotion involved with my story but I am most definitely not. My anxiety reared its ugly head as I started revisiting my own story. I have anxiety due to multiple things:
- my history of not dealing well with difficult emotions,
- the difficult emotions tied into my story,
- and my fear of judgement.
I think anytime you talk about something that is so raw, you have to identify the possible consequences, deal with those before you even begin to touch the story. And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to logic myself into processing my story. What’s the worst that could happen?
- I could be ridiculed – which I already do to myself.
- I could overshare – which I already do on the daily.
- I could regret sharing my story – which is the beauty of a space like this: you can always take it down.
- I could have an anxiety attack while writing this – well that’s one of the reasons why I’m currently in counseling.
So now that we’ve identified the worse things that could happen, let’s look at the positives:
- People could genuinely understand more about adoption and growing up overseas.
- I could work through a lot of difficult emotions that I have been unwilling to deal with for a while. This could end up being another way of processing my story.
So here we go.
I was born in Oklahoma and at two weeks old, I was adopted by my adopted family. Now let’s get some terminology out of the way:
- My family who adopted me is my family.
- My biological family is my birth-family. So when I talk about my family, they are the ones who adopted and raised me. My birth-family are the ones who I am biologically connected to.
At this point, my family had been living overseas for a little over a decade. My parents and my brother were already living in France. They were living in the States for a year and then took a leave of absence right before I was born.
They were supposed to go back to France in a couple of weeks when they got the phone call that the Oklahoma Baptist Children’s Home had matched them with a newborn baby girl. You know how everyone has a bedtime story they’re told – like the story of how mom and dad met and fell in love. My bedtime story was how my mom told my dad and brother that they were adopting a baby girl. Because this is such a personal and comforting story, I am going to keep it between myself and my family but let’s just say there were some balloons involved that said “It’s a girl.”
I’m not gonna lie, thinking about that story immediately calmed down my anxiety. Oof, let’s continue.
My birth-mother is a lovely woman who made a mistake with a man. He offered to marry her but she knew that he wasn’t the right man for her. At this point, she felt that God had put so many stories of adoption in her life that she knew it was the right thing to do. She already had a son and she saw what it was like for him to grow up with a distant father, and she did not want that for me.
That’s a great story! However, when you’re 14, moving countries for the third time, feeling like you’re completely alone (teenage angst), AND the enemies in your heart and mind lie to you by saying, “you were abandoned…you’re birth-mother doesn’t love you… you are a failure to your parents and they should just send you back to the children’s home…”a heart-warming story doesn’t feel real.
So how does this relate to living overseas? Well, from the age of eleven, I was moving countries every 1 to 3 years. It was wonderful to experience different places but it was also insane!
Anytime you start moving that much, your sense of home is convoluted at best. People ask weird questions, like asking how it feels to be “home” when you’re in your passport country. You may have to stop yourself from laughing or crying out loud because even though you can’t answer the question “Where are you from?” You most definitely know certain places are not “your home.”
This is where, usually, your immediate family is your rock, your stability. BUT when you are questioning your sense of family because your brain keeps reminding you that you were abandoned and that no one truly loves you, your sense of stability is just non-existent.
This struggle came on like a flood in high school, which is already a whirlwind of emotions. Let me say this real quickly: my parents, specifically my mom, were doing the very best with helping me. My mom was constantly telling me that my birth-mom loved me, that she and my dad loved me, that my brother loved me, that I was valuable and worthy of love, that I was not abandoned, that God had beautifully put our family together.
But when you’re a SUPER angsty teenager, you don’t absorb it. It goes in one ear and out the other.
This really all came to a head my freshman year of college. I attended a small, private Christian college in Tennessee. My first year was… well, to be honest, hell. Let me put it this way, I took a year and a half off between my first and second year of college. During that time, I worked at Chick-fil-A and I went to counseling.
When I lived in the States at age 14, I learned some rather self-destructive ways to deal with difficult emotions that really manifested themselves that first year of college. It was like everything that I had just been bottling up came rushing to the surface. I was living in the States for the first time: it was my first time living away from my parents (even though I questioned the idea of family, my parents were my support system), I started dealing more deeply with my adoption, and some not-so-great behaviors and coping mechanisms drug me deeper into the big, black hole that is anxiety and depression.
Whew, that’s a lot.
Now, why was I really dealing with my adoption at 18?
Well, that’s a great question.
In closed adoptions, the birth-mothers and adoptive families have zero contact – except through the agency or children’s home. But, when the adopted child turns 18, the birth-mother is able to send a letter to her child through the agency or children’s home.
A couple of weeks after I turned 18, I received a letter from my birth-mother in which she included her name and email. I found her on Facebook and Facebook stalked her for years, I mean like 5 years. I wanted so desperately to talk to her so I could have some semblance of understanding of who I was but I was terrified. Her letter was beautiful and it confirmed what my mom had been saying that she did truly love me and was doing what she thought was best for me.
After a series of circumstances in which I made a rash decision, I sent my birth-mother a Facebook message. In the olden days of Facebook, if someone sends you a message who’s not your friend, it puts it in a spam box of sorts. Well two and half years later, she downloaded Messenger on her phone and saw my message. It was actually perfect timing because that was the summer that I did study abroad in France and my perspective on myself really changed. You could say the rest is history. We have not met in person yet but we have FaceTimed several times and I am also in contact with my half-brother.
I am still dealing with those lies that I was abandoned…
- that I have no home,
- that I have no worth.
But God – being gracious and loving has continually shown me my true worth and value in this world. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is part of my story.