Last week, I went to the Research Triangle in North Carolina to attend a conference for people working in communications. It was my second business trip ever. My first was to Oklahoma City and I knew no one. This time was different. I visited with family and friends in the area who I’ve known since I was 11 and another who was one of the first faces I ever saw my first year of college. Despite feeling like I had known them forever, life caught up with all of us and time separated us in more ways than just by miles. I think the sign of a true friendship is how easily those separations disappear. And in the past week, as expected, the past distance was non-existent.
We asked each other for all the exciting bits and pieces of life we’d missed over the years, and time after time I kept forgetting one of my bits: that I contacted my birth family. The whole event has been completely pushed to the back of my mind. When I did think about it and spoke those words aloud to my friends, they demanded, “why didn’t you say something about this sooner?!” I could only shrug my shoulders. I don’t know why I never do anything sooner than I probably should. Funny enough, the friends I saw in North Carolina were without a doubt the friends who would have wanted to know that information first. For several reasons, being adopted had always interested them… but I still didn’t think about it.
I recently wrote about the experience in an essay I submitted to Real Simple Magazine’s Third-Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest. The competition asks writers to finish the sentence, “I never thought I would…” I started the essay as, “I never thought I would contact my birth family.” As I wrote, however, the tension came to a boil and I knew the true crux of this story. When I submitted the story, I had filled the prompt with: “I never thought I would contact my birth family and not tell my parents.”
The shame I had carried those 14 days when I did not tell my parents about contacting my birth parents had settled into my heart without me noticing it. Over two years later, I realized that shame had become a permanent fixture. Why I never spoke of the topic made sense.
Submitting an essay about it to strangers and sharing the story with friends this past week have felt like steps to recovery. I write “recovery” and yet I don’t know what I’m really recovering from – regret? Maybe sometime in the near future, I’ll write more about it here. But first I’ll see if my simple story makes the cut. If it doesn’t, I’ll post it. If it DOES, I’ll be shocked.