You, the Personal and the Professional. We talk a lot about our personal lives but many of us also have professional lives. Let’s assume that our personal and professional lives cross at some point (for some people this happens more than others). Has adoption also affected your professional life? If so, how?
It has, in various ways. Once, when I worked as a receptionist, the bosslady somehow found out I’m adopted. I didn’t like her at all as it was, but I must have hidden it well: she thought I should be the first to know she and her husband were adopting from Russia. She clearly expected me to tell her how wonderful this was, little knowing that I was putting all my energy into restraining myself from jumping out of my chair and ripping her hair out. I think I settled for saying “Oh. Good luck,” or something equally noncommital. I got another job soon after that. There were so many things about this woman I didn’t like that the Russian adoption was the last straw.
(My next job was at a veterinary clinic. I loved it. I related to animals better than people, and I could sometimes arrange a happy ending for strays like me.)
I consider my vocation to be writing. One of the first pieces I got published was about being adopted, and I’ve recently finished another that addresses the subject in an oblique way. I think adoption themes have also shown up in my writing when I didn’t mean for them to; once, someone who had read a lot of my stuff asked why my characters were so often “on the outside looking in.” I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that didn’t say something about being adopted “on the slant,” whether I meant for it to or not. And I don’t know whether I would have been a writer if I had not been adopted–if I hadn’t had such a need to observe everything and everyone very carefully to make sure I was “passing for ‘a real person’.” (Adoptee hypervigilance has its uses.) Not having my own story, I believe, drove me to make stories up.
I currently teach college composition courses. When I’m helping students write their first research papers, I use some of my own early papers as models. One of those argued for open records. Every semester, I explain what sealed records are so they can understand the paper’s thesis statement, and in every class, every semester, the majority of my students are not only shocked to learn about sealed records, they’re appalled. “What?” “What’s up with that?” “Why?” “That ain’t right!”
I can’t express how much that does to make me feel, well, sane. Outside the borders of AdoptoLand, people can clearly see how bizarre and wrong being denied one’s identity is.