I’m a bit of an oddity. I’m adopted. I’m a former foster kid. In that order.
The norm is the reverse order.
Every year, something like 120,000 kids are waiting to be adopted. I had it and it went sideways. I ended up in care and the rest is history.
Because of this, National Adoption Awareness Month hits me a little differently than most. Some adoptees get excited for November, happy to share their story. Others dread the month and all the memories it stirs just before the Holiday Season. I’m in the middle, as I am with most things.
When half of your life is amazingly great and the other half was rough, you end up with a strange balance. Add the self-awareness that comes with having been in foster care, and you’ve got yourself a balance that would make a deli scale envious. It’s become my calling card; Even Stephen.
The peaks and valleys of owning a magazine helps to reinforce my ability to not get too high up or too far low. It’s an interesting exercise in perception to look back at life events with this new sense of balance.
At the time, I was angry. I didn’t know there was a possibility that I was adopted. No clue. Thought my Dad was my Dad and that was that. That, however, was not that. I found out I was adopted in such a jarring way, there was no room to react with anything but anger. The short version is, as follows; A girl in my high school came up to me one day and informed me we were cousins. Turns out, she was under the impression that her Uncle was my Father. That fact remains to be proven, but the incident sent me running home with many questions. I was informed that I was in fact adopted by my Stepfather and the identity of my biological Father was uncertain. I was also told that I had a Brother and a Sister I hadn’t met. (FYI, I’m capitalizing all the family members so it’s easy for you to keep up. Not grammatically correct, but helpful to keep outsiders from confusion.)
The next year entailed me coming to grips with this new information, meeting my Sister, looking for my lost Brother, trying to remain normal with my Step-Brother who I thought was just my Brother, a successful suicide attempt, a stint in a psych ward, a brief stay back home and ultimately, foster care.
Hard not to be angry when that’s the year you had.
I’ve come to terms with it all now, me being all balanced and whatnot, but, man, I was angry as a person could be about it all back then. That was the downside. The upside was that for 14 years I had a decent life. I lacked some things, but I was well fed and warm. I knew where my next meal was coming from. Do I wish some of the things I went through in that time were different? Sure, but it all shook out in my favor in the end.
Since that news threw my world into chaos for a while, things were up and down, eventually leveling out. Balance. In retrospect, it was imbalance that rocked me, not the news of adoption. That’s also what made foster care difficult at times, the imbalance of it all. Adoption and foster care can be fraught with imbalance. Yet, in many cases, they are what brings the balance.
While, foster care brought me stability and balance, adoption has that impact on thousands of others.
I’ve had the great fortune to have met more adoptees and adoptive parents than I could ever count. From writers in this publication, to the random person who finds out I run this magazine through conversation. Folks love to tell me their adoption stories. The majority have been joyful accounts of lives filled with stability and happiness. There have been a handful of terrible tales of adoption gone wrong.
Overall, I have found, adoptees and adoptive parents have more positive things to tell me than not. I enjoy their stories. I’ve shared some of them in the magazine.
My favorite version of a successful adoption story always involves some version of someone feeling lost and finding stability through adoption. Whether it be a couple looking for the final piece to complete their family, or the kid who gets bounced from home to home until they find one of their own. I love them all. It’s my job to tell you all the stories, but these are the stories that make me smile and we all need more of that.
I’ve had a tough time finding that smile over the last few months as I deal with my ever-evolving health issues. When it gets tough, it helps to have these stories of success to break through the feelings of frustration that come with poor health. The pain I can handle, it’s the frustration of not doing the things I need to accomplish to keep this magazine and household moving in the right direction.
I got my stability and work ethic while in care. I had strong foster parents. Neither would ever complain about their health. In fairness to me, they didn’t have thousands of subscribers in need of explanation. They were tougher than I am. I’m trying to grin and bear it all. Seems like I’d be wasting the lessons they taught me if I don’t.
It’s kind of the end of the year for me. I have just one more Editor’s Notes to throw together in the Year In Review issue, but that’s it. That issue is a fast one to put together. It generally leaves me with two weeks at the end of the calendar year to spend with my family, enjoy the holiday and my birthday and hunt down new advertisers. I think I’m going to skip that last part this year. It’s been a long year, hell, a long decade spent in complete dedication to this thing I’ve created. I’m kind of beat. I’m going to end the year by resting up, recharging, getting re-inspired to bring you as great a 2020 as I’m capable of bringing.
I’ll see you again shortly as we end the calendar year.