As I struggled to fit in, I remained outside. Feeling alone and not understanding why. Attaching to a best friend worked, but groups made me feel like I didn’t belong.
And it’s always been this way.
This essay is the second in a series on this adoptee voice. You’ll find the first essay here.
On my kindergarten report card, my teacher was concerned that I only wanted to spend time with Monique, whom I had met that year. We were inseparable. Best friends.
When we both moved away at the end of first grade, I was lost.
At my new school, my closest friend was our janitor. He noticed I got picked on and always kept an eye out for me. He was ever-present and ready to intervene when necessary, whether in the hallway or lunchroom. I was fortunate to have an angel who made sure the shy little new girl didn’t get lost or fade away.
Third grade was a turning point as Bobby moved into the neighborhood, and we became best friends. We walked to and from school together, played at each other’s houses, and had sleepovers as you would with any best friend. I loved being at his home, surrounded by his siblings.
My mom remarried, and we moved to a farm at the end of fifth grade. Bobby and I remained friends and continued to see each other, but it wasn’t the same as when we could run down the block to hang out with each other.
Shortly after moving to the farm, I met Lisa. We were entering the same grade and became fast friends. Like Monique and Bobby before her, Lisa was my best friend. We spent tons of time together.
From sleepovers and horseback riding to making crank phone calls and talking on her dad’s CB radio without permission, we did everything together. I even shared my first kiss with a boy in her barn.
And then, she moved away.
I would be starting high school alone.
Another Best Friend Gone
Under the guise of preparing for college at a bigger and better school, we completed my registration at the Catholic high school eight miles away. In reality, I wanted a fresh start.
Middle school is a difficult time of life for many, and for a shy, gangly girl who desperately wanted to fit in but didn’t, it was a painful experience. There was bullying with challenges of fights after school from one girl and the ever-present threat of another girl coming after me with her knife.
I’ll never forget their names or mom’s heartache at not being able to help.
I was harassed on the school bus by older girls and younger boys. I lived in fear of the threats as well as the unknown, while at the same time keeping myself busy with sports, cheerleading, and Lisa.
The Loneliness Builds
And even being involved in activities, I continued to feel alone. My struggle to fit in never left me, although it probably wasn’t apparent to others. Changing schools seemed like the answer to everything.
But it wasn’t. Running away usually never is.
Backing out of my decision to change schools, I started high school without my best friend.
The next four years were a hot mess. School activities, my lunch table companions, the lunch buds, and a part-time job fulfilled my desire to belong on the surface, while on the inside, I continued to feel alone.
The bullying had pretty much stopped by my senior year, but the internal search for my identity increased dramatically. Sitting around our high school lunch table with my friends on my 18th birthday, I tried to explain my pain.
The pain of not knowing who I was or who my parents were.
My friends tried to console me. They told me of the parents they knew me to have and how wonderful they were. (They were indeed wonderful!) They reminded me of my accomplishments and who I was to them, but it didn’t change anything.
I couldn’t look in a mirror and see a resemblance to anyone. I didn’t know where my features came from, my interests, or anything else that gets genetically passed along.
My friends meant well.
But on that day, there was nothing anyone could say to change the emptiness burning inside me. I felt more alone than ever before.
The Magic Number
Turning 18 had always been the magic number. A defining moment in our lives as we officially enter adulthood. For me, it meant so much more. It was a milestone that opened up the doors of possibility.
At 18, I was now legally able to search for my birth parents.
And so the search for my identity began.