the start of a new chapter…

At the end of this week, I will be leaving my current position and organization and stepping in a new (and welcomed) direction.  This switch has officially been in the makings for the past few months.  After a number of interviews and weeks of waiting, I was offered a newly created position at an organization in the city.  (Where I did my MSW internship… yay!) I am both so excited and a bit nervous for this new endeavor.  My official title will be: Homeless Services Coordinator.  I will have to elaborate on what I will be doing, once I start doing it…

As my final week as an Adoption Social Worker is coming to an end, I have found myself reflecting on what I have done this past year and a half.  Even though adoption work is not for me, as I have learned, it is a beautiful thing when a successful family is united, created. I definitely have grown a lot from the experience.  Some of it has been good, some bad.  All life experiences are learning opportunities, and I think I’ve learned a lot about myself, the adoption world, global poverty, parenting, and in general, people.

I’ve noticed in this past year and a half that when people have asked what my occupation is, I get “awwws” and “oooos” when I say adoption work.  I’m not gonna lie, it kind of irritates me.  I didn’t go into social work for a cutesy, cushy, tiny toes, squeezable, bright and sunny kind of job.  I’ve learned that although ultimately I am bringing a child into a family, I’m working mainly with families…who have the means, education, and status to adopt.  And that’s all good stuff, just not exactly what I want to do in my life.

I guess in the end, my main beef with adoption is the fact that children are being adopted internationally everyday… when they may not necessarily need to be adopted.  I can’t bare to think about the amount of children (who are not orphans) that have been removed from the only life, country, environment they know because 1. their families don’t have enough money to provide for them, 2. their families think America will be a “better” place for them, 3. baby buying/kidnapping issues, and 4. supply and demand.  I realize these are the gritty issues about adoption, maybe you’ve never thought of it, maybe you don’t want to think about it… but, I can’t help BUT think about it.  Am I saying that all international adoptions are bad? NOT AT ALL.  I just think that as human beings from a country that has so much, (that throws away food all the time, that lets groceries rot in our fridge because we forget about it, that complains about not having anything to eat,) we should perhaps be assisting parents in other countries keep their families united, instead of fighting to “get” one of their kids.

I don’t know what this all means for me (and Sean), especially since we are extremely interested in adopting in the future.  How do we go about it morally, responsibly, and compassionately? How do we make sure that the child we are adopting has no other viable options of growing up in their country of origin? How can we be assured that the child we adopt is truly an orphan?

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struggling for identity

As an adult (kind-of), I continuously look back on my growing up years and have the ability to recognize the reasons why I am the way I am.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful are all products of how I was raised, my personal experiences, what I saw, what I heard, and what I did.  I often get into these self-evaluative moments, like the one I am in right now. It gives me clarity for who I am today.   It’s the idea of the Sankofa, looking back to move forward.

As a child I constantly struggled for identity, I grew up in a pretty white world with the exception of my family and church life.  But as a child, adolescent, teenager, all you really want to do, especially for girls, is to fit in. Well, I don’t think I ever quite got there.  There are moments now that I wish I could transplant myself (who I am today) and go back to those times of growing up.  I would have been able to be bold, be who I am, stand up for what I believed, stick up for those that were made fun of.  I wouldn’t have allowed the pretty blonde stick people set the standard of beauty for me. I wouldn’t have allowed the blue-eyed beauties to take advantage of my wanting to fit in.  I wouldn’t have allowed the white teachers to mispronounce my last name year after year.  I wouldn’t have allowed the damn PB&J lunches deter me from eating my delicious Bulgogi sandwiches made with love from my mom.

But, alas, I can’t go back.  I can only take those experiences from my past and move on into my future.  Perhaps this is a huge reason why I am constantly aware of race and culture in my environment.  Perhaps this is part of why I am constantly speaking about individuality and being “good enough”.  The need to define myself; who I am, what I am and what I stand for is so important in a world and society where I can literally get lost.  There is a constant struggle– battle for identity.  There are painful race, culture, and class issues in every stage of life.  This is why I anticipate racism, classism, sexism.  CONSTANTLY.  I realize that those around me get tired of hearing it from me, I realize that at some point it has turned into my issue, my problem. But please, just learn with me and be patient.  I have a point I am trying to make.  I don’t deny my anger, my frustration, my constant need to banter about race issues.  But there’s something there, there’s something to it.

Even in adulthood, my question lingers, where do I fit in.  I have become quite fluid, able to move through the different groups in my life.  But it’s a well-played trick, one that I’ve become quite good at.  A trick that I promise you, I am not the only one playing.  The questions are ever present: where do I feel most comfortable.  Most accepted. Most loved.  Most understood.

Birthday Month

If you know me well, you’ll know that one of my favorite holiday months is my birthday month(it’s also social work month!). It started as one day, just one day—the best day, March 26, moved onto birthday weekend, birthday week, and this year, I decided birthday month was much more appropriate.

I’m not overly obnoxious about it, in fact, I never announce it, I can totally deal with no recognition from mere acquaintances and not-so-close friends.  It’s mostly something Sean, my bffs, and my family have to deal with.  I’m a HUGE kid when it comes to days that I receive gifts.  It doesn’t matter what it is, in fact, some of my bday gifts this year were my favorite ice cream and chips. I just like the excitement of getting something…even if it’s a phone call!

My obsession with my birthday started in my early twenties, I think. It hasn’t always been like this, in fact, I think the reason why I make such a big deal out of it now is because birthdays have never really been a big deal while growing up.  I think I only have had 3 birthday parties in my whole life, and one was last year and the other two were kind of flops (none of them themed like Sean’s pirate parties).

So, what did I do this year? I had something every weekend for the month of March.

Here’s a round up of my birthday activities for the big 2.6.!
(PS: You may have been a part of my bday celebrations without knowing it! If it cost money, it was a present to myself!)

March 1: Eli’s cheesecake with my parents and Frankie
March 7: Coffee w/Andrea at some German coffee place
March 8: Haircut w/Liz at the Paul Mitchell School (ask for Natalie #7)
March 13-14: NC3 Leadership retreat w/my frieeeends + dinner
March 15: McD’s shakes and a long walk w/Sean
March 22: Birthday dinner with the Wightmans
March 26: Lunch out with Katherine & Cristina & Sean’s surprise gifts: Fav ice cream & chips
March 27: Frankie’s bday gift arrived! Yanni’s Voices CD! & Sean’s delicious home made dinner for my actual bday celebration & night out
March 28: Visit to the Chicago Animal Care & Control center & dinner out w/Sean and Liz
March 30:   Pot Sticker night w/Tabitha & Sonia

So… very down to earth and economical, but packed with awesomeness.  Now that birthday month is over, I’m a little sad.  But I already can’t wait for next year…I’m thinking, birthday month or birthday quarter (3 months!)? Hmmm… Anyways, thanks for all the well wishes, shout outs, phone calls, birthday cards.  It was amazing.