Adoption Taught Me To Write My Own Story

If Holt adoptee Jean Powell ever met her birth parents, she would thank them. Here, she shares her reasons why. This story originally appeared on

by Jean Powell, Seattle, Washington

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. — Eckhart Tolle

Growing up Adopted

If I could somehow write a letter or have any form of contact with my birth parents, I would. Not for the reasons you might think… I have no desire to reconnect to or find my past. I’m completely at peace with whatever decision drove my biological parents to take the route they did.

My motivation for this interaction would be one of gratitude. I would heartfully give them kudos for having the courage to do what some would find shocking… Give their child up.

Adoption is a funny thing. It’s one of those “you didn’t know this about me” facts that makes people take pause when you tell them. I’m inevitably met with the awkward, “So do you know why you were given up for adoption?”

Truthfully, I don’t associate with that statement…To say I was given up implies I was unwanted. I’ve been blessed to feel anything but, and I have my parents to thank for that.

Adoption is difficult, long and deliberate; there are no accidents in this grand design. To know someone has gone through that much because they wanted you is extraordinary.

Think about what a love like that does to a person and the sense of belonging it gives them. If we can intentionally make those in our lives feel that way, how much could we empower those special people? I often thought that would be my challenge, to make sure I deliver that much worth to a future child, to give them the security and confidence they need to venture out and create excellent things in this world.

The fact is, I’ll never know the reasons that led to this decision, but regardless I choose to believe this path is a gift and a privilege. For whatever reason it chose me, I believe my impact on this earth includes telling my story, which will give insight to anyone who’s gone through or is contemplating the same.

The hand you’re dealt might seem like a bad one, but can turn out the best one.

Jean as a baby with her adoptive mom.

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck. — Dalai Lama

Adoption isn’t the ending to an automatic “happily ever after” story. The process doesn’t make you immune to challenges. My childhood was filled with parental hardship of health, money and dissatisfaction.

Money was not in abundance to the family I was gifted to, dysfunction was an obvious label, difficulty was the norm. But each of those trials served to strengthen me, to give me resolve of the life I wanted to create, and an awareness that I had control to make it better.

I don’t think anyone would argue that growing up with scarcity teaches you work ethic, but what people don’t realize is that it makes you a dreamer. The power of dreaming is developing the skill to be a visionary.

Wanting something you can’t have is an incredible tool if positively recognized. It fuels a desire to be more, have more, be better. All the things I’ve wanted in life that I couldn’t get to, didn’t win or didn’t choose me… They built a fire in me and at the least, sent me on a course correction to work harder and grow myself.

I think all the knocks, no’s and only if you work your butt off for it’s in life are what made me a hill-seeker, looking for that next mountain to climb. Rather than be afraid, challenge has become a positive addiction. When you can view hardship as the necessary lesson, you seek obstacles instead of fear them.

Yes, you could say I was unwanted and passed to a different family. I say the universe saw my family needed me and the strength and love I could provide them. Conversely, this specific journey is mine; what gave me invaluable experiences and lessons to draw on and develop into a stronger person.

Choose your family.

Jean with her dad.

There is indeed a blood bond I’ll never know or understand, but I’ve abided by the belief that you choose your family, they aren’t born to you. Perhaps I value chosen family more because it’s all I’ve ever known.

I’ve learned a love that transcends blood. Whether personally or professionally, flipping “have to” into “choose to” is empowering.

Consider the people in your life and that you have chosen for them to be there. Your family is your creation and a product of what you attract and put out in the world. And when your environment feeds your soul, you experience life more fully. In turn, you are freed to focus on how you can enrich others.

Wipe your slate clean.

I wasn’t born with “well your mom was good at this, so you are too” growing up, instead starting with a white board with no predispositions. I could be a salesperson (mom was never comfortable approaching people) or I could be a writer (dad struggled with spelling and expression). My path wasn’t forged.

Sometimes the expectations we put on ourselves or on children can actually be limiting, not uplifting. What would your life be if you could have a clean slate? Because I have no point of reference of what I should or shouldn’t be, my journey as a human has been to evolve and work to continually become a better version of myself.

There’s a choice that can be made to wipe it clean any time we want, and that reminder liberates and challenges us. We build our path without living a definition that’s not our own. Surprisingly, your definition can be grander than anyone might have ever assigned you.

Yes, if I had the chance face to face, I’d thank them:

For the opportunity you opened up to me, for the unconditional consuming love I’ve experienced from my adopted family, for the unique experience adoption has given specially to me, for my gift of perspective on life, for the challenge I overcame and grew from, for doing what you believed to be the right decision because by all means it was.

I hope that there are no regrets on their part, and yes, I’m sure they wonder whatever came of me. To anyone who has ever given their child up for adoption, bravo to you for having the courage to do what must have been difficult, and hopefully you can embrace that decision with as much acceptance and love as I feel about where I ended up.

Love your hand. Embrace your hand. View yourself as incredibly lucky for getting exactly what you got in life because it’s aligning you for a journey the universe believes you can best live out… A story you were meant to tell.

And to anyone contemplating adoption — consider the amazing gift of yourself you are about to give and the life you will forever change.

Click here to learn more about adopting through Holt.

Check out Holt’s post-adoption services for adoptees and their families!

9 Replies to “Adoption Taught Me To Write My Own Story”

  1. Well written, Jean! I can totally relate and share some of the same views in my 1st book, Corn-fed with Rice on the Side, about growing up as a Korean adoptee. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Being that we grew up together, graduated high school together I know this to be 100% truth from your heart. I also know you weren’t adopted into a perfect family, you were adopted, and you all together made it perfect for each of you. Bravo, I enjoyed hearing more about your perspective about growing up.

  3. What beautiful words, thanks for sharing.

    My adopted son is 5 years old and last night he told me why he chose me. This is not something I’ve discussed with him (he knows hes adopted) but its something that I believe so strongly in my heart.


  4. What a wonderful story! As the parent of 5 adopted children, I still get all teared up when the topic of adoption comes up. My wife and I have 2 from Korea and 3 from elsewhere, and the kids grew up supportive of each other with a strong family bond (they are all grown up and married now, most with kids of their own.
    When the biological mother of the non-Korean daughter discovered us and called to see how she was doing (that’s quite a shock, believe me) the first thing I said was “thank you for not aborting her and giving her up for adoption!” While I was marginally threatened with the possibility of competition, my daughter took it in stride and said don’t worry about it. When a little adopted Chinese girl in a 100% Caucasian elementary school bumped into my daughter, she said “Hi – I’m Xxxxx and I’m adopted.) My daughter immediately replied “Hi, I’m Xxxxx – and I’m adopted too), which, as you might guess, left the little girl a happily stunned (they bump into each other regularly at school now and always say hi.).
    When someone asked my son if he wanted to find “his real dad”, his response was “I’ve got a real dad”. These are the things that you never forget, and as you can imagine I wouldn’t trade my family for any other one in the world!
    I hope things work out as well for you, and it sounds as if they are. As a teacher, I always tell my students that they are the ones in charge of their life, so they want to make things better, they better get with it!

  5. Jean, thanks for sharing your wonderful story…..we have two adopted grown young adults in our family…..a daughter from Viet Nam, a son from Korea. Our daughter was only three months old and our son was two years old at the time of placement. They have given us so much joy……we have been blessed beyond words. I only pray that they feel as you do, “incredibly lucky for getting exactly what they got in life”…..God bless you for sharing!

  6. Thanks for sharing. So often we hear the adult versions of adoption stories, but children go through so much that’s not discussed in the general public. That’s why I have written a Young Adult Novel, Shades of Blu, to be released in early 2014.

    Young people, even those who are not adoptees, need to understand how adoption touches youth, families, communities and nations!

    Check out my Facebook Page. Shades of Blu: A Young Adult Novel.

    Catherine Pike Plough

  7. As an adoptee also, I feel the same way, nothing but gratitude to my biological parents for giving Holt the ability for my adoption into the USA.

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