Congratulations to Suzy Allen, Sarah Carlson and Jill Cuzzolino — our three 2018 Adoptee Scholarship winners! This year, we asked applicants to submit a creative work framed around the prompt, “To My 10-Year-Old Self Re: Adoption…” Suzy, Sarah and Jill each won a $500 scholarship.
I decided to write a slam poem about one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had with my mom regarding my adoption. She wrote a book about me when I was 4 years old so I decided the best way to allude to her work was to write something back. She gave me her love through words so I wanted to do the same. I wanted to specifically highlight an instance of me as a child to represent how our relationship has transcended as well as how it will stay that way. My family means the world to me and this was my gift back to them, a letter of love you might say, before I left for college.
Jill Cuzzolino is currently a freshman at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. She plans to double major in political science and linguistics.
I never thought about my chinky eyes compared to my Swedish blue-eyed family until 10-year-olds started questioning the white people in family photos. I was perceived as this Asian Orphan Annie and wanted to bury my heritage to culturally fit in with my friends and physically fit in with my family. My attitude changed in 2007 at Korean adoptee culture camp: my safe haven to explore my roots. In 2013, I traveled to Korea, where I visited my homeland but realized that I was never home until landing at JFK and driving to New Jersey. Korea is home to a rich culture and a selfless woman who let go a piece of herself, yet I would never trade in my bulla-eating family for a life 6,800 miles away. In the acrylic painting “Cirkel of Seouls,” my and my family’s hands are surrounded by images inspired by both the Korean and Swedish cultures. To my 10-year-old self: you will be crucified for not coming from the land of sushi or Mulan and being apathetic towards a past you have no memory of, yet you will learn to embrace your unique heritage(s) and non-nuclear family makeup that blessed you with this life today.
Sarah Carlson is currently a freshman at the University of Delaware, majoring in fashion merchandising. Her goal is to double minor in French and journalism.
Original Piano Arrangement
If I were to tell my younger self anything about adoption, both my own and my siblings’, it would be that it isn’t easy. It’s not the feel-good, picturesque story of a child coming to family followed by a happy ever after. It’s not all fun, carefree games. It’s built of moments. Happy and sad. There are conflicts, clashes of language, culture, and so, so many misunderstandings. It’s frustrating and incredibly stressful. But it’s also more than that. I would tell myself adoption is about becoming selfless. It’s different people coming together, looking past ourselves, trying to build mutual understanding, to become family. You won’t regret agreeing to share a room with your new sister, even when it felt like a mistake. Your family are the people that raised you. I’d tell myself not to be hurt when negative moments arrived, don’t be surprised, and don’t take what happens to heart. The compilation of scattered moments only make sense when we have the wisdom of retrospect to look at them in context of each other. Moments that felt groundless and nebulous slowly build, becoming something resembling purpose. Adoption isn’t this instantaneous process. Things happen slowly, and that’s okay.
Suzy Allen is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “The major part is a bit more complicated,” she says. “Essentially, I made my own major at UNCG. The Lloyd International Honors College has a student-designed interdisciplinary program, and I’m the first student to have their proposal approved. It explores the aspects, similarities and execution of narrative in music, media studies, English and theatre. It’s basically an amalgamation of everything I’m passionate about, and I’m very proud of it.”