Holt adoptee Alexis Hawks reflects on the meaning of identity and the many mosaic pieces that define who she is.
Everyone on this planet is a walking mosaic. Throughout our lives, we find pieces to add to the image that is You and Me. Sometimes they’re embedded deep inside us, waiting to emerge and shine. They can also be found, earned and maybe even given to us.
I remember acquiring one of my first pieces when I was very young. My mom has blue eyes, and I thought once I reached a certain age, my brown eyes would be transformed to match hers. So of course, when the question, “Mommy, when will my eyes be blue like yours?” came up, she quickly corrected my former way of thinking. Obviously, I was too young to understand genetics. The only thing I comprehended from her explanation was that because I was adopted, I could never have blue eyes. I was so upset that they would forever remain such a boring color. The same color as my first piece: Brown. It was the only time I ever wished I wasn’t adopted. The only time I wished the woman that spent all this time raising me had given birth to me as well. However, being a child with a short attention span, it didn’t take me very long to get over it.
I was adopted through Holt in 1999 when I was only one year old. Now I realize that I am lucky. I never had the opportunity to question why I was being taken to the other side of the world to begin my permanent life as a U.S. citizen. Most of my school friends were adopted from China as well. My best friend was adopted through Holt the same year I was. I almost never felt different than anyone else. There was always the occasional question to be answered, though.
Sometimes as an adoptee, I feel like my mosaic is flipped over, so all my pieces are undetected, mounted on a foreign substance — material that is familiar to me, but completely bizarre to some. People want to inspect me. They want to know my “dramatic” life’s story. They want to know about my real parents. Am I related to my sisters? Would I change anything? In return, I smile and shake or nod my head respectfully, but in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder, “Why does it matter?”
I don’t mind being asked these questions. I believe curiosity isn’t something that should be held in contempt, but sometimes I am confronted by people who believe that because I’m adopted, I’m missing a crucial part of who I am. They look at me as though my picture can never be complete. My personal experiences have actually had the opposite effect. I am confident in this growing montage of myself. I know what I like, what I believe in, what I want to do with my life. I don’t think anyone can control these things. Of course our parents will influence us, but it is my own decision whether I find their opinions to be true or not.
As I’ve grown, more pieces have been added to my “big picture,” slowly covering that unknown material that is my foundation. I was born a clean slate, but it was me who found these fragments that made my mosaic strong. After 15 years of being an adoptee, I realize that everyone is defined by more than where or who they come from. I am more than blood and DNA. I am more than a pair of brown eyes. I am a mind, and a voice. I am somebody’s daughter. Someone’s sister, whether we came from the same people or not. I am—in the simplest, most true way of describing it—
Alexis Hawks | Kapaa, Kauai
Holt Post Adoption Services
Holt offers lifelong support to all adoptees, adoptive families, birth parents, caregivers and others whose lives have been touched by adoption.
I read this very carefully looking for advice that may help my adopted child as he grows up. Like your adopted mother I explain to him as the questions arise in the hope that he will be able to accept and come to terms with being adopted. I hope I can do as good a job as your adopted mother has done with you so that he can have such a balanced attitude to not being brougjt up by his borth parents or knowing his genetic identity. Thank you for sharing your story with us.