International Adoption: Do Adoptees Need to Know Their Past?

Emerson wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” But how do we know what lies within us without knowing the past or the future? Is it possible? Certainly, we live life without knowing the future. But the past?

The past gnaws at us because we feel like we should have it, because unlike the future, it CAN be possible to know. Further, we’ve been told we “learn from the past” and “history repeats itself.” We’ve come to accept that history impacts us and provides a foundation upon which to grow and hopefully flourish.

Birth Country is More Than a Place

A person’s birth country is more than a place on a map. It is more than soil, more than environment. It is the core upon which international adoptees create their identity.  Each of us begins building identity within a geographical sphere that starts with our place of birth and the circumstances of our conception.  Throughout our lifetime, that sphere expands to all the places we’ve been, and integrates all the experiences we’ve had and all the people who have touched our lives. A unique identity emerges, and like a fingerprint, no two are ever alike.

But unlike a fingerprint, identity changes from day to day, indeed from moment to moment as life unfolds. 

So, how do we help those we love so much learn their histories? 

How do we help them complete the sentence “I am…..”

Perhaps the most significant thing about heritage travel is what adoptees are doing with the experience related to identity building. It is so interesting to see them country after country doing the same kinds of things as they work toward understanding of self.

About this Series

In our 25 years helping international adoptees visit their birth countries, we’ve observed so much. With the goal of sharing what we’ve witnessed and learned, we’ve created a multi-part blog series. The series will explore things adoptees are doing as they travel that lead us to believe that “Yes, adoptees do need to know the past!”

Next Up:  Birth Country Travel:  Upon Arrival

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