By: Rebecca Peacock Dragon
I am currently in an MFA program for non-fiction writing, and I reworked one of my older posts. I shared it for student reading last night because I figured that in a room full of writing students, imposter syndrome might be prevalent. Follows is what I read:
“I wrote this piece for my adoptee advocacy platform several years ago. My goal was to make other adoptees feel seen in what is a way of moving in and relating to the world that is common to us, although we rarely put words to it. In this piece I describe my inability to feel fully a part of anything while railing at an undefined “YOU” that I vaguely intend to be society at large. I offer it tonight with the usual caveats and pre-emptive apologies common to the displaced and othered, who, in the ultimate living contradiction, don’t want to take up space while at the same time are in the act of taking up space:
My life has been a stream of attempts at belonging. And never really belonging. Although most people who have spent time with me as an adult would likely reject the idea that I feel outcast in every environment without reprieve, I am plagued with an addictive internal compulsion to seek a new container; a new home.
I am like a hermit crab, moving from shell to shell. Then, upon settling in, overcome by the immediate panic that I have infiltrated under false pretenses. I MUST be lying. I MUST be faking. These people are going to figure out who I am and then I will be filled with shame. I even have shame thinking about the impending shame. Shame upon shame upon shame, exponentially growing like a fire taking an abandoned house.
My shame is the ether in which I have floated through without sight, like a misty cloud come to the ground. I can’t shake it. That original “unwanting” that catapulted me into life upon birth, when, without her even touching me, I was handed over to the foundling home to drink from phenobarbital laced bottles in a bay of cribs. Since that moment, it doesn’t matter how much WANTING people show me. In fact, sometimes the more someone expresses a want of me, it causes me to shut down even more; perhaps a desire to return to the drugged infant oblivion that was my first state of being.
On the flip side, my shame over being an accident of existence has caused me to develop some pretty serious skills. Life as The Unwanted has injected me with a steroid bulked-up version of ESP. I can look at almost anyone, and read what they need/want/expect…and just reflect it right back to them. It has caused me to live in a magnetic swing, moving from Observe to Mirror to Validate to finally landing on the Grand Finale: “Make Self Smaller” (my personal tactic to make myself smaller is to lead with BIGGER… and you won’t get this unless you do it too).
After a frenzied and passionate attempt at meeting all the needs, and checking all the boxes of belonging…I burn out. Resentful. At myself. Don’t worry, it usually has nothing to do with you when I cut and run right out of the place that reminds me of just how OTHER I am.
The adoptee life, at least for me, is a grand performance worthy of awards. Ironically, in a cruel Catch 22 I would bristle at the compliment of being given an award. To move into the green room for an intermission would mean risking massive rejection, exposure, and vulnerability. Retired from the stage, cocooned in a tattered robe over my costume with pancake makeup on the collar, you might see me for who I fundamentally am….someone who is just NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE. So I keep performing, the heat of the backlight relentless.
Rejection and encouragement are the same thing to me. Throwing “God’s Purpose and Plan” at me lands like “cursed by Satan”. Changing “given away” to “placed”, and “unwanted” to “chosen”…has the effect of changing the word “fuck” to “screw”. Nothing erases the original injury; that has written into me this inability to belong. I don’t belong here anymore than I belong over there….or over there. Yep, even in that other place you once thought I so seamlessly integrated myself into.
Some days, the Great Unwanting does not rear its head. But it is still there. Lying in wait in the corner, ready to pounce. My constant companion.”