迷失的女孩 : The Lost Girl
On a cool spring day in the rural Chinese countryside, I was born into the compassionate arms of a loving mother and father, living a simple lifestyle in a small village. A quaint family of three, excluding the two sets of grandparents perched throughout the centuries old house, they were content in their security and pre-established routines. While the father and son went to work at the local shop, the mother managed the house, caring for the grandparents as they reminisced about their youth, working in the rice paddies alongside the entire community. At sunset, when the father and son would return with the few yuan they had earned that day, the mother would greet them with dinner as they laughed the night away in the soothing presence of family.
Unfortunately, my birth plunged this blissful family into chaos, guilt and uncertainty plaguing every nook of the house. They faced an unspeakable dilemma: keep this second child and face serious socio-economic ramifications, shamed by their neighbors and burdened with endless fines; or leave their own kin, a helpless infant, to fend for herself, faced with lifelong regret and immeasurable sadness.
That is, at least, what I fool myself into believing.
I try to convince myself that if only I had been a boy, my life would be momentously different. If only I had been a boy, maybe my parents would not have so easily discarded me, leaving no information, no family, no name, no love. “I’m sure they had their reasons,” I reconcile to myself. But what were they? I struggle to envision a situation so intolerable that they would abandon their own daughter at the ripe age of three days.
I have a burning desire to hate them, resent them for abandoning me, for leaving irreversible scars; nevertheless, I have a burning desire to love them, forgive them for giving me up, for offering a better life. I remind myself of the agonizing policy with which they were forced to comply, restricting the gift of their public affection to one blessed heir, as I tell myself it was not their fault. It was not my fault.
Psychologists cite this type of abandonment as the initial trauma, since babies instinctually know the feeling of a mother’s touch and thus feel immense loss with its absence, a void that serves as the root for many social and psychological issues. However, while the scars from this trauma remain to this day, I have magnified the issues that have impacted every experience and meaningful relationship I have made over the past sixteen years, refusing to address my own self-destructive tendencies.
Since the age of four, I have never truly struggled in school, inducted into several honor societies for consistently strong academic performance. In contrast, my unfailingly weak athletic performance has deterred me from pursuing that agonizing torment, devoting my energy instead to school and community service.
When I was a child, my parents forced my participation in the local youth club soccer team. As the other five-year-old girls raced down the field, chasing the ball while they emitted petrifying screams, I ran away from the putrid object, readily accepting my role as a bench player. On the rare occasion that I was placed on the battleground, I would freeze, causing both my coach and family immense frustration. Soon after this game, I skipped over to my coach, handed him my jersey, and ended my short-lived career as a soccer player.
My life is defined by this approach. If I am not immediately good at something, I feel an urge to quit in fear of not being good enough, of being abandoned. Again.
I know I should not give into these urges; instead, I should fight them, learn a new skill, better myself. Experiences are essential to life, and learning is a part of the process. Still, in the face of inexperience and inadequacy, every bone in my body freezes, the fundamental fight or flight response takes over, and I choose to flee. I always choose to flee.
In part, my natural flight response contributes to my innate need to please people, often at the expense of my own wellbeing. In the past, and even now, the main adjective people use to describe me is “nice.” However, such a general, widely used term fails to encapsulate the specific, memorable qualities of a person, the ones that foster lifelong bonds. If you are not memorable, you are easily forgotten, easily abandoned.
Every year at the conclusion of camp, the entire cabin would write sticky notes to each person, detailing those memorable qualities of the person. After the special ceremony took place for the exchange of the notes, I would sit on my bed, my eyes soaring across the small piece of paper encompassing the impact I made on someone. Without fail, the principal generalization of my persona maintained that I was nice.
However, radiating perpetual amiability presents difficulties even for the most skilled actors, as it is a rather draining ordeal to conceal one’s true thoughts and feelings. While I readily listen to the concerns of my friends, my own emotions build until they are expelled at once, like soda spewing from a shaken bottle. On the surface, everything is ordinary. Over time, the contents are reduced, and only a fraction of the original substance remains until eventually, with enough agitation, an unstoppable trouble begins. As the contents begin to expand, more pressure is applied to the rigid container. It swells as much as possible, but eventually the internal pressure becomes greater than the atmospheric pressure. The container bursts, spewing uncontrollable soda, or emotion, in all directions. Thus, there is an immediate contrast between the nice, pleasant persona and the abrupt, standoffish one, fostering distrust and unease in my friendships.
I often wonder about the traits I inherited from my parents – the similarities, the differences, the links that have connected thousands of shared generations. Are beauty marks, the prevalent features on my face that have always served as a source of insecurity, common in my family? To what extent does my fear of confrontation come from familial history rather than one conscious choice? I too often revert to my tendency to blame the negative events in my life on my birth parents, when in reality I do nothing to correct my behavior and prevent these misfortunes from occurring. Moreover, I hate myself for casting my parents, the people who brought this daughter into the world only to have her ripped from their arms, in such an evil role. How is it possible that I could resent someone so much, yet desperately seek reconciliation despite all the damage?
Unfortunately, I am not the only person dealing with these questions, as China’s previous one child policy separated countless babies from their families. As a result, in some parts of China, there is a tremendous social stigma against Chinese Born Americans, or, people adopted from China into a white American family. An old friend of mine, when visiting Beijing with her white parents, was physically assaulted by two older Chinese women in a grocery store, attempting to punish her for abandoning her birth culture. Meanwhile, I am constantly reminded that I am one of the lucky ones, saved from poverty by a nice American family and raised with the principles of the American dream.
Regardless of the varying sentiments on adoption, I cannot change reality. While my exterior presents the appearance of a stereotypical Asian girl, at my core, I am no different than my white peers.
Despite my convictions, my physical appearance serves as a constant reminder, not only to myself but to others as well, that I am different – that I do not belong. Like a piece of monopoly money mixed with actual dollars, I stand in stark contrast with my family, a fact that a grown man found imperative for a three-year-old to know. When my mother was picking me up from pre-school one crisp fall day, one of the fathers went out of his way to deliver sensitive information: “You know you’re adopted, right? That means your parents didn’t love you,” this stranger retorted, a sense of self-righteousness gliding from the elegance of his words. At that moment, I began to make a concerted effort to distance myself from the culture I was born into in favor of the one I was adopted into, my resentment of my birth parents growing steadily.
I remained the only Chinese girl in my class until seventh grade, when someone transferred from a school in China. Her presence reinvigorated a desire inside of myself whose existence had remained unknown to me since the age of three. While I desperately sought to connect with her, by neglecting Chinese culture for years, I had effectively accomplished my goal of becoming fully white; however, now I was no longer embarrassed of my Asian identity.
I have lost myself in a conflict between two opposing identities, both vying for dominance. In seeking acceptance in predominately white culture, I have lost connection with the one most people assign to me; yet, by seeking reconciliation with my birth culture, I will lose connection with the one I identify with. Because of my own confusion and self-destructive tendencies, I am lost to both cultures, instead lying somewhere in between. I am, essentially, 迷失的女孩 – the lost girl.