I’m starting this story from inside our healthcare system. I’ve spent days and weeks here as a result of having a body that seems to continually have issues. The most obvious being the cleft lip and palate of which you must be aware given it was there the last time we saw each other.
Today is also Mother’s Day in the U.S. and I have mixed emotions as I consider the multiple layers of feelings I have on this day. On one hand, I think of my adoptive mom and the love she has given me while also realizing that for as much love as she could give, it would never completely replace the love of a birth mother. It’s a hard truth and has more to do with the nature of the situation and not of the individuals involved.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s there are always more complexities and layers than what we assume at the beginning. As humans, we tend to want to put life into buckets as it makes processes easier to streamline. Whether it’s government, religion, love, or work… there is almost always another layer or two deeper than the one on which we normally operate. Why? Because it takes time, intentionality, and vulnerability to go deeper. We need to care a little more to truly see the need to go deeper and to realize the importance of not assuming we know everything. Pride is a fickle beast.
During my most recent round of therapy sessions, the professional made the comment she didn’t understand me and I simply smiled a knowing smile. I have felt misunderstood my entire life and know I confuse and frustrate people partially because I both claim and seem to have more than my fair share of complexities (or at least feel like I do). It took me a long time to realize that’s both awkward for people to hear as it comes across as cocky and also maybe more close to the truth than even I have realized.
There are so many competing factors that play into our identity and the person we become. For me, adoption is one of them. While it may be one of the stronger factors comparatively, I know there are others that also have a strong connection to how I think, speak, and operate. It contributes to my anxiety, depression, fear, and insecurity but it also has shown me grace, love, and initiated a journey of self-discovery that has led to self-recovery skills and a passion for combating loneliness in this world.
But there are so many other variables in my life such as my faith, personality, family, and friends, that all have played significant parts in the development of who I am as a human. I love sports, community, and the arts. The outdoors are where I feel most alive except for maybe around a table of good food in a vibin’ atmosphere with some of my favorite people. I love animals of almost all kinds and have felt like myself both driving a truck in the country as well as cruising in a convertible blasting R&B.
We all have so much more to us than a characteristic, event, or interest. We are more than our gender, faith, or race. Humans were never meant to be reduced to anything other than our name and within that name, lies so much more than anyone could ever understand. No matter how well we know a person, we will always be able to learn something new about them every day.
DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) has been a hot-button topic for over a year now and it’s one that captures my interest but not in the typical fashion of promoting racial diversity. While that’s important to me and the mixed identities of being Asian-born, white-raised is a big layer of my life, the concept of inclusion to me has always stretched beyond the traits that differentiate us but more into the potential of truly including not just everyone but all of them.
To truly be a world that honors and promotes DE&I, we must be ready to accept that individuals have far more to us than meets the eye. To be inclusive and to honestly have equity and diversity, we not only have to push and create structures that promote the wellness of everyone but all of everyone. It’s not good enough to simply have a room with one of ‘every kind’ but we need to push to create a world where everyone of every kind is welcomed and included.
Dr. Vivek Murthy discusses in his book, Together, the fact loneliness is the largest pandemic in America. Every town he visited during his tour as the Surgeon General spoke of the impact loneliness had had on the people there. Regardless of where or whom, there has been a struggle with loneliness in as complex forms as people. He argues there are three circles of connection needed in one’s life and only having one or two will result in a sense of aloneness as we look to fill the third. The circles are: intimate, relational, and communal—intimate referring to a partner, family, or best friend, relational referring to friendships and people with whom to do everyday life, and finally, communal involves a sense of shared purpose with a larger group of people. This helps to explain how people can have a good marriage and friends but yet lack a sense of purpose, have friends and purpose but lack intimacy, and have intimacy and purpose but not the friends with whom to enjoy life. In order to feel truly connected, we need all three of these and as it is in modern life, the vast majority of people don’t have them.
Mom, during my life, I have struggled with all three of these areas. None of them are exclusively because I was adopted, Asian, male, or any other characteristic that has to do with who I am as a person. The issue is far too complex for me to attribute why I’ve been lonely to one specific thing but I will say that the feeling of being alone in a world of seven million people can be hard. It has impacted every area of my life and my psyche and continues to influence the way I live my life. Abandonment, depression, and a struggle to accept being loved are just some of the symptoms and the side effects have included living with a servant mindset and a fear of deep connection over time because I struggle to believe that the connection will not fail.
I have made great strides in my life when it comes to dealing with these issues and feel more stable than ever. But, it has taken years of self-study to get to the point where I can understand, not only the complexity of myself, but the complexities of the issues with which I am dealing. People don’t get lonely because of one thing or in one way— it moves and evolves with different people reacting in different ways over time.
The world we live in is a lonely one. Technology has done a lot to advance the world but also has created a culture of isolation in other ways. Social media makes it easier for us to feel as if we know people based on a few posts every day as well as fabricating a feeling of connection when we haven’t interacted in years. The remote work-life has only driven us further into our silos and we struggle to rub shoulders with anyone who comes from a different background and has a different everyday experience than our own. The more distance we create between these functional silos, the harder it is to truly experience ‘the other’ and to understand there is far more we share than what we don’t.
Taking the time to truly understand oneself, other people, and the surrounding issues require a ton of time, energy, and humility. Most people won’t take the time, but it is my hope I will always choose to go one level deeper. I want to always choose to care and to have the courage to go deeper in order to make progress towards truly understanding all the facets of a situation.
Mom, I know it wasn’t an easy decision to give me up and that the situation, like mine, is far more complex than I know… but I want you to know I forgive you and I’m going to continue to fight loneliness in every form I can for as long as I live. While we may never know each other at all and you may never read this, I just wanted you to know.
I love you.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Josh Martin. You can follow his journey on Instagram and his website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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