I’m Not a Taylor Swift Song Anymore

We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical.

Truer words were never said- or, rather, have applied to a year quite like the lyrics from Taylor Swift’s song “22”.

But now I’m 23.

It’s been a long hard year of “firsts”: first serious relationship (long-distance, nonetheless), first college application (Yay indecision!), first credit card purchase (AND payment ON TIME!!), first medical bills (YIKES!), first time building a new prosthetic leg as an adult (I never realized how much my mom’s presence helped me in explaining my requirements),  and first existential crisis and eventual spiritual renewal.

Over the last 365 days of my life, I’ve learned that I am not complete. While it’s obvious that I am physically deformed- literally missing pieces that complete the puzzle of human anatomy- it’s not always as obvious how lost I am. I don’t have all the answers. Looking inside myself won’t uncover the mysteries of the universe. I don’t have a supernatural power source in and of my own being that helps me conquer everything that keeps me from achieving perfection.  And that’s okay.

I don’t have to  do it all on my own.

I’ve had amazing people by my side, on the other side of a screen, and at the end of a phone line to keep me in check, support me, and encourage me. Even now, I write while listening to a playlist comprised of songs sent to me by dozens of people, most of whom I have never met, who found time to humor me and make me feel happy. These people have become some of the greatest friends you could ever hope to discover hiding behind avatars and ambiguous  usernames. I’ve found that while I am physically unique, I am normal. Whether it be my disabilities, writing, silly antics, music interests, nerdy fanaticism, or emotions, my whole world is weird. And I love it.

And though my world extends into the friendships I’ve made, who I am is rooted in where I came from. My beginning. My deformities. My orphanage. My adoption. My parents. My dad. My mom. These things ultimately shaped the person I am today, right now, in this moment. I wouldn’t be here without the love that led a Christian couple to step out in complete faith in the face of the unknown and raise me to be strong, proud, confident, and open to the love of God that changed my entire life this year. The attitude I started the year with has transformed into a completely new outlook with which to boldly step into this fresh new year ahead.

Not only is my mind more optimistic, but my spirit is re-energized. My heart is engulfed in a fiery passion to fulfill my life’s purpose of being that person that can make a difference with a smile, a word, or an embrace.

This was the year of independence. Doubt. Fear. Release. Humility. Discovery. Empowerment. Decision.

I’m still not complete, but that’s what this year taught me: that we’re not ever complete on our own. Without friends, family, goals, passions and a great love, a deep and intimate peace, there is no perfection.

“You is a work-in-progress. You think you’re going to reach some day when you wake up and you’re like, This is me! It’s not going to happen. So accept who you are today, and do you that day, and accept that you on Tuesday might be different from you on Wednesday.” – Jennette McCurdy

Thank you to all who been a part of my day-to-day life discoveries and those who continue to make me feel happy.

Worthy of Love

September 18, 1994: an American woman completed an incredible feat of bravery and selfless love. She had beaten all the odds and stepped out in faith on a two week journey that had every obstacle thrown at her. She had accomplished an impossible mission, one that would be even more difficult if she were to attempt it today, because it is illegal

…Today is the 20th anniversary of the day my mother brought me home from Russia.

For many people, the subject of adoption is a sensitive one. In all honesty, it can be a very tricky matter to discuss. However, there is nothing wrong with adopting a child or being an adoptive child. Like many things, society has twisted the meaning of the adopting process and generalized it as a form of insult, meant to make an individual feel like less of a person or that they are unwanted and have no “real place” in the world simply for having been raised by a family to whom they share no biological connection. But the reality is that that could not be any further from the truth.

There are days that I can’t stand myself. I’m clumsy. I can’t be as productive as I’d like. I’m not as smart or as witty as I’d like. I don’t look the way I would like. And I’m not as positive about my circumstances as I would like. Everybody has those days.

We all have moments. We feel that we’re not worth the effort anyone might give in believing in us, in encouraging us, or in loving us. It’s hard enough to feel that people genuinely care about us and our problems, so how can we even expect to love ourselves?

It seems like every day we hear stories of brutality and unimaginable acts of violence all around the world. We share these stories in shock and out of awareness of the tragedies that result from the evil that resides in human hearts. That’s how we start to see the world: a place where evil overshadows the goodness of humanity. While hatred is a force our hearts constantly fight to overcome, love is an even greater force that has an incredible impact, whether or not we see every act of goodness amidst the chaos of life.

Twenty years ago, a California couple were inspired by a love greater than themselves to rescue a child with no future, bring her into their lives, and give her a chance at a life lived with hopes and dreams. How can a love as vast as that of complete strangers dedicating their lives to loving a child whom they had never met really exist in this world? How can anyone say that love on an unmeasurable scale is possible? It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

I am no more special or important than anyone else, nor was I more important than any other child when I was waiting for my forever home as an infant in an orphanage. A long life was yet to be a guarantee. When I think about what my parents went through to finalize the adoption and what my mother went through during her trip to Russia to bring me home with her, I have to wonder what made me worth all the trouble. That’s the wonder of love. You don’t have to do anything to be loved. You don’t have to be a particular kind of person with traits or abilities to earn love, whether it’s someone else’s or your own self-acceptance.

You are worth someone fighting against the demands and expenses of government agencies for months on end on your behalf. You are worth someone risking their health and safety to embark on a trip to a foreign country, not knowing the language or being familiar with the culture, to rescue you from a hopeless future. You are worth someone stepping out into the unknown and away from all that they hold dear in order to make sure you are cared for and loved. You are worth it.

As I reflect on the twenty years I’ve called America my home and my adoptive parents my “mom” and “dad”, which is truly what they are, I think about the thousands of Russian children who are currently being deprived of finding permanent homes with loving families from around the world, especially America. It’s been almost two years since the Russian government banned American adoptions of children, leaving hundreds of families in a devastating situation of not being able to begin or finalize the adoption process. Children have been separated from the faces they’ve come to know as their family and the families are struggling to deal with the financial pressures of adoption services and legal aid to help them find a way to reunite them with their foreign family member, their child.

My heart breaks for them, but my prayers go out to them as well, that they might find a way, against all odds, just as my parents did all those years ago. At this point, it will take a miracle, but learning from my own experience, love is miraculous. Even though we as human beings have a capacity to harm, we have an even greater capacity for a love that transcends the dangers of the world and connects us on a greater level than we really can understand. I might never fully appreciate it, as I often live day to day focusing on the little things that get me down or on the little things that bring me joy, things that I would not have known had I not been protected by a love that spanned continents. I deserved love. Every child deserves love. Everyone is worthy of love.

Edit Me and Mom

My Wonderful Mom and I on Christmas (2013)