When I was younger I was open about being adopted.
During show-and-tell in preschool, I shared moon cakes with my classmates to celebrate Chinese New Year. My parents were with me to explain to everyone that I was born in China and adopted at 10 months old.
But as I got older I became less open about my adoption. People always pointed out that I looked different than my parents. I hated that. It made me feel so paranoid, self-conscious and embarrassed.
Thankfully I grew up with two friends, Lana Maybruck and Eileen who were also adopted from China like me. I looked up to them as if they were my older sisters. Eileen moved away, but luckily Lana still lives nearby.
Over the years we talked about how being adopted made us feel. But we never got into as much detail as we did recently. I wanted to know if Lana has had times of frustration, as I have.
We sat on her bed and shared stories. I told her my story about when I went to Washington, D.C. My parents and I were admiring these statues when this older woman came up and handed me a pamphlet that was for “Foreign Exchange Students.”
Lana laughed at this. "Oh my god, that happened?" she said. "That's never happened to me."
But she had a similar story. Like when she got her wisdom teeth pulled. Her dad sat quietly in the waiting room while the dentist, who was also Asian, put his hands in Lana's mouth to prepare for the procedure.
As he leaned over her, he asked, "Do you have any Asian blood in you?"
"Yeah, probably all of it." she told him.
"So is that your stepdad out there?" the dentist asked.
"No, that’s my dad," Lana replied.
"I wish it just could’ve been enough to just leave it at that," Lana said. "Like, what does this have to do with my teeth? And then he just kept asking me these questions, and I was just in no mood to explain to him, my whole background of being adopted. It’s really none of his business."
I mean, yeah, that was an awkward conversation to have, but maybe the dentist was simply wondering. It’s OK to wonder ... isn’t it?
I asked Lana if she believes there is ever an appropriate time for people to ask us about being adopted.
“There is a time and place for everything,” she told me. “But, I think that there is definitely a way that you could have asked. I’m totally guilty of that too. If I see two white parents walking with a different race child, I’d think, 'Oh, are they adopted?' But I would never go up and ask that.”
"Especially when someone points it out to me," I said. "I then see that they see me as not a part of the family."
"Like the disconnect?" Lana asked, "I get less focused on, 'Oh I look different than my family,' because I DO look different than my family. I look pretty traditionally South Chinese. But I guess, in my head, like, why does it matter, you know? It doesn’t make me any less theirs."
Lana and I talked about the one question that always drives us insane: "Have you met your REAL family?"
In the adopted community, REAL family isn't a term. I say "birth people." Lana prefers "birth family."
We Googled the definition of family. It reads, "Family is a group of people related to one another by blood or marriage." But neither of us agreed with that.
“My family is the one that I live with,” Lana said. “I was adopted into this family and I live with them and I love them. We are related. Whether or not by blood, and I suppose legally as well."
I asked Lana if she would meet her birth parents if she could.
"If I was ever given the opportunity to meet my birth parents, I don't know if I would do it," she said. "What I would probably want is health records."
When she said that, I realized that I wanted my health records too. I want to know what I will look like when I am older, and if I have some genetic disease, or if I'll live long or die young. But as Lana said, adopted kids don't have the luxury of knowing that.
"The only thing I think about with my kids is that, the only health records they have is of me. Like I’m the only reference they have, and I think that would be frustrating," she said. "It’s frustrating for me because I don't even have a generation before me. I have literally what’s going on with my body right now."
When she said that, about one day having kids, it broke my heart and I got this lump in my throat.
It didn’t even cross my mind how other people would be affected by this too. And my own mom and dad. I was so selfish, I never even asked them how they felt about adoption. Were they scared? Did they hold me for the first time and think that I wasn’t their baby? So I asked them.
"I started crying," my mom Beth Humphreys said. "We were actually in a hallway with four other families. And the ayis came marching down the hallway with these five little Chinese babies. We were all meeting our children for the first time. It was like one big delivery room. When I first saw you, I just had this feeling like I knew you. Like we had known each other for a long time."
My dad, Steve Konz, chimed in: "Then I saw Beth holding you, and I was filming with the camera and I wanted to put the camera down and grab both of you and give you big hugs. "
"After I had been holding you for, I don't know, maybe 20 minutes or so" my mom continued, "you fell asleep, and when I was holding you, your little hand grabbed on my shirt, and just held on, and I knew it was meant to be."
When my mom said that, I didn’t really acknowledge her words, I just sat there speechless. But I wanted to tell her that I always knew I was her daughter and that adoption is just words on paper. It just meant that it took us 10 months to finally meet.
This story was created in RadioActive's Summer 2016 Intro to Journalism Workshop for high school students at KUOW. Production support from Ann Kane. The editor is Jim Gates. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.