It was an indescribably temperate winter day. Josh and I met near my work on Classen Curve. Upper Crust, a local fine-dining pizza joint had yet to hit their lunch rush. Josh and I waivered over the menu before letting our server gives us his suggestion. Josh espoused that he had a non-discriminating palate, so we ordered up the recommended pie. The special of the day – some kind of meat-loaded monstrosity sure to boost our blood pressures.
“I’m an easy sell,” Josh laughed.
Josh and I had an unspoken trust. For a while he knew more about me than I knew he knew. We ran in some of the same circles. We’d touched base here and there regarding party affairs. He had recently come off Scott Inman’s gubernatorial campaign just before we met for lunch.
“You’re adopted, yeah?” I asked.
He is, just like me. Both of us had adoptions arranged early on. But Josh was adopted prior to birth. Like me, admits the environment he came from wouldn’t have been a good one to grow up in. He very well could have been homeless.
Josh says his adoption shaped his life.
“It’s so mental. It’s so emotional.”
Adoption can be a roll of the dice. The adopted child often feels he or she is having to live up to the expectations of the parent. Josh experienced that a lot. Me too.
Sometimes, Josh said, he believes adoptive parents are “shopping” for a baby and expect a certain product. In my line of work, I often have friends and colleagues who reach out to discuss the pros and cons of fostering to adopt. Time and again, I sense the very thing Josh was referring to. And the reality is that kids are kids. Kids will become who they are, and sometimes in spite of, not because of, their nurturing.
Trajectory. We all have a trajectory. Sometimes that comes in the form of re-shaping our parents’ expectations.
Josh has been in campaign work since 2014. He has found a lot of meaning in the work, but continues to searching for more palpable meaning in his career. He likened his pursuit of fulfilment to a stiff breeze trying to flip a page in a book. But the wind is just not quite ready to flip the page to that next chapter.
He is prideful about being an Oklahoma – and mostly loves the culture here. There is belonging. People are generally good. But when it comes to social issues, there is still evolution to be done.
I was continually pleased with how much Josh and I aligned in our beliefs on adoption. So often it is pushed as the simple fix to a child being in foster care. But children are not simple. They are complex. They are people. They have ideas about life and love and family and connection. Sometimes those ideas may be at odds with what a family wants. And how that family deals with those conflicts can be make-or-break for the long-term relationships.
“I can’t say enough about it not being for everybody,” Josh admitted. And he says that cultural competency is crucial in transracial adoption.
Josh says his Korean roots were a big deal growing up. He remembers being absolutely enthralled by the Olympics. He has not travelled to South Korea yet, though he wants to. He recalls “cultural immersion” days for South Korean adoptees growing up. But, even as a child, he was cold on the idea. When he eventually does visit South Korea, he wants to do the experience the right way.
In some adoptions, like those from DHS, kids have some agency in their adoption decision. Josh wondered briefly if they should. At what age can a child truly advocate for themselves? Articles abound about the difficulties children still experience in growing up in a home that is racially incongruent with the cultural identity of the their own. But those are important conversations in which children and others must be engaged. That’s how we move past judgment and build up cultural appreciation and acceptance.
Our lunch was taking place in an anxiety-inducing time for Josh. He said his next page was not just un-flipped, but unwritten. There were difficult conversations coming up. Difficult decisions to be made.
“I have to open the tap. Rip off the Band-Aid. This isn’t comfortable. It’s necessary.”
I felt Josh and I were parallel lines at that time. Each of us going through our own challenges, but with enough equivalences that we knew exactly what each other was experiencing emotionally.
I was moved by that lunch.
Moved into actions I already knew I needed to take.
Drawing deep breaths and blowing over the next page in my own story.