I recently had the honor/pleasure/joy of presenting at this years American Adoption Congress Conference (AAC) here in Denver. Last Fall, I timidly submitted a proposal to share about the grief I’ve experienced as an adoptee. I was shocked to receive an email accepting my proposal the day after my moms funeral. It was wonderful news which I received as bittersweet because it was the kind of thing my mom would have loved. Its timing was ideal in that I needed a reminder that, while my mom was gone, there was life left to be lived and a mission yet to further.
I’ve been sharing my story in many forums for years; small crowds, large crowds, churches, schools, retreats, and conferences. While I generally have some degree of nerves prior to any speaking engagement, I felt extremely anxious and out of my league as I anticipated the AAC Conference. These particular feelings happened to be appropriate as I would be among educators, psychologists, therapists, social workers, film makers, writers, researchers, professionals with various degrees, and all around experts on adoption. The enormity of the opportunity wasn’t lost on me.
As the conference approached I grew increasingly nervous. It was a “what kind of sickness can I fake in order to get out of this?” type of nervous. My husband, dad, and cousin gave me the sound wisdom and encouragement I needed to push through. This was simply another opportunity for me to share my story and I didn’t need any grandeur in order to deliver. All I needed was authenticity; a deep level of transparency so as to communicate my heart clearly. I quickly learned those attending expected nothing more than that from me. While I’m severely under qualified as an adoption expert, I am an expert on my own life, and the details which make up my story. Education and experience should not compete against each other; in my opinion (uneducated as it may be), both can be equally powerful and impacting.
I was welcomed so warmly at the AAC Conference by the adoption all stars previously mentioned. They were kind, encouraging, and supportive of my work. These people are brilliant and inspiring. I learned so much during my time at the conference and have much more to absorb and glean from the pros over time.
I’m so thankful to have been embraced by this community; I’m fresh and new, yet those in the adoption arena have taken me in and are cheering me on. Within this community we have different religious beliefs, varying views on adoption, and our own stories to tell in our own ways. I don’t look at our differing opinions as barriers but as insights into how adoption plays out in each life so uniquely. We have much to learn from one another simply by listening.
The overall experience was thrilling, educational, and fruitful. I received several solid speaking invitations after my presentation and was even able to be a part of another adoption documentary set to premier next year. By all this, I am humbled, scared all over again, and driven to keep moving forward.
Thank you to the AAC for giving me the time and space to share my story. Thank you to all those I met who impacted me so profoundly, and, most importantly, for the good work you continue to do.
with Nisha and Derek after a documentary filming session
Derek Frank and Andrew Tash (not pictured) – Film Makers / Creators of the film Six Word Adoption Memoirs
Nisha and I with Co-Conference Chairs (and AMAZING women!) Susan Harris O’Connor and Cynthia McGuigan