Return to Colombia

returntocolombia

ManWeek is an initiative by ReachOut – a valuable step forward encouraging young men to share their thoughts about being a guy.

Without a doubt this is something I’d never thought I’d share across a blog. 20 something years ago I was adopted from an orphanage in Bogota, Colombia. It’s something I live with. Something I think about every day. It’s everything and nothing to me. It’s taken me, and is still taking me, most of my life so far, to accept that it is just something a part of me, but that there is so much more.

Being a guy I’ve always felt the need to be hard. To be ruthless with feeling. To be self assured. The same feelings that I felt gave me strength, left me feeling totally isolated. I learned to live a different life. I still don’t let anyone too close too quickly.

The photo above is me sitting in La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) after trekking for 3 days into the Colombian jungle

I spoke to Marky P about this. Massive inspiration across so many different levels – this post really belongs to his blog.

Life before knowing I was adopted

I’ve known since birth. My brother is blonde, white with green eyes – so I was reminded from when I was young. It was a really hard thing to explain to people when you’re 5 years old why you and your brothers are different ‘colours’. I remember lying about it once. At 5 years old, I’d never felt so guilty before. I’ve never lied about it again.

Experience: The judgment of others, and the judgement of myself.

How I found out I was adopted

Parents always discussed it with me. “Where do babies come from” was a very different conversation with me. I think I would have only been 18 months (or whenever babies start to talk) that they started showing me where I was from. You might have had a “Where do babies come from book” – you know those books for babies? – I had one called “Why was I adopted” which was also for infants.

Experience: That I experienced birth like none other I knew (at that time).

How I felt

Confused. My whole outlook was always up and down. It’s hard to tell if I was naturally emotional or if that this made me emotional because I went through so many different feelings. I once went to a doctor and was asked to fill out medical history (of family) to which I wrote ‘N/A’ and the doctor looked at me coldly and said “What? Is your whole family dead?” I said “They could be, I really have no idea.”

It becomes a search for ‘truth’ – whatever that is, to answer questions of why.

Experience: Blame. It’s weird, there’s no real blame anywhere. Yet I felt like I needed to put some on someone.

Highschool

Highschool – where you think you know who you are, by trying to be everyone else. Having felt alone for so long – you look to feel a part of something all over again. You tell yourself you don’t give a shit; that you’re a guy and that none of this matters to guys. That I should get back to chasing girls.

After the first 4 years of highschool, running around with different crowds, I gave in. I let go of caring about the judgement views of others and starting doing my own thing. I still continued to perform with different bands; kept playing soccer; continued enjoying the company of my closest friends. I just wanted to be whatever I wanted. And that was fine. I started to feel happy.

People think I’m gay; straight; happy; sad; too old; too young; too busy; lazy blah bah. But I just wanted to be me. And that’s what happened. And again, I learned acceptance.

Experience: Life is what you want it to be. You have that control and will to bend, twist and craft whatever you want.

Thinking about finding my biological family

Talk to any adopted child and they’ll have a different perspective. In fact, I think while you’re growing up it changes over time. Sometimes you want to more than anything; sometimes the thought tears you apart; and at other times it seems as a nice to know.

Experience: Acceptance. That everything happens. And it will happen. We are everything that we want to be.

Doing it

Hard. I procrastinated for so long. It ended up being over the internet, followed by a letter, to which I received an email reply (after leaving an email address). 12 months later I went over with 5 mates who would share one of the pinnacle moments of my life with me. I wrote every day, and still have not published any of this, nor read it again.

Meeting my mother, my 3 sisters, and my half brother and half sister, two nieces and nephew was incredible, I’m still never sure how to explain the feeling. I now know every circumstance I was adopted under.

Experience: Reborn. My life started again.

The journey: is a search for truth, and answers

It felt like it feels to SCUBA diving at night with sharks. Honestly. You jump into the water, swallow all your pride, and decide that it’s worth everything to be here, if I don’t make it out alive, at least I did something that might mean something one day.

Then you jump.

Thoughts now

Best thing I’ve ever done. That’s all you need to know.

It’s a fuel. A fuel for self-destruction, a fuel for strength, a fuel for emotion, a fuel for apathy. It is measure of value, fortune and gratitude.

Some thoughts for adopted men

  1. You are not alone
  2. Your parents are the ones who raised you, your family is who you make it
  3. It’s OK to care about your parents, it’s OK to give a fuck
  4. The decision is yours. You never have to find out, you’re not succeeding or failing at anything you don’t set out to do

What I’ve learned

  1. I have a strong connection with my family
  2. I have a strong connection with children
  3. Adopted children share an experience which bonds them, no story is the same
  4. That I am incredibly fortunate to be where I am, and know the people I know
  5. I haved lived in too much fear, guilt and anger

What I want to be

  1. A father. A good father.
  2. To support and be there for any other adoptee (working on something at the moment)

ManWeek

Jye Smith is currently the Digital Strategist for Weber Shandwick Australia. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, he's a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital strategy, social media marketing, and change management.

There are 37 comments for this article
  1. KimberleyL at 10:55 am

    These are some of the most honest and raw words I have ever read; but this may be because I am also adopted. Apart from being a girl, my experience of adoption is a different one but there are many shared feelings and emotions and insights. I love the ManWeek initiative – it takes a real man to be thoughtful and a strong man to be emotional.

  2. Katie Chatfield at 12:00 pm

    That journey for self actualisation is a hellava ride for everyone.

    I’m a big believer that you can’t aspire to mediocracy. Beige is not a very exciting colour, an state worth working towards but it does take a while to see that all the colours of the rainbow are there to make life interesting.

    Most people need to find a mountain to climb to get their perspective. Finding it can take a while. It could be seen as a blessing to always have known where your mountain was- and to have climbed it so quickly- well, well done you.

    Your path seems quite the rollercoaster- I do like the scary ones that make me squeal…..

  3. Knorts at 12:37 pm

    This is really, really important stuff. What a great post. My 26 y.o. bro is adopted (from Philippines) and it’s tough watching someone struggle…he’s making his own trip later this year but I’m not sure whether he’ll try to make contact with him birth family. I’m going to send him the link to your site. Manweek rocks. It really does.

  4. Oscar at 1:30 pm

    Mate, I am only now able to gather my thoughts on what a heartrendingly beautiful post you have written.

    You have implied how wonderful your parents must be. Not just for their altruism, but for their forthrightness and respect in treating you like an intelligent individual.

    I’ve always considered having a biological and an adopted child, now I’m sure I do!

    Bring on your Columbia video (let me know if you need any help)! It deserves a whole blog of its own.

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  6. Burgo at 2:19 pm

    You got me man… you got me. Truly touching post. Wish I’d managed to get some more time getting to know you at SMX. Always next year :)

  7. kristin rohan at 3:52 pm

    hey jye – quite touching. thanks for sharing a part of yourself. i was glad to meet you, know i’m glad i know a little bit more about you.

    you are amazing…i’ll leave it at that.

    cheers,
    kristin rohan

  8. Zac Martin at 4:23 pm

    I don’t have anything to say about this post, but just wanted to let you know I give it a big thumbs up Jye. Top stuff mate.

  9. Heather at 4:40 pm

    Thank you so much for giving me an insight into the feelings of an adopted child. As a mother of an adopted child I tried so hard to make things the same as for the other children in the family but, as you have expressed so eloquently, no matter how hard you try the adopted mother can never make it the same.

    Your shared thoughts have helped me to understand my son a little better.

  10. Jye Author at 8:26 am

    Thank you so much, everyone. Really means a lot.

  11. Karla at 10:25 am

    Jye – this is so well-expressed, thoughtful, insightful and, I am sure, helpful to not only others who have been adopted, but anyone who grew up with something that made them feel different.

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  13. Trent Collins at 9:52 pm

    Really great post mate.

    I had absolutely no idea about any of this which is what made the store even more amazing for me to read.

    Big thanks for sharing.

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  15. Kristen at 3:21 pm

    I’m only “half” adopted (by a step-dad)… but this post brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of so many things i try to avoid/forget.

    I just had to comment. Thanks!

  16. Adam Sparke at 3:35 pm

    Hey Jye

    Thanks for the openness of your post. I’m also adopted, and happy about it. I love my parents to bits for everything they have done for me.

    I haven’t yet gone down the path of looking up my birth parents. I unlocked my information when I was 18 so they can track me down as well if they are keen. I just don’t have that internal drive to find them, and I don’t really think about it too much.

    I am, however, grateful that they decided to still give me a chance at life – and for that I feel they were quite brave.

    My main interest would probably now be driven by curiosity as to how much of a role genetics and environmental factors play.

    Thanks again for a great post! I love hearing the stories of other adopted kids and hearing how they processed it all growing up.

    As an aside, my favourite retort when growing up and facing the adoption question used to be to say that, “You can’t be, but technically, at least I COULD be Superman…”

  17. Jye Author at 3:53 pm

    Thanks K :)

    Hey Adam, yeah for sure man. The internal drive thing is weird, i put off all kinds of things (emailing them, talking about it etc), it’s a really strange procrastination.

    Thanks again everyone.

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  20. lelak at 11:13 am

    Having difficulty articulating this, but … I found that speaking to my biological mother didn’t answer my questions so much as identify that that wasn’t where the answers lay.

    A completely different result than my brother’s experience with meeting his own biological family.

    Short answer, therefore: You’re right. Each of us has a different perspective.

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  25. Erica at 7:29 am

    Wow!! I am SO genuinely happy for you even though I don’t know you at all. I can feel your pain, your forgiveness, your acceptance and your inner peace so clearly through your words.

    I am starting my own journey to find my adopted parents in Colombia. If you have any suggestions on what worked for you that would be so wonderful.

    Thank you again for sharing your story.
    Erica

  26. Jye Author at 10:05 am

    I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to read my story. I’ve started Adopted From Colombia for people like yourself to share the story of your journey – would you be interested in participating?

    Love, Tomas.

  27. Jye Author at 1:38 pm

    Thanks so much time for taking the time to read it, mate.

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