Shanghai is one of the most prosperous cities in the world. It has nearly 24.5 million people, with each person having his or her own unique story.
One of those stories is mine.
My story begins not when I was born, but when I was found abandoned in downtown Shanghai.
I was just a few weeks old when I lost my family and identity.
For me, being adopted has always been difficult.
I was an only child within my family.
I grew up among mostly retired people and had little exposure to children near by.
I also had very little exposure to other people of color and Chinese people.
During my childhood years, I’ve experienced a lot of prejudice and ignorance due to my ethnicity. People used to ask me why I was with an all white family. Others were shocked when I introduced them to my parents.
In high school, students complimented me on my English. I was constantly being asked why I didn’t have an accent.
Guides at museums or heritage sites would hand me Chinese guidebooks without even asking me.
On certain occasions, strangers used to stop by and shout, “Ni, Hao” in my face, even after I told them to go away.
These events led me to believe that even as a child, I was always seen as an outsider.
For me, being Chinese symbolized being different and not fitting in.
The positive aspects, including culture, family, language, traditions, community, and food were all lost.
I didn’t have access or the means to keep these connections in rural England.
It took me a long time to come to terms with these thoughts and emotions. It was only then that I realized the greater impact I could have as an adult.
However, coming to terms with some of these thoughts and emotions was a struggle of its own. I struggled with feelings of neglect.
I struggled to find a sense of community or belonging.
A few weeks after I was born, I was placed in an orphanage in Shanghai. I remained there until I was adopted at nine months old.
I do not know much regarding my time at the orphanage. I can only refer to photos and videos of when my parents went to visit, nine months after I was born.
I used to fantasize as a child that I was the undiscovered leader of some great Kung Fu clan, or the last heir to an important business that needed saving (Hollywood movies really had me). However, it has dawned on me now that this fantasy is the closest I’ll get to knowing the truth.
I have now come to realize that it is not necessary to fit into a molding.
I may never be able to completely fit into the rural British culture, nor can I relate to the British-Chinese culture.
But, it does not mean that I am alone. I am still a whole person, despite the missing information in my past.
Despite all of the challenges, I am still part of communities and can share my experiences with people.
I am still figuring out what it means to be a Chinese adoptee and Chinese, I am content in knowing that I am just happy to be myself.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to find different communities of other adoptees.
Speaking with others has helped me quite a bit; as they can relate to my feelings.
In 2016, I decided to share my story publicly.
I’ve started a YouTube channel, “The Here and Nao” to document my journey and speak up about adoptee related issues.
The objective is to show the real adoptee experience, and not the Hollywood dream that we are constantly being told.
My goal for the channel is to reach others in similar situations.
I want them to know that they’re never alone.
I want to reach parents, so that they can understand what their kids might be going through.
I want to shed light on issues adoptees face from day to day.
The response so far has been amazing and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive questions, comments, support, and praise from people around the world. It seems that the issues raised by adoption have affected many. I even had one of my videos go semi viral on Weibo for one weekend and interviews from Resonate Voices. Resonate pinned me as one of the inspirational women that they interviewed in 2016.
I am committed to my project and helping others in the same situations as me. I want to change perceptions of adoption as this perfect image and show how the real situation can be; raw, emotional and as always a journey.