Finding You, Finding Me

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An adoptee’s thoughts on Finding Dory…

When I was in fourth grade, my classroom had Star of the Week, which meant that one chosen student brought in a poster with pictures of their family and had to fill out a sheet filled with their favorite things: color, animal, ice cream flavor, favorite movie.

I’ve never really loved movies, so I’m not sure what inspired me to fill in the blank with a film that had come out almost a year previously as “my favorite movie”, but my 4th grade-self decided on “Finding Nemo”. It’s been my default favorite for the past 12 years, and I haven’t given much thought to movies since…

 

[[SPOILERS AHEAD]]

             

When I realized what this new movie sequel was truly about – not Dory finding herself, but Dory finding her parents – I had the strangest sense of my heart both sinking and fluttering.

Dory’s anxieties were similar to the ones I have faced since I was old enough to understand adoption: What if my parents don’t want me back? What if it was my fault I had “lost” my parents? What if I never find them? What if I find them and they don’t remember me?

The memory of Dory’s parents setting up small seashells so she could always “find her way home” in their fish tank made me tear up a bit. Her parents did everything they could to make sure Dory was healthy, safe, and happy.

After Dory breaks out of the aquarium and finds herself in an unknown part of the shallow waters, she sees a shell, followed by another – and another leading out of the kelp forest. I almost started crying. Then, Dory swims out of the kelp to find a small rock with a hole cut out of it, and long paths of seashells starting at the rock and leading out in every direction to the open ocean. Two shadowy figures appear, and Dory struggles to see who is swimming towards her. Soon, the fish come into focus, and we see Dory’s parents carrying fin-fuls of seashells.

They reunite and hug and swim together around the small rock-home. Her parents tell her, “When you were lost in the pipe, we realized that you must have been taken to the ocean, so we went after you. Then we made our new home right outside of the aquarium and collected seashells every day, hoping that one day you would find them and follow them home to us.”

Well at this point I’m sobbing while still trying to watch the movie. Except the movie is all blurry because I can’t stop crying over the fact that Dory’s parents have stayed in the same place for years, collecting seashells and setting up tons of paths that Dory can always “follow home.”

After the movie was over, my boyfriend turned to me and commented, “Wow, That was a very emotional movie,” and I looked at him and said “Yeah.” He paused and then says, “That movie was very emotional for me; I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you.”

And that was the best response I could have asked for from anyone. Dory’s feelings of inadequacy and abandonment, her burning passion to find her family, her reunion with her parents, and her acceptance of the fact that as much as she loves her parents, Marlin and Nemo are also her family, mirror any adoptee’s story.

So for parent’s looking to take their children to this film: know this is a very touching, very Pixar movie. Your adopted children might not understand why they’re feeling insecure or sad…but the movie offers both hope and closure. This allowed me to identify with Dory and let me think that maybe there’s hope for me, too.

For older adoptees who want to see the sequel to their favorite childhood movie, I hope that you also see a piece of yourself in Dory, and have the courage and strength to “just keep swimming.”

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Burnt Bridges and Diverging Paths

Many of my blog topics center on continuous changes I’ve made to become a better person for myself. Something I haven’t written about is the group of people I left behind who contributed a lot to who I am today. The group of people that I cut out from my life with rusted scissors that left sharp edges and scars. In all honesty, I wasn’t a very good friend in high school or the beginning of college – I’m skipping over middle school because we were all a bit too emo for anyone to really understand us at that point in our lives.

The most important thing in the entire world in high school was me. As much as I loved my friends and some of my classmates, life was always about me; and not in a positive-I-love-myself sort of way. Every day was a struggle just trying to convince myself that my friends weren’t talking behind my back or spreading rumors. There was absolutely no reason for me to think this; I was fortunate enough to never be bullied throughout my life, and have always been extroverted and willing to be the first one to start a conversation. However, I was filled with so much self-hatred that I couldn’t imagine anyone genuinely want to spend time with me.

This impacted my friendships: I would always be on edge, and tend to be dramatic about anything that happened ever to ensure that people were paying attention to me throughout the entirety of the conversation. Looking back, I’m not sure why people stuck around, but I figured it must have at least been entertaining.

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Princess Lily, on her throne, world revolving around her

I was recently reading some How to have a better relationship with your significant other and came across the rule: Don’t apologize to each other, say thank you (obviously, there are some times when you do need to apologize). I’m definitely one of those people who say sorry after I do anything ever: Did I cry over spilled milk because it broke the floodgate of three weeks of stress? I’m sorry. Did I unfairly direct my anger and frustration onto someone who doesn’t deserve it? I’m sorry. Instead of saying sorry, the article suggested saying Thank you. For instance, Thank you for being there for me while I broke down and thank you for allowing me to express my stress. Thank you for not yelling back and telling me I’m crazy and instead trying to talk it out with me. Thank you allows you to appreciate their help and support instead of putting the blame on (and making it about) you.

So, to everyone from high school who I left behind or who I ended up drifting away from as we went to rival colleges, thank you for all of your support throughout high school, for eating lunch with me every day, and hanging out with me at school because there’s nowhere better to hang out after school than Troy High’s orchestra room.

In college, I started burning bridges and cutting people out of my life who I considered even mildly problematic. Those who I called my best friends, the ones who were #squad in high school, began changing, and so did I. Freshman year, I was so wrapped up in being someone no one knew and being at a huge, new school and learning about social justice and meeting new people and just being away from high school and my home town that I felt like I was running towards the light at the end of the tunnel, never looking back. I didn’t look back at those who had helped carry me and supported me as I stumbled through the dark tunnel. So to those friends who I simply dropped, stopped talking to, unfriended, unfollowed, and un-remembered – thank you for helping me get to where I am today. I can only hope that I have helped you as well.

I understand that the person I knew you to be is gone now – I can see you’ve traded in your t-shirt and jeans for a black dress and heels; your flowery, bright tops for black and navy blue blazers; and your crop tops for over-sized sweaters. Your ideals and values have evolved with experiences abroad, work, internships, new people, and situations you never planned on.

Yet, I still tell stories about the time we hid in the library to avoid writing our research paper, the time we only passed geometry because we tried slightly harder than all the seniors who had failed math three times, the time we played Pokémon instead of debated who the best US president was, and the time we made promises to meet each other for the rest of our lives at least once a year.

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#Squad from #Prom2k13

When other people tell me about “a friend from high school” or “oh yeah we used to hang out all the time” I wonder what their relationship with that person is now. Are you still best friends? Do you only message each other memes that remind you of each other? Do you talk at all? Was there a huge fight?

I can’t help but think that sometimes people are not left behind – their paths have merely diverged from our own. Both of us moving forward on a journey where our lives may intertwine once more, but also maybe not.

So, to all of my friends who I don’t talk to anymore, who I didn’t treat as well as I should have, or who I burned bridges with – thank you, and I hope that your life path takes you on great adventures.

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A friend from high school got me this poster but it got lost somewhere along the way