Searching for Home
I’ve spent my whole life looking for home. I always felt unsettled as a child, but I thought the answers lay in the soil of my homeland. I thought I’d find pieces of my broken heart when I traveled back to Chile for the very first time. I was deeply disappointed when I arrived there, still feeling out of place…feeling naked…not covered in comfort & “complete” as I had hoped.
I realized I was homeless. I had shelter over my head & a family. I had all the things that made a house feel like a home, but I still felt that emptiness aching inside of me. It was as if my body had a home, but my soul was simply not settled there.
I walked through life smiling despite having no place to park my tired persona. There was no place to rest, no space to turn my engine off…that sense of unsettling energy still lurked behind me, reminding me I lacked that “home base foundation” I had always yearned for.
The Journey Home
One day I submitted a writing piece to C.A.S.E. about spending my adolescence feeling “different.” My writing was published in one of their books & I began dedicating my time doing public speaking events with the organization based around that writing.
I walked into my very first assignment almost 5 years ago. I sat & listened to Debbie Riley (C.A.S.E. CEO), present her opening statements on adoption. That moment felt like magic…my heart filled with all the good feels that come with finally feeling understood. Finally entering a space where I wasn’t seen as “different” or “dramatic.” My hurting heart was held with gentle, guiding hands…my lonely soul was starting to feel the power of support as I traveled this journey of healing…the journey back home.
I began walking barefoot. Each step I took was cautious…afraid of stepping on something that would startle me, something that would cause immeasurable pain. I continued my journey & my bare feet began getting stronger. It was a delicate process…one taking time & patience as I built up the soles of my wandering spirit, searching for a soft space to land.
After two years of virtual adoption conferences, I recently attended again in person. I walked into the event, seeing all the faces I had only seen on my computer screen for years & I felt an overwhelming rush of excitement. Adrenaline flowing through my veins, a high I was sure I left behind when I stopped abusing narcotics. As I stood in rooms alongside other adopted people, I couldn’t help but feel that sense of family that I had spent so much time searching for. Was it here all along?
“How was your day”? I was asked.
“Amazing & exhausting. But I didn’t cry on stage so that was good”, I replied.
“Nah. Cry all you want. They need to see that.”
I wish I could tell you what happened next…I was zoned out…too euphoric to focus. I had never been given permission to cry about my adoption before. I’ve cried in shame about it by myself for the last 39 years. My inner self is always exhausted from being ridiculed for being too sensitive, but I finally felt like I had all the permission I ever needed just to be myself. My deepest emotions were not only acknowledged but they were respected, they were validated.
Finding Your Home
To me, home is a sense of acceptance. A sense of belonging. A sense of feeling like you are understood & reassurance that people are dedicated & determined to understand you if you are not. Home is freedom. Freedom to be who you are…to say what you feel…freedom to be fearless in your own skin.
I found home in a healthy, healing community. I can’t say I know where my adoption journey will take me, but I know that wherever I go, I won’t be alone. I now have an entire community of people who “get it” & I feel security within that circle.
My hope for all the wanderers of the world is that we all stumble across a space where our free spirits feel settled enough to sit down & stay for a while. Perhaps home isn’t a structure? Perhaps home is merely any place where our hearts feel heard. A place where we are safe in our sharing, a place where our feelings can free fall like raindrops, a place where we can come together to express our most authentic selves.
Written by Rachel Shifaraw, Adult Adoptee, C.A.S.E.™ Emerging Leader, former C.A.S.E. Star of Adoption and Contributor to Beneath the Mask: For Teen Adoptees: Teens and Young Adults Share Their Stories