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Adult adoptee Chris writes to his year 7 self

Published: January 22, 2016

For an adopted person, the secondary school years can be be a particularly challenging time. First4Adoption’s Chris Burton wrote this letter to his 12 year old self :

Dear Chris,

There’s so many things I’d like to tell you, me, or whatever we call ourself. Really important stuff I wish we’d known in Year 7. But we’ve always had a rubbish concentration span. So I’ve narrowed it down to just three things.

1. Don’t be scared – of anyone or anything. Apart from sharks, guns and really big crowds. Honestly, it’s really not worth losing sleep over things you can’t control. I know that sounds like something our parents would say but it’s true. There’s genuinely nothing out there worth wasting all that time and energy over (apart from maybe large crowds of sharks with guns).

2. Don’t worry what people think of you – often it won’t be anything at all. They’ll be too busy worrying what you think of them. You will find a new friendship group. It won’t happen overnight and some of the friendships won’t last. But others will be with you for life and they  may not be the ones you expect. People are going to be horrible to you. Don’t take it personally. I know, that’s easy for me to say (but I am you remember). The ones who are mean will almost certainly be doing it because they’re jealous or scared of you. Or both. I know, that sounds like another Mum and Dad type phrase. But unfortunately they were right on that one too.

3. The adoption thing – You know how super sensitive you are about fitting in? Wanting to be accepted but kind of enjoying being an outsider at the same time? How you worry that you’ve got a layer less skin than everyone else? That you feel everything too deeply? Plus every bloody (I’m allowed to swear now, I’m 49) film, book and TV programme seems to have adoption in it? Well, that’s okay. All of it. And it’ll get easier.

Adoption is a big deal. You’ve been through some stuff that it’s hard for most people to understand. You’ve got challenges that other teenagers don’t have. But give yourself a break. Trust your parents. I know they’re annoying (they don’t get any better) but they love you and they can help. Other people can help too. We’ve got this thing called the Internet now, by the way. It’s a long story. But you’ll like it. You can get it on your mobile phone. That’s a telephone you carry around with you that plays music and lets you see the people you’re talking to. No, I’m not joking! Anyway, I know you’re torn between fiercely guarding your adopted personhood and blurting it out to everyone you meet. Well, there is a happy medium.

Trust your instincts and choose  your confidantes carefully. Find a teacher you like and explain to them how hard it can be when the rest of the class is working on a family tree and yours looks more like a sapling. Those real friends will want to share secrets, hopes and fears. They won’t think you’re weird and they’ll understand more than you think. They’ll also be fascinated by the bits they don’t understand and they’ll love you for telling them.

Last, but not least, the next few years (and all the ones afterwards) will pass more quickly than you can possibly imagine. It’s true what the social workers say. Adoption is a lifelong journey and it can get bumpy. But, it’ll take you to some amazing places & you’ll learn so much about yourself and everyone else. So hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

Love, Chris x

A version of this letter appeared in the first issue of a magazine produced by the Coram Adoptables project. A peer network for young adopted people. 

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