When I finally learned I had a dad, I was 6 years old. At this age, I went to live with him for a time, and then began bouncing around between my mom and dad and their chaotic lives. I was a vagabond, moving 3 times and attending 5 separate kindergartens as a kid, and feeling like I never had a spot to land. Home, the idea of having a place and a people to call your own, was something foreign to me.
I tasted the pain of exclusion, since I compared those around me with a “normal” family to my own unpredictable parents. I tried to hide in larger friend groups and avoid opening up or showing my true self, since this never felt safe. When I had the opportunity to move to the United States at the start of 7th grade, this was an easy decision. I could escape the constant flux of my life, eliminate distractions, and start anew.
However, just because I was in a different setting, this did not mean my habits changed. After living in California for 2 years, I moved to Minnesota. I realized looking back on my experience in California that the way I interacted with those around me was much the same, and I had a void inside of me because of it. I remember how my host family would encourage me to attend family gatherings or stay with them for the holidays, but I would always refuse. I felt the sting of regret for not engaging because I didn’t want to open up and get hurt again.
One day during my sophomore year, I felt particularly saddened by seeing my host parents attending their son’s game. I was jealous of the close relationships among the members of my host family, and yearned for a similar sense of connection. I had never experienced family in the way it was modeled by my host family. Later that day, I broke down crying. My host mom asked me what was wrong, and at first I was afraid to be vulnerable. However, my inner voice kept pushing me to confide in her because I knew I could not keep silent forever. So I did. I told her about my family, about the hurt I had experienced, and about my longing to belong and feel connected. She didn’t run away and she didn’t yell. She listened and sympathized, and I felt closer to her after the conversation.
Socrates famously said, “a life without examining is not worth living.” This conversation with my host mom was the first step in my own self-examination. Since then, I have opened up to some of my friends and mentors. I also had constructive conversations with my dad, and found this process healing, years removed from the checkered past. I have cultivated deep and meaningful relationships and have experienced some pain in revisiting past childhood trauma. But ultimately, I have begun a process of healing that has allowed me to interact in meaningful ways with my host family and peers. I feel part of an ecosystem.
Though I came from a dysfunctional family, I feel that God is behind a lot of the turning points in my life, by bringing me to homes and communities where I continued to grow and encounter Christ. Like the prodigal son, I once was lost in the world but God did not let me go, instead he prepared the road before I even knew his reasons. I am slowly opening myself and deepening my faith. As I look to the future, I am excited for another new beginning through which I might continue to fix my mind to the truth. In College, I want to learn how to be a good friend, student, and leader, interacting with the world without fear and with a willingness to be vulnerable and fix my eyes to Jesus.