I remember going to bed when I was a little kid and my mom would read me a story. It was usually the same book every night. A sort of tradition. Except we weren’t reading “Goodnight Moon,” like a lot of other American families. My mom was reading me a story about adoption. She’d keep that book in my nightstand right beside my bed. I started to take comfort in the routine. The story. The themes. Then one night my mom asked me if I liked the book. In my little five-year-old way, I told her I did. And that’s when she told me. That story of adoption was the story of how we became a family.
I was always thankful to my mom for the way she told me. She built a ramp to it, giving me a chance to understand the concept before it became personal. I didn’t realize this until I was much older, but that was really a gift. I got the opportunity to look at adoption in its most pure and positive form. The way it should be. It gave me the chance to love it. Telling your kid they’re adopted isn’t always simple or easy. But it’s so important. Hiding it would’ve cast a negative shadow on a truly beautiful thing. But to get it out in the open gave it a chance to shine. To be celebrated. And that’s exactly what my family did.
I was born in Lebanon and fortunate to match with my parents when I was about nine months old. We flew back to Miami together, and from the moment we touched down, it was a celebration. I still have all the pictures, which are really important to me because they set the tone. Adoption is something unique and exciting. They raised me with that mindset. They told me that I was special. A gift. Giving me that perspective was really such a blessing. Because it gave me the chance to learn an important life lesson very early on: You’re not here on earth to blend in. You’re here to find what makes you unique and share that with the world.
By teaching me this from a young age, my parents controlled the narrative. In a good way. Because let’s be honest, the kids at school don’t always embrace differences. My parents taught me that we should all be proud of what makes us unique, and I was definitely a bit unusual. I laugh as I write this, but I remember going to school wearing pink shorts. I’d go over to friends’ houses and hang out with the adults. When all the other kids were dreaming of playing in the NBA, I wanted to start a business. I was an offbeat kid and my parents always taught me to be proud of that. It led to some classic grade school misfires, like oversharing about my underwear. But it also taught me that our uniqueness is our greatest gift. A lesson I feel fortunate to carry into the rest of my life.
I’m unbelievably thankful for my journey. But everything has its challenges. My adoption story wouldn’t be transparent if I didn’t mention that at some point. When you’re adopted you just grow up with a lot of questions. I felt like my parents had given me so much, but did I owe them something I wasn’t aware of? Would my birth parents be back in the picture at some point? Were my mom and dad raising me differently than they would’ve raised their biological child? It didn’t feel “dark” by any means. It was just confusing. Because as a kid, you don’t fully understand it. You just grow up with a lot of unknowns and that can be a lot of emotional weight to carry around.
I remember joking to someone that when I tried to wrap my head around it, my brain actually felt like mashed potatoes. I didn’t have the information I needed to fully process it. I had this driving curiosity that stays with me to this day. When I first asked my mom where I came from, she told me Lebanon. She told me all about the country and where it was. But that wasn’t really what I meant. I wanted my origin story and got a geography lesson. I started to wonder if that unanswered question… that huge loose end… had been nagging at my subconscious my entire life. So, in my mid-40s, I decided to answer it. I decided to go back to Lebanon.
Where It All Began
I always tell people that whether you’re adopted from a foreign land or an American town, it’s good to understand where you came from. That doesn’t mean it’s going to define you. But it’s always good to create some sort of connection. Sometimes it influences us in ways we don’t even understand. You just don’t know until you know. So, I made the journey back to my very first home: the orphanage in Lebanon. My curiosity was partly practical. Did I have any brothers and sisters? Did our family have a history of disease? But my curiosity was also voyeuristic in a way. I was peeking through a window and just wanted to see what was on the other side. It was part of me. It was mine to know.
The nun running the orphanage kept amazing records and was happy to walk me through everything. She explained that my birth mother had initially left me at the hotel down the street. She showed me a bit of the paperwork from all the prospective parents. Their letters. Their pictures. I saw all of these amazing people with so much love to give. It was pretty amazing to see. It really just humanized the entire experience and helped demystify everything. Oddly, I left with no curiosity. I had the option to seek out my birth mother and ended up choosing not to. I think that’s a testament to how my parents raised me. I just didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I knew I was a part of something.
How Being Adopted Shaped My Path
We’re all molded by each and every one of our experiences. So, the fact that I was adopted undeniably shaped me. My parents taught me to lean into the fact that I was unique. I never really felt this pressure to follow everyone else’s path. I felt liberated to make my own. So, career-wise, I got really comfortable with the idea of starting something as opposed to joining something.
I was also raised in this climate of giving. The way I saw it, my parents had saved me from an unknown future and I was just so grateful. I was raised with this whole ethos of paying it forward that has always stayed with me. But as much as anything, it taught me to be understanding of people. To find what makes people unique and accept them as they are. To this day, I try to live in a way that inspires people to be themselves.
A Word to Anyone Considering Adoption
I think a huge part of life is giving to others, and I really look at adoption as the epitome of that. But whenever people consider adopting, I always pass along a few things that my parents did right. First, try to verbalize why you’re adopting. If you feel like you’re only doing it because you can’t give birth, ask yourself if there’s a more positive way to look at it. Ask yourself if you’d consider adopting because you just have that much love to give.
The second thing I pass along is that there’s no exact age to have “the talk” with your kids. A lot of that’s driven by their emotional development and what you think they’re ready for. Consider normalizing adoption through TV and books. I know The Brady Bunch made the idea of a blended family seem like fun to me. The last thing I usually say is to find a way to celebrate it, exactly like my parents did. Whether it’s a literal party, or just creating a positive dialogue around it, make sure you do, in fact, celebrate it. Because adoption really is something to celebrate.