It’s strange to think that we might come across people who could be significant to us without even knowing it. As an adoptee, this is how I feel every day just walking down the street or getting a coffee.
The world is often thought to be very big, but there are countless stories out there that suggest it is in fact quite small. There are plenty of instances where couples or long-lost family members discover an old connection to each other years later, like that photo of a couple who were both in the town of Qingdao when they were teenagers and had no idea until they were already married and perusing old family photo albums. There are also smaller connections – times when you could have met someone two years ago but something led to you meeting now, and that is how it’s meant to be.
I love these stories. I love the fact that there are so many random connections between all of us across the world that we may never think about. Maybe we once waited in line together at the same cafe only to later end up as colleagues at the same company.
It’s strange to think that we might come across people who could be significant to us without even knowing it. This is how I feel every day just walking down the street or getting a coffee. As an adoptee, I am extremely curious about where I come from, and who my birth family is. How have their lives transpired over the last 23 years in comparison to mine?
I was adopted at birth to a Danish father and a Chinese mother. I am now estranged from my mother but prior to my father’s death in 2018, he was my best friend. Despite finding out about my adoption at the age of nine, I didn’t need to know anything about my adoption.
“Now that I live in London, knowing that my birth father and the family he likely has now may be here somewhere consumes me.”
It appeared to me that it would upset my dad to talk about it, like it hurt him to think that I was his daughter in every respect except biological. And so, we never spoke about it and I was perfectly fine with that. When he died, however, I became increasingly curious about what he did and didn’t know about my birth parents and the circumstances around my existence.
Unfortunately, it was too late to ask. And so, after months of deliberation, I decided to spend a good chunk of money on a DNA test. They were very popular back then, and I intended to find out what my background was. It took five weeks for global DNA company 23andMe to analyse my genetic material, and it was on my 22nd birthday that I found out I was half-British and half-Filipino.
23andMe has an app where you can see a full breakdown of my DNA, which said I was 50% Filipino on my mother’s side and 33.6% of my DNA was British and Irish, most likely from Greater London, on my father’s side.
Now that I live in London, and have been living in the UK for the last seven years, knowing that my birth father and the family he likely has now may be here somewhere consumes me. I was born in Hong Kong, so it is likely that my birth father moved there as a British expat when the city was still a British colony.
“I don’t know what they look like, what hair colour they have, or what drink they might order at a pub, so everyone and no one could be who I’m looking for.“
While, logically, I am aware he and his family could still be in Hong Kong, I’d like to believe they moved back to Britain sometime in the past 23 years – especially when you consider the political turmoil in Hong Kong that has occurred since the start of the 2014 Umbrella Movement. He, of course, could be anywhere. But, many people visit London on a regular basis for work or leisure every day.
I look at every stranger differently now, as a result. I don’t know what they look like, what hair colour they have, or what drink they might order at a pub, so everyone and no one could be who I’m looking for. Despite my fantasies, I know this won’t end up like The Parent Trap, where I will walk into someone who looks like me and immediately find my family, but I do let my imagination run away with me when it comes to the strangers I come across.
I am always thinking, wishfully, whether they might be a long-lost sister or aunt that I would have been close with if I had not been adopted. I am plagued by questions as to their whereabouts, what they’re doing with their lives, whether they are studying or working or both, and whether they like the same things I do. Are they like me? Do we have similar interests in TV, sports, and podcasts due to some weird inherent genetics?
“While I am not looking for a replacement family, it would be nice to speak to them and have coffee once in a while.”
I have no way of knowing, but I am hopeful that one day I will find out. At the moment, I don’t have either the courage or the resources to search for my birth family at this time in my life. I’m not yet ready for them to know that I exist, and I am scared by the potential for rejection if they decide that they don’t want to have any kind of relationship with it.
While I am not looking for a replacement family, it would be nice to speak to them and have coffee once in a while, but if that’s not something they want, I will have to find a way to live with that – I don’t know if I can though.
But, I am optimistic that they would at least want to get to know me a little, if not invite me to family Christmases right off the bat. Until then, I will weave these stories in my mind, considering that the strangers I come across on a daily basis may share my DNA, and maybe one day we will meet and figure out that we were at the same place at the same time many years ago, chalking it up to coincidence or fate, whatever it may be.
Michele Theil is a freelance journalist based in London, with bylines in gal-dem, The Independent, Pink News and Vice. @micheletheil
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