Disclaimer: These are the confessions of an adoptee named Blake Willis who wheres the lens of a private, closed infant adoption. Arms Wide Adoption Services exclusively works with children in the Texas foster care system who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment and are in need of safe and nurturing forever families. If families are willing to take a risk with Emergency Foster Care, they can foster an infant at birth, although adoption is not a guarantee.
Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Blake Willis. I haven’t yet confirmed whether or not I’ll be uploading any photos, so I’ll paint you a picture. Many people, too many actually, tell me I look like a cross between Blake Griffin and Lamelo Ball. Other times, it’s Kane Brown or an actor who played Muhammad Ali but not Muhammad Ali himself? People only seem to compare me to the first light-skin who pops into their head. If you don’t recognize any of these names, feel free to just imagine a much less wealthy and talented Drake.
Being biracial was an interesting reality for me in junior high. My compeers expected me to present myself in a particular manner deemed dominant to only part of my ethnic identity. Growing up this way kind of blinded me from thinking anyone would perceive me any differently. That I would always get teased for being a race that wasn’t black or white. For not being one or the other. I felt continuously put in a box, like I had to choose which one I wanted to be. Eventually, when I stopped focusing on what others wanted me to be, I learned to re-embrace who I was, which was never defined by my ethnicity.
Not Understanding My Adoption
I used to think being biracial only to be adopted into a biracial family was some sort of coincidence. Really though, my upbringing was due to a private adoption when I was less than a week old. It was set up by my birth parents before I was born. They felt it was important to release me to a family who would allow me to live with the normality of having dual ethnic parents.
The first time I really contemplated being adopted, I was about six years old. I remember being in the upstairs living room of the same house I’m writing this from. It was our family movie night, and we were watching Snow Dogs. There’s a scene in the movie where Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character casually gets told he is in fact adopted. Out of disbelief and confusion, he dramatically faints.
At the time, I had seen this movie a dozen times. I felt it was my duty to always reenact this scene whenever it came time. On that particular night, directly after I mimicked the scene, my brother abruptly and sort of sternly commented, “You know you really are adopted right?” I felt patronized and belittled, so I replied with an assured “I know.” I tried to play it off as if I truly did understand.
The fact of the matter was of course I knew, I just never comprehended what it meant. Just in the same way when I was told the news (at age seven) that I had a little brother who was my biological brother. It was exciting, but it was never something I ever fully grasped until I was much older.
Finding My Birth Family
Subsequently, in my teenage years, which feels weird to say being a recently aged 20-year-old, I was constantly trying to find some clarity for my adoption. There was always this desire to know why I was given up at all. Looking back at it, my family and I never discussed it much. It’s a tough subject to ponder while going through prepubescent and pressured years of your life. It took up a lot of energy to keep on my conscience. I was frustrated for so long, always doubting that my birth parents cared or loved me still. I constantly wondered if they were thinking of me as much as I was of them. Eventually, I became so invested with curiosity in their lives that I searched for them on social media. Firstly, on Facebook.
It took me a little digging. I never discussed them with my mom, so I had to go based off early recollection. I traced a memory from when I was about seven. It was in the backseat of my mom’s old jeep with my brother. He suddenly initiated the subject of my adoption. (He seemed a lot more curious about it than me.) I remembered him asking about what my last name would be if I was still with my birth parents. My mom replied “Niblett” to which he thought was hysterical and pointed fun at me.
Although it embarrassed me at the time, I was thankful for it when I started searching for my birth parents. I don’t think I would have remembered the car ride at all if he hadn’t teased me. Finally, I managed to find my biological grandmother’s page. From there, I found my mother’s, and from there, my father’s.
My Revelation: Finding My Second Sibling
It’s a nerve-wracking experience to scroll through captured moments I could have possibly been a part of. I came to realize how detached we really were. I could never just reach out to them, because I could never decide on what to say or ask. Or if they would even be comfortable with me doing so? Consequently, I excavated into a rabbit hole of self-fulfilling prophecies I failed to make peace with. It got much worse after I discovered a revelation.
After already proceeding to make a ritual out of gazing my birth parents’ social media, I came across a photo of my birth grandmother. The space of her lap was taken by a small girl, presumably no more than three and who happened to resemble me greatly. I knew immediately she was my sister and that I loved her. But this disclosure marked a sort of breaking point in my life, pulling me deeper into self-loathing. Now, I had information I was left in the dark of. I had to come to terms with having two siblings whom I could never know directly. Above all, I quickly knew I could not be an older brother to strangers who likely know nothing of me.
Where I am Now
Since this was four years ago, I feel as though I’ve come a long way. Being in the place I am now, I feel confident about my future with not only my birth parents but my biological siblings as well. It’s easy to feel stuck and lost when the people who gave you life give you no sense of direction. I say that with no ill intent.
More than anything, I am grateful my birth parents are who they are and for giving me to a phenomenal family. Because maybe without that, I would not be able to look at my life through a different lens. Rather than allowing my lack of connection with my birth family affect me negatively as I did for so many years of my life, I now see it as something to cherish for what it is. I let it influence me to aspire for greater things.
Believe it or not, my birth mother actually just reached out to my mom a few weeks ago (April 2019) after I had already this all typed out. She contacted my mom expressing excitement from her and my birth brother in wanting to reach out to me. It really took me by surprise. Four years had passed since we last attempted getting in touch with her. To have her leave any message at all, now, really seemed coincidental. All this just to say, being adopted has ultimately taught me that:
You have absolute control over how you want to perceive the experiences within your life, and the best way to live is not through doubtfulness and fear of not having expectations met. It is through determination that things have the potential to turn around if you desire it so.