Loving Our Younger Selves


tasha burgoyne -loving our younger selves3

It was cold and overcast on our daughter’s Gotcha Day. We drove away from the adoption agency in a small, navy blue van with another adoptive family. Our little girl rode on my lap, still unaware of what was happening. She went from playing with the new toys we’d given her to looking up at the other little boy who was with his new family with curiosity and concern as his cries filled the vehicle. It took her a few more hours before she began her own tears.

I remember watching our daughter’s foster mother as we drove away and how my heart ached imagining how hers must’ve been. As we drove away from the building where so many people knew our daughter by name, and from the woman who had lovingly cared for her every need since she was an infant, I wondered when our little girl might want to return. I pictured her years older, standing on that sidewalk again, reaching for her past self.

In my own search for and struggles of identity, I’ve often believed returning to a physical place would solve everything. Having moved multiple times throughout my formative years, I lived in a constant state of adjusting to a new normal while reaching back for the past. In high school, after a move to the Midwest, I spent almost every day vowing to return to California. I believed it was the one place I belonged most of all. And yet with time and many short return visits in-between, new places became home.

I sat with a childhood friend on a visit to California recently. Friends since childhood, this was a friend I first bonded with over Paula Abdul, bike rides and being Hapa (our mixed Asian American identity). This was the friend I missed most once we moved, and I don’t know that I could count how many letters we wrote back and forth, all of them talking about when we would be together again.

As we sat across the coffee table from one another, now wives and mothers, I was flooded with memories of the girls we once were, almost 30 years ago. It was almost as if I could see my younger self sitting as close as the empty table beside us. I could see her fear, her desires, her confusion and mostly, her self-hatred. It broke my heart to return and remember who I was then. I wanted to take my younger self in my arms and offer her a kindness I couldn’t when she was a reality.

Sometimes, our longing and need to return is less about a place, and much more about finding God’s fingerprints of grace.

I hated the girl I was for way too long. And every day I grew up from her, I hoped I was becoming something different and wanted nothing more than to abandon that girl. Now, don’t get me wrong, the transformation of Christ in my life is nothing short of amazing and I am so grateful for the ways I was once blind, but now see, how I was lost in every way imaginable and now live as a woman who is found. What I struggled to understand however, is that I was known and loved perfectly way back then, even then. I regret the days I spent being so unkind to myself.

As my mom played with our little girl on recent visit to our house, she recounted her own childhood and what it felt like to lose her parents and have unanswered questions about them and her past. As she brushed her granddaughter’s hair, she looked at her and told me, “I wish someone would’ve adopted me.” I stared at the two of them, and marveled over the unique similarities to their stories. The three of us were linked by stories of loss, abandonment and the birth of new hope. My mom returned to her younger self as she looked at our daughter. I resisted the urge to offer my mom a reminder about how she had a good life now, and instead, let the moment of return linger.

I wonder how many times our little girl will return to her past and search for her own identity. We plan to make it possible to return the place where her story began, but more than that, I want to make space for her to return to her past in the everyday, and learn to find God’s fingerprints of grace. So, when that day comes, I hope she will stand on the sidewalk outside the adoption agency of her past and recognize herself as one who is seen and beloved, both now and in every moment of even then. I hope she will return to her past self and embrace her with kindness and love.