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How I Made It This Far Behind by Wolf-Bone (critique requested)

How I Made It This Far Behind

How I Made It This Far Behind

From the day my mother gave me up for adoption, I was damned. But not in the way I once thought. Fate put me up for adoption, and into a fairly typical home, or typical for what I would learn is typical by the admittedly low standards of most adoptees. Fate may have saddled me with depression, anger, and a massive guilt complex that only turns into something not too far from the same narcissism it desperately tries to avoid and eliminate when left unchecked. But that, especially, is a very cautious and increasingly doubtful maybe. I don't truly believe anymore that it had to be like this or that it must continue. I will never amount to anything if it does, unless one tragedy and failure and setback after another is something. I let it happen by letting others continue to do what they do, and also by letting myself continue to do what I have always tried to do which is help others before I help myself. I did this out of that same guilt, which I was raised (more like trained) to have by my adopted parents. They wanted to own me, control me, use me, the way many people do to many people and for all the same reasons. Because it's convenient, it's beneficial in the short term and if you lack the means or willingness to do it on your own, in that sense it's even necessary. It makes them feel more secure and protected by and from someone who is both untrustworthy, a threat by mere virtue of not being blood, but also vital to their own success and stability by being both intelligent or at least skilled enough to make use of and willing to sacrifice everything they have, to the point of impoverishing themselves, just for the smallest chance of being loved, accepted and when hoping against hope, supported and protected in kind.

It's almost never happened. My family never gave me a single thing they didn't later take away out of spite. Every gift was a bargaining chip, rendering it a trojan horse I myself would come to hate and reject. So I stopped caring so much about material things and, by extension, money. I came to see those things as nothing more than weapons people use against each other. Every dollar spent on me was what was left after they had spent most of their money and generosity on themselves and the more favored members of the family, meaning I always had the least food, the worst clothes, and was the last in the family to have even the most rudimentary cell phone, and even that they only got me because it gave them easy access to me. Now, they could call me up to harass and belittle me 24 hours a day, wherever I was, no matter what I was doing, and that would include when I was in school trying to get an education and at work trying to earn money, again, more for them than for me. Even a job, forget a career because that, like my education, I would put on hold for them many times over, became another duty to perform. Many adoptees feel like all they do for their family is perform. That must be the case with me because I never felt like much of an actor, but I did feel like half my problem in getting and keeping a job was that being their adopted son was already a full-time job. I won't even get into all the time, energy and grief wasted on my mother and her obsession with farm animals and the fantasies in her head of being a veterinarian (which she wanted to be all her life and only went into nursing as a substitute for - essentially, she treated me like an animal because she wanted to see an animal more than a child), nor will I talk about the monumentous, one-man doing the work of several jobs my father conscripted me into for his own profit. That is an entire young, wasted life I would have to write about on top of the one I'm already writing about.

I will say of my father and his construction company, though, he always tried very hard, whenever possible to isolate me from the rest of his crew. He'd have me do entire jobs on my own, often completely unsupervised from the time I was about 14 onward, which obviously could have gotten me seriously injured or worse and which only did more to make me feel like a loner and an outcast. But I've come to believe that might not have been his intent. Because eventually I would get to know those other workers in spite of him, and I'd learn that not only did he throw me under the bus when talking about me, but not one of those people like it, or liked him, and for reasons that had nothing to do with me. They couldn't stand his personality any more than I could, and all of them eventually would quit and some would even start their own companies. So now I believe he was trying to, one, save his own reputation and, two, prevent me from networking so he could keep relying on me even when he had no one else. And that's exactly what he did. Half my motivation for staying put, aside from sheer necessity was also because I felt sorry for him, being naive enough early on to believe it must be just as he says, that none of these workers are honest or reliable and he has a hard time getting and keeping help because of that. So again, forget my life and my goals, my family needs me.

But I would find myself, once again, belittled and abandoned the moment I got sick or injured, fell on hard times myself, developed depression, or lost any loved on in my life who wasn't a direct and immediate connection to the family. If I fell, like when a horse falls, rather than try to help me back up, they stand on the sidelines yelling at me to get back up on my own and look for ways to put me down if I can't. So then would come the threats, and the abuse, and finally I would recover in spite of all that, and things would go back to "normal", for everyone but me because I would never, ever hear the end of it. I would have to carry the guilt of each and every time I fell, or even made a mistake, eternally, because like any primitive animal, I'm not capable of learning from experience, only from repeated pain and rote memorization.

The only reason I even feel the need to focus so much of my anger at them is because I've come to see they set me up for every bad job, every bad business dealing, every bad friendship and every bad living arrangement I would find myself in, and the worst part is the irony of it all. Every single one of those things came directly out of my own attempts to escape from them, and sent me back to them in the end when they went south. And again, I guilted myself for each and every one of those failures, even where it was clear that I could (and did) demonstrate the problems were not all my fault. The one good thing it did for me was make me see how much my family were like those people though. And when it became clear I had no loyalty to them that was not highly conditional, it started to become much easier to see my family in a similar light, assessing the risk to reward ratio of having anything to do with them. For what little they have done for me, kicking, screaming and dragging their heavy, gluttonous, overfed feed every half-step of the way, the price I pay is just not worth it.

One thing I never acknowledged until now, however, because I just could not see it, was that my biggest flaw was not the guilt, or even the perpetually self-sacrificing reptentance it brought out in me. It was that, like my mother, I believed I could fix everything, including other people. And like my father, I thought I could manipulate and even bully them into getting what I want, even if what I want is to cure them of whatever's wrong with them, that's making them an obstacle in my life. And that may actually be more selfish than altruistic, because I openly admit I never gave a damn about fixing anyone unless doing so seemed necessary for my own survival. But I also realize now why I only damned myself by doing that for so long. Clearly, I'm the one who wants change, who wants to be strong, independent and as close to genuinely good as he can become, and virtually all the rest want none of that, for themselves or for me. I want to give, they only want to take. I want to heal others, where others will settle for being pacified and having an outlet for their emotional problems and an inlet for their financial ones. I thought I had a duty to others, and I may, but it's only to those who realize they have a responsibility to me if they are going to entitle themselves to my responsibility in kind.

I have come to discover that I do have people in my life who are true friends, and while I may have no true family, even that could change. But I no longer see any hope in that adopted family or in those friends who are only friends when it's convenient for them. Being family, like being a friend, entails some hardship. Even lots of hardship. But friends and family know there is purpose in it, and that struggle, when shared and persevered through until the end only leads to stronger bonds and, inevitably, triumph. I've been isolated most of my life and have remained so because I remain close to those who isolate themselves in the name of greed, selfishness, pride and fantasy. Only a captain and the most stalwart of his crew need go down with the ship and since none of these people see me fit to be captain, and I damn sure would not accept them as members of any crew I had any say in commanding, then by all rights I should have abandoned ship long ago. They're going to sink with or without me, and I'm the only one who knows how to swim. I think I'll reach the shore much faster without them clinging to me in desperation, with one hand trying to hold my head under water and the other rooting for the change in my pockets.

How I Made It This Far Behind (critique requested)


This could have just as easily been a journal, but journals have a way of getting missed and buried. I don't want that to happen here. I want this to stick. Because it's about something I've felt needs to be written about more for a long time, adoption and its impact on the adopted. I found when I first started opening up about my experiences, that's when I began to discover who my friends truly are. Unfortunately, that wasn't because most of those friends were supportive, but because they were the exact opposite. They were downright hostile to me writing things like this. I think it's because they knew I was on the road to recovery, not specifically from that trauma but from the role they had cast me in and had come to depend on me playing for so long. Besides, I've been dying to use that typewriter graphic for something since it's one of the first things I ever did in Adobe (mix of Photoshop and Illustrator) but it's just too small and unimportant to use as a standalone art piece I think. My hope is it's not just people from within the site that will end up finding this and take something from it.

So, if you don't like what I have to say, well, I didn't have any say in how a lot of things went in my life either. Deal with it, and grow up, just like I'm trying to.

Submission Information

Literary / Other