After traveling for four weeks with an old friend from back home, I am now in my little apartment along the Adriatic Coast. My companion has returned to Oregon. I have a little less than a week before more friends arrive from home so I can show them the glories of Italy
With this time to myself, I’ve found my mind wandering. Wandering and pondering.
I’ve commented about the difficulty I’m having in getting any writing done regarding the partner book for This is My Lemonade. I had finally decided that I wouldn’t try to force myself to write while still here in Italy. I reckoned that I would be better able to write once I return to Oregon and have the luxury of distance to consider this tremendous expatriate experience I will have had for twelve months.
It was during one of these hot, languid Italian days that I reached yet another epiphany. I was standing in the Adriatic in chest-deep water. The water closest to the shore is actually warmer than bath water and, hence, not terribly refreshing. With the sun beating on my bare chest and back I decided to wade further out to cool off.
As I stood in the water, waves lapping at my shoulders, I peered out into the distance. Dubrovnik was out there somewhere and I had been unable to visit which had been disappointing.
Yet, as my mind wandered and I free-associated, I came to the above-mentioned realization. I would not write my second book. At least not now. This experimental experience, this effort to connect with my biological identity in Italy and Eastern Europe, has resulted in a decision. It’s over.
I have found that I am sated. Content. Confident. I don’t need to write another book. The motivation isn’t there. I came. I saw. I conquered.
What did I conquer? I conquered an insatiable thirst for knowledge, more knowledge and yet more knowledge. Over the years, nothing ever seemed to be enough. I had found my biological father and brother. I was given voluminous information about my birth mother, whom I never knew. I have letters, photos, videos. I met my birth father’s family in Italy and established a relationship with them. I wrote and published a book about my journey. I quit my job and moved to Italy.
And, four months ago I traveled to Poland and Ukraine to research my birth mother’s side of the family. In doing so, I found a ready-made family that embraced me when they heard I was looking for them. Before they even met me.
When I look at all of this in words, it seems like a lot to experience and consider. Yet I don’t see it to be a lot even though everyone else does. However, after this experience in Ukraine, I find that I am complete. This journey of searching, seeking, obsessing has ended. It was not what I was expecting. Indeed, by trying to force the writing aspect of it, I was trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. The book isn’t there. At least not now.
Instead, I find that my journey has ended. I’ve been told “the journey is the goal” and if that is the case, I’ve reached my goal. I suppose one of the marks of maturity is accepting that something is over rather than trying to keep it going.
What will that mean for me? For thirty-eight years, adoption and genealogy have been a defining characteristic of my life. Scores of people have been fascinated by my story resulting in a published book. Hundreds of copies were sold. Several thousand more were downloaded during a giveaway. News articles, radio interviews, web essays, a worldwide podcast all resulted. Now I have stopped in my tracks.
This journey has defined me for so many years. For so many decades. What is next? In 1977 did I get off the rails somehow by relentlessly following this path or was it my destiny? Either way, what path do I follow now? As a fifty-six-year-old man, I still have a lot of life and vigor left inside me and a lot to contribute. Where should those energies be directed now?
Obviously, I have to find work and a place to live when I return to Oregon. I’m not intimidated and I’m not worried. Something has happened inside me that I cannot quite articulate. I still have three months here in Europe. I will be hooking up with friends, returning to Ukraine, spending time with my family and traveling to Cairo and Liverpool. Maybe Switzerland.
But there is a peace that has descended on my psyche that has me confident and content. As a believer, I think I was offered this opportunity to fulfill this part of my destiny on this earth. For what reason, I still don’t know. But I did it. I saw an opportunity and could have dismissed it. I took the plunge with images of what the results might be. Instead, I got more than I bargained for and I am better off for it.
It doesn’t mean I still won’t have ruminations and observations. But it does mean that they will be the result of a certain emotional distance as I digest the past thirty-eight years.
I feel free.