I was two when it happened. There was a volcano, the rain came, and the mudslide. Destroying everything in its path, my family included. Who knew everything could be taken away from you at such a young age; I never got to know my parents. I don’t even know if I had siblings. I don’t know anything about my family, but they did leave their mark on me. As for how I survived, well, it was a miracle.
My name is Julia Peterson. Or at least, that’s my adopted name. My real name is Julia Maria. Well, Maria is my middle name. I have a hard time saying my true last name. I’m from a small village in Guatemala. Well, I assume it was small, the mudslide wiped out such a large part of the country, and I don’t actually know where exactly I’m from. I’ve struggled with my adoption all my life and now I’m finally ready to talk about it.
I was four when I was adopted, —into a family that already had four biological girls. My father always wanted a boy, but I guess I was too cute to pass up. My earliest memory was when I was six. I asked my mom “Why do I look different than you?” Then she explained it. At first my little mind thought, “Why didn’t my real mommy and daddy want me?”
They didn’t fully explain what happened to my parents until I was eight. I was sitting on my couch, and I asked my mother. “Will I ever get to meet my real mom and dad?” With tears in her eyes, she explained. “Your mom and dad died when you were two. That’s why you were put up for adoption.” I was heartbroken. I would never truly find out who I was.
When I was ten I started imagining what my real parents would look like. Did I have my mom’s black hair? Does my dad have soft dark eyes? What about my birthmark, this mark they gave me? Did my mom or dad have one too? Something that sets us apart, proves that I am their daughter?
People act like I don’t see it. Their glares, and how they stare at me as I walk past. They don’t look at me, but at the birthmark on my forehead. I get lots of questions, “what’s that? How did you get that? Is it a bruise?” I kindly explained at first, but soon I just walked away. This part of me, my family, my culture, was suddenly looked at as a flaw. Even my adoptive family commented about it, at first I thought it was a joke until it suddenly started tearing me apart from the inside out. These people that I trusted and loved for so long had turned into everyone else.
I was thirteen when I started to cover up my birthmark. My parents didn’t agree with it, but they drove me to get make up. I had to pay for it. I thought I would escape the glares, and the teasing, but running from it only made it worse. By covering it up, people saw that their words were getting to me. I was letting them win, and their words escalated to pushing me in the hallway, and throwing water at me to wash off my makeup.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “she should’ve told someone. That’s what adults are for, to talk to about the bullying.” But that never actually works. You see, it fixes it for the rest of the day. But by the next day, they’ve already thought of new nicknames and insults to spit at me. Of course, thirteen-year-old me thought they were right. Thought that if I never told anyone, no one would see me as less.
I struggled for a long time. It wasn’t until I found a good group of friends that I started to feel accepted for me rather than pitied because I was different. I finally had people I could talk to, who would help me through all of my struggles and be true friends to me. I finally had a family. I’ve opened up to them a lot about being afraid of people looking at me differently. Seeing me as weak. But, I realize now, that standing up for myself, shows I am strong.
I am sixteen now. I am open to sharing my story. I am adopted. I have an adoptive mom, and father, and I have four loving sisters. As you may have noticed, I have a piece of my biological parents and my background with me always, —reminding me that I am strong. I no longer see it as a flaw, but rather, natural beauty gifted to me from my past. I am not ashamed anymore. My name is Julia Maria. I am from Guatemala, I was adopted when I was four. And because of this I am who I am today.
Julia lives in a small town in the Midwest, but once lived in Guatemala. “Being adopted was one of the best things that could happen to me, although there were times in my life where I really just wanted to live in my home country. My parents died when I was two, and it’s been a very huge obstacle I’ve been working through for many years. I write to get my feelings out. I write because I can get so lost into the words. It’s the best feeling. It’s what I call home.”