ESSAY: #23 and me
Story and Photos | Jordan Crouch
The TSA agent chuckles as he reads my name, “You hoop with a name like this?” I smile back and think of my childhood. I used to hate being referenced to Michael Jordan. I shrug. “Born in ’91? Why else would this be my name?”
I made this up. Throughout my life, I made up a lot of stories trying to make sense of who I am. For most, our birth story isn’t a defining piece of who we are. In 1991, on MLK Day, my biological mother was in a University of New Mexico dorm room shower. Alone, she gave birth to me. I found this out at the age of 24.
Prior to this revelation, my narrative came to terms with an assumption that she already had enough kids to stretch the little income she had. She wrapped me up and sent me to Indiana. There wasn’t any resentment, or frustration or feeling of abandonment, much thanks to my parents for giving me a loving home to grow up in. I thought my birth story ended in 1991.
I was 3-months-old when I was adopted. There are so many types and unique circumstances for adoption. Ultimately, each person feels a distinctive way about their experience.
While growing up, I struggled to process what I was feeling. But in forming an identity, I attempted to fill in some gaps, inadvertently hiding some of the best parts of me. It wasn’t that my parents weren’t open about my adoption. It was the opposite. I always knew. So comfortable with the whole concept, I didn’t even think to ask about my birth story until I was planning a road trip to New Mexico.
In an attempt of self-awareness, I had the magical idea to stand on the ground where my soul entered this world. My mom told me the birth story and said, “then I think your biological mother moved to Chicago to become a curator.” Instantly, the world made so much more sense. I can’t explain how this story made more sense to me than the one I created but with this piece of knowledge, I felt more like myself.
Despite numerous studies finding how a mother’s stress or early life experiences can influence an adoptee’s mental health throughout life, I never correlated my mental health with adoption. Loss of identity can occur when we try to make sense of who we are without knowing our biological roots. Filling in the gaps of my story, along with continual discovery in therapy, has had a life changing impact, especially regarding my sense of self.
Last year, my biological grandmother reached out. Again, I felt some of those little gaps, voids I filled in with my own made up narrative, suddenly filled- making much more sense. I felt like I made much more sense.
In taking the time to reflect, make sense of, and get to know our truths better, we can feel more like ourselves. Discovering who I am is ever evolving.
I discovered I was named ‘Jordan’ because it was an unconventional female name at the time. Again, another fragment affirming my truest self. And, yes, also because of Michael Jordan.