Chapter 9: The Paper Chase

Rudy Owens’ memoir on the American adoption experience

© 2017 Rudy Owens.  All rights reserved.

To this day, the most rewarding act of my life has been finding out who I am. It was the inherently natural and right thing to do, despite the very real costs to my career, resources, and family relations. It made me a better person. It confirmed who I was in the universe. It gave me the grit I needed in so many other moments in my life. It taught me valuable lessons how systems operate and how prejudice works in overt and subtle ways. It taught me never to accept “no” when you pursue the right and just path. It also felt like a mythical journey, complete with setbacks, strong and defiant adversaries, successes, and meaningful personal change. I ended the trip as a different person. I believe I had become a better human being, as well as someone more whole.

On the darkest days, I turned to inspirational stories that gave me the strength I needed to complete my journey. They were two of humanity’s greatest myths that stayed with me from childhood. To me, they felt like ancient warriors’ tales, told around a campfire to motivate those weary of battle. Those voices from a distant past assured me I had embarked on an epic and mythical adventure, as described by Joseph Campbell’s classic treatise The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I took these words to heart. I recognized from the start I had undertaken a hero’s quest.

From the earliest days I could read, I adored Le Morte d’Arthur—the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. King Arthur, like millions of American adoptees since the 1950s, never knew his true identity growing up. In truth, he was a bastard king raised as a foster son, not knowing his ancestry. With the help of the wizard Merlin at a gathering of knights, he pulls out the sword Excalibur from a rock and recognizes his royal and true lineage. Being raised a Christian, I long knew of the tale of Moses, the Bible’s most famous adoptee, whose exploits are found in Book of Exodus. Like many adoptees, Moses realizes late in his life he is not who he believes himself to be. Moses discovers as a man that he is not biologically related to the god-like pharaohs and instead is born of the slaves, the Jews, whom he leads from slavery, to exile, and to freedom.

As I embarked on my own hero’s journey of self-discovery, I told myself I would be like them. I naively or optimistically thought I too might have something noble in my past, like Arthur. I would defy stubborn authority and convention and complete the journey out of the wilderness, like Moses. These thoughts I mostly kept to myself. People likely would have laughed at me had I compared myself to a religious prophet of Judaism, Islam and Christianity and a legendary king of Medieval England known worldwide. From these universal tales I found hope, when everyone around me questioned my journey. With these stories as my northern star, I never once questioned my quest.

Having a star to guide you, however, is never enough to challenge powerful adversaries. A warrior entering into this battle must have strong armor, to withstand an enemy’s blows and also the silent daggers from those who one considers allies and friends. Patience and resolve are equally important weapons in one’s arsenal. No search ever happens quickly. For some, searches take decades. Knowledge of one’s adversaries is also equally important before entering into this arena. One should never underestimate one’s foe, particularly those who spend their lives defending ideas that are, at their core, morally wrong. I speak metaphorically, as one might for any worthwhile and difficult pursuit. In my case, my opponents’ tenacity surprised me the most. They were the hardest obstacles to overcome. But I used the tools of a trickster. I simply found a way around my foes and into the fortress, through a backdoor even they could not control. In the end, I outfoxed them.

Return to Chapter 8: Who Am ?

Read More: Chapter 10: Flying to Detroit