Saturday, July 17, 2021

There's No Place Like Home Fundraiser

Just recently, on June 17, The Newest Flower was featured alongside several other books by Maine authors to fundraise for the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers, which also happens to be the organization receiving all the book's profits. 

The event, There's No Place Like Home, by the end, raised nearly $30,000! With this money, the Maine Children's Home will continue their impact in the surrounding communities and programs, including their various efforts in the adoption and foster care systems. 

Once again, in my mailbox, I received another lovely thank you note, and I wished to share and extend the thanks you readers as well. Many of you have watched and supported this book's journey, and I hope each of you realize the effects of your contributions. 


If you are interested in learning more about the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers and its mission, visit their site at https://www.mainechildrenshome.org.

Friday, June 4, 2021

In My Mailbox

Recently, I was given the opportunity to share my book The Newest Flower to a lovely 2nd grade class through Zoom. To my surprise, in my mailbox barely a week later, were several lovely thank you letters that I thought I’d share, in hopes that they make you smile as much as they did me.


Some excerpts:

”Thank you for telling us about adoption.”

”Thank you for sharing your message [and] reading to us.”

”Thank you for raising $ [money] to help those in need”

”Thank you for putting extra fun in with the find the creatures challenge.”

These type of responses, along with educating our future generation about loving each other regardless of appearance, is my favorite part of being an author, and I thank each of you readers for allowing me this type of platform.

P.S. If you are interested in arranging a speaking engagement with me, feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form to get in touch!

Friday, May 7, 2021

"I Am What Happens Next"

Titles, while important and useful, have a sense of permanency, as if once they are there, the subject incapable of being changed. But as a writer, I know that a single word cannot define anything completely, so titles, in their simplest form, are merely structures to what has already been developed.

However, throughout time, this has been reversed. Suddenly titles aren’t something that describe who we are, but instead, they define who we are. In the adoption community, this truth is even more evident. Here, it is easy to see that adoptee is not just a characteristic, but has become a part of personality.

This seven letter word, adoptee, supplies the gaps left by answers unreachable, parents not present, and the hurt held onto. For an adopted person, this word is a shield used to cover up the missing pieces they see in their life. Except, along the way, this shield has morphed into a prison. And the saddest part is that they have the keys to unlock it, if only they realize what lays beyond.

What lies beyond is not a life where adoption doesn’t play a key, because as long as they live, adoption will be an aspect of life - a part of their story. But, if brave enough to unlock the prison door, this title adoptee will no longer have the ability to dictate control over life.

So dear reader, if this applies to your life, let me be your guide. As I tell my story, I hope you grip your key and take the step to unlock your prison.

My journey brings us back to the origin place, where in the past, the hurt began to manifest and seep into my identity. This is the point where the “adoptee complex” truly begins. For me, this is in what I suppose to be a slightly overpopulated outdoor waiting area of the local hospital. Around are the rise and fall of citizens conversing in Mandarin, everyone coming and going just as do the conversations. This is the city of Guangzhou, and this is where life as I know it began. And this is where I must return to.

Sitting in one of the colored chairs is a younger version of myself. However, she is not the six week old infant that would match this setting. Instead, I am faced by a toddler, about three years in age, the version of me who is about to be adopted. My hurt, something I protected with the shield of adoptee, stems from the setting. But my complex stems from what is about to take place for the toddler version of myself. Both of these elements are equally important, and both need to be reconciled with.

“What happens to us next?” No longer is the toddler alone, but instead, she’s gesturing at a small wrapped baby who lies on the hard chair, seeking medical attention. Along the way, this small child has become the protector for the helpless baby, and right now, the shield protecting them is the title orphan.

But they don’t need a shield, and you don’t need a shield that will eventually morph into a prison. Instead, it is your job to face your younger self, who represents your first shield you used against the hurt, and speak the truth.

So to me, I must look at my younger self and answer her question to the best of my ability, to ease her and subsequently, free myself.

“I am what happens next.”

For all my imperfections, for every mistake I have made and will make, every aspect of my life, including but not limited to my adoption, is what happens next, and while it’s not perfect, I look at how far I’ve come since I was a three year old. Look at all that and ask, “Do I need my former self trying in vain to define what happens next when she doesn’t even know who I’ve become?”

I hope your answer is no, and I hope that you have the ability to be completely honest with yourself. By reflecting and speaking these truths until you believe them, if you are in a prison, you have the key and the courage to step out of it.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Fueling Misperceptions

According to the U.S. Census, only 1.3% of Maine’s population is of Asian ethnicity. If these statistics are compared to the 1.3 million people who live in the state, that means that there’s only about 17,000 Asian people in Maine, which sounds large, but it really is not. Due to the large percentage of this group that reside in the inner cities, many people I know, who live more rurally, have met very few Asians in their lives.

To me, this poses a very startling realization. In the circle of people I know, which is admittedly small, I might be the only Asian person they’ve ever really known. And while this does not seem particularly profound in itself, I daresay it is. Because of my singularity, I hold a responsibility to represent my culture, and possibly, influence the way which it is perceived.

For example, I, a Chinese American teenager, have struggled with acne in the past. However, one might look at me, notice that I am of Asian descent, and assume that is a trait of the majority of Asians, without further knowledge or research. This particular assumption is for the most part harmless. It is a deduction based on unverified facts and what this person has observed. However, sometimes these assumptions are not just about acne. Sometimes these assumptions are spread to the entirety of an ethnic group, causing hurt and misunderstanding.

This is important for us to realize because the way we act has the ability to fuel or dispel such perceptions.

You see, when we interact with people, especially those who don’t know us as well, we are not just representing ourselves. In these situations, our behaviors are the representation of our cultural group, ethnicity, etc. Why is this? Each person, thing, or experience influences one’s perceptions of the world, and for us who are “minorities,” we not only affect how they view us, but also, how they see all of our ethnicity as a whole.

And while every person should live with a mindset of responsibility and hold themselves with integrity, I feel that for those belonging to a minority, this truth is even more so applicable.

Truthfully, whether people care to admit or not, we, as humans, group people together by any factor that can possibly be compartmentalized. This, for better or worse, applies heavily to aspects such as ethnicities, especially ones that are foreign to us.

Is this about forming unfair, unjust perceptions? Yes. Does prejudice play a major role? Also yes. However, this is not a matter of them, we cannot control them and trying to do so will only spark anger and division. Rather, this is a matter of you and me. Whether we like it not, our actions and behaviors can and will affect the perceptions of others.

The responsibility we hold has the power for radical change, in both us and others. In our actions, our speech, and our relationships, we can be the embodiment of millions before and around us, and this is a power both motivating and potentially dangerous.

My intention is not to intimidate but rather to inform and, hopefully, encourage change in each of you, regardless of your ethnicity. I urge you to reflect on yourself and ask, “Who do I represent? As a representative, how am I portraying them? Are my actions doing their part to positively present the bigger culture I belong to, or are my actions able to fuel misperceptions?”

Monday, January 4, 2021

Letting Go

Here’s the thing about death: there’s a certain amount of finality to it. But there’s also another type of grief, sometimes more complicated than the grief that death carries. This is the grief of a person who is still alive. And yet, this type of loss is something we can face multiple times in life. So why exactly is this experience, the act of letting go, so hard to bear? How do we get through this?

The first question is easier to answer than the second. Why is it so hard to let someone go who is still alive? Oftentimes, this is so hard because we have the knowledge that they are still alive. And we, as hopeful creatures, hold onto them because we know it’s still possible that they will return to us. Logic only goes so far, and when we are in an emotional state of turmoil, we have a higher chance of entertaining hopeful fantasies. These, however, can sometimes be the root of our inability to let go.

Now, I’d like to be clear. I do not mean that we should stop being hopeful. Instead, I would like to differentiate hope and hopeful fantasies, two very different ideas with drastically different effects.

Hope is gentle; it is warm. This is the feeling that envelops us in the dark and provides a light. Like an invisible companion, hope keeps us focused on the light in front of us instead of the dark.

On the other hand, hopeful fantasies are as simple as this: still fantasies. Made up by our idealistic minds, these daydreams immerse us. When we dive into these figments of reality, we play with emotional fire. With our minds as the ultimate author, we can create a world where the hurt didn't happen, where the darkness is convenient. And this is a dangerous state to be trapped in.

I’m writing this post because I’ve had a hard time with this lesson. In fact, I’ve been struggling with it for almost four years. In sixth grade, I had a friendship breakup, and I just recently was able to let go of the hurt, and subsequently, the person.

Why was I unable to let her go? There are two big reasons:

  • My identity was not strong at this point, and I allowed her to become part of my identity
  • I knew logically she was gone, but I comforted myself with an unhealthy coping mechanism of hopeful fantasizing.

These two factors largely played into my struggle. As I stated, my confidence was, well, in a word, not matured. Unlike today, I relied on my friend as my “friendship spine” instead of making my own definition of friendship. In doing this, I allowed myself to be morphed into something I couldn’t hold together without her. This dependency wasn't healthy and limited my growth.

The other factor was that of my fantasies. I got twisted into a world where we were still friends, where she was still a part of my life, and the fallout hadn’t happened. And this held me back a great deal.

I knew these were unhealthy, so why exactly did I keep coming back to them? The answer is simple: this fantasy world was very attractive to a lonely person. They submerged me into a tangle of webs, so deep down, that I could not find the end of the rope. Our minds, the most powerful part of who we are, then provides us with these fantastical escapes. And because of this, I continued to flirt with the unhealthy attachment.

So, I had to let go of these worlds. And I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t easy. Sometimes, I would fall back into these patterns. But today, I can look from the shore and see how far I’ve come. Because during this time of “letting go,” I have not only found closure but also a clearer definition of what is healthy in a friendship.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Paradox

Observe the world around you--
How narrow is your view?
Each and every taken breath
Is traded for another’s death.

In battle a soldier dies--
Just so his country will rise.
The joy of a baby is born;
A person succumbs as others mourn.

A random shooting occurred,
Nearby, a disease just cured,
Around the world a girl is bought,
While a couple ties the knot.

Just as life gives, it takes.
For every joy there befall aches,
But hold to hope my friend,
Jesus is coming; there will be an end.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Nameless

Have you ever watched The Force Awakens? Episode Seven is all about the rising up of new heroes within the Star Wars Universe. One of them is a runaway stormtrooper, a classic bad guy turned good. During the movie, he goes from a soldier known simply as FN-2187 to Finn; someone who assisted their small group in the endeavor to take down the controlling First Order.

From that point on, we fail to see Finn as a stormtrooper, a weapon of war. He’s not one of them, a nameless soldier taught to follow orders from birth. Instead, we see him grow as a character. By the end of the movie, we’re rooting for him. We witness a dramatic change; he goes from being known as FN-2187 to Finn, who helped save the Resistance.

Personally, I’ve noticed that my viewpoint changes when I know the person’s name. Suddenly, instead of looking at an army of stormtroopers and thinking that they are all inherently evil, we’re left wondering how many Finns are in that mass? How many people are like Finn, trapped behind a mask they have never been able to separate from themselves?

Just like in the Star Wars Universe, we have stormtroopers on this earth. However, these people don’t wear physical masks (COVID doesn’t count), but the mental masks we put over their faces.

I’m talking about the millions of orphans worldwide. I’m talking about the thousands of babies that get aborted each year. I’m talking about the millions of kids who are labeled with trauma or a learning disorder, and then, they are never given another regard.

Now, please picture me. Most of you, who are reading this, have at least an idea of who I am and have read some of what’s in my heart. Let’s go back back to an orphanage in Southern China in 2006. It’s more crowded than it should be. Wails of anguish and abandonment fill the empty spaces. Do you see all the children surrounding you? Now, look at me; do you see me there in the crib?

It’s easy to picture me because you, the reader, know me. But it’s harder to picture me in an orphanage, isn’t it? Because I’m not one of these nameless orphans, I’m Juliese Padgett, someone whose heart you have had the opportunity to see. I bet you can’t see me the same way you see those other kids in the orphanage. Wait, there were others?

How many of those kids around me had the potential to help other children like them? How many could have grown up and changed the world in their own special way? How many of them got that chance?

Does this change the way you picture them? It changes my perspective because those kids were my companions in the orphanage. We might not have had a personal relationship, but we were siblings in our own way. I might never be able to see their faces or have a personal relationship with them, but I know they are far from nameless.

The takeaway of this post is this: Don’t just picture the mass. Take time to see the reality: there are millions of individuals; each has a face, emotions, and a name. It's easy to see a statistic but harder to see a person. When we remove the masks that we have placed on specific groups of people, we change. And, with this new perspective, we are given the chance to love people, to be mentors, and to become family. But ultimately, this will never happen if we see these masses as nameless.