I remember the day I arrived from India to meet my new adopted family. My four siblings, all younger than ten, laughed at me because they could see my underwear. I was a scared three-year-old, kicking and screaming as the agent handed me over to my new parents like a secret package being exchanged between two people.
With time I became part of the family, a member who contributed to our evening dinner conversations, who exchanged gifts on Christmas and birthdays, who wriggled uncomfortably in the back seats on endless cross-country road trips. I seamlessly integrated myself into my family, established my role as daddy’s “little girl,” one of the responsible and organized leaders among the five of us kids, and the one everyone teased. I was a Naslund.
Yet being a Naslund confused me. Friends, relatives, and strangers asked me if I wanted to search for my biological parents. The question still goes unanswered; each time I only respond with, “I don’t know,” as the emotions thunder through my body. Part of me is afraid to step into that part of my past, but I am also intrigued by my unknown history.
Middle and high school challenged me. I wanted nothing more than to be like everyone else, but I could not get away from my past, or neglect my Indian heritage. I questioned the person I wanted to be, another “all-American” girl or a proud Indian-American. The days and months rolled on.
I fought with my mom and hated her for hiding the only pictures of my infancy and toddler years from me. How could she keep that information to herself? It wasn’t even her information, it was mine! This incident, along with my poor reading and writing skills, was the source of our many arguments. Then upon my mom’s insistence, I went to India for a “get in touch with your roots” trip. It worked, I definitely explored my heritage, but it also left me doubting myself and my family. Did I really belong with this family? What if I hadn’t been adopted? Do they really love me? I feel like an outsider.
At twenty-three, I still hear that question and the same emotions slither beneath my skin. Sometimes I question what my life would have been like had I not been adopted. I still question because I am curious, but now I absolutely know that I am a part of my family.
Sometimes I am the caretaker for my two siblings with special needs, other times I am the chef who makes family dinners, and often I am the comic relief during family gatherings. I do not question the six people who made me a part of their family that August of 1996, and who helped me become a Naslund.
My personal story will follow me and continue to challenge me, but I have a choice to make every day: face the day with grace and pride or let the fears of my unknown past consume me.
Do I embrace the howling winds whipping my hair across my face and the rain pelting against my skin? Do I learn and grow from the experiences? Or do I turn around and return to the comfort I know, leaving behind an opportunity for personal discovery?
Currently, I have no intention of trying to find my biological family. But I do want to return to India again for an extended time, so I can learn more about its culture, about its people, about my people.
This month’s stories explore the personal challenges we encounter in our minds and bodies, in foreign places, and in the moments when the world as we knew it changes before us. While you read through this issue, reflect on your own experiences—how did they affect you and shape you?
I hope you find the strength in yourself to embrace your own storms.
Photo used with copyright permission.
Kalindi Naslund is a multi-local Spanish teacher, traveler, home chef, reader, and freelance writer. She currently lives in Catalonia, Spain where she teaches students English and takes Catalan classes. While she’s not busy in the classroom teaching or learning, she explores the Catalonian region, makes frequent visits to Barcelona, and travels around Europe.