Forgetting as an Act of Remembering

Getting Rid of Everything I Know so I Might Remember Who I Am: An Adoptee Is and As Arbitrary Borders, Personified

Ryan Jafar Artes

(USA)


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I do not have the luxury of forgetting who I am because I was not given the privilege of knowing who I was to be in the first place. In this way, I am not Indian though I am. I do not speak the language I have averaged and surmised to be my own, which is Bengali, though it was to have graced my tongue. I am not immersed within the culture that was to be mine though it is constantly and continuously projected onto me. I find myself in a homeland I have always considered to be my own, though no one around me ever has. I have no contextual understanding of who, what, where, when, why, and how I was to be. My lack of contextual understanding hurts so much sometimes. At other times it is liberating, to be unattached from everything I was to have known—at least, this is what I tell myself each time I cannot find the answers I am looking for in questions I have about my life.

I do not have the luxury of forgetting what I am because I was not given the privilege of knowing what I was to be in the first place. I found myself coming into consciousness in the second place I was to have been. Baltimore, Maryland, USA is the only homeland I have known, though everyone around me has always known I could not possibly be from hereapparent to me because of constant questions from those around me, particularly by people who are seeing and experiencing me for the first time ever. I was sold and purchased away from all that was to be mine before it might (n)ever become such.

I do not have the luxury of forgetting where I am because I was not given the privilege of knowing where I was to be in the first place. When I close my eyes, I am in India. Though I have never been there with my conscious mind, body, and emotions, I was there. I was there when I was in my mother’s womb, which was perhaps the only time we were a family, if we might have (n)ever been considered to be one. Do you consider a child you know you are going to sell to be your own? I want to ask my birth parents this question, though they have been completely erased from being within my reach. The little information I know about them, and my own beginnings, has been revealed to be marketing that was used to justify my purchase away from all that was to be mine, disguised as an illusion of a humanitarian act of adoption. I imagine how I listened to my father’s voice from within the safety of being inside of my mother. Within my imagination is the only place a memory of my father might (n)ever exist. 

I do not have the luxury of forgetting when I am because I was not given the privilege of knowing when I was to be in the first place. I travel between Baltimore and Calcutta, India which is now Kolkataif, when, and as I close and open my eyes, each and every time. I have inherited a life of exhaustion, constantly jetlagged from the journey of closing my eyes. Even a quick, innocent, and necessary blink might bring me eye to eye with a family member I have yet to meet in this lifetime, and with whom I might not reconnect until the afterlife. At least, I can only hope I might reconnect with them then and, when I do, that we will recognise each other. I already devise a plan to arrive in India one month before my death, so I might be buried, uncremated and unembalmed, allowing my body, mind, spirit, blood, and all other parts of myself the chance to reconnect with the land that was to hold me while I was living, and carry me back to my family. Longer rests, naps, and nights of sleep carry me deeply into my/self, where I interact with my family, speaking my language, understanding the cultural contexts and references surrounding me, immersed deeply within an understanding of the homeland that was to have been my own.

I do not have the luxury of forgetting why I am because I was not given the privilege of knowing why I was to be in the first place. I find deep meaning if, when, and as I look within. I do not want to lose a hold of my/self, because I am the only entity that has been able to hold myself in such ways as I should be held by my family, my language, my culture, and my homeland. I have been held by a version of each of these things, though none were to have been my own. I find myself pondering, wondering, and questioning how to leave a family, a language, a culture, and a homeland. The answer is that I already know how to do so, because I have been leaving a version of each of these things for the duration of my lifetime. In this way, I find myself making my/self away from all I have n(ever) known, so I might make my way back to that which I was to have (n)ever known. 

Along the way, I make mistakes and learn about myself. Along the way, I learn how one never leaves a family, a language, a culture, and/or a homeland. Along the way, I am constantly immersed in a version of each of these things, no matter where I am, even when I am alone, particularly and especially due to my active and rigorous internal dialogue and life, where I interact with and hold everything that was to have been my own, until it was not. My heritage, my lineage, my ancestry, and my legacy were all disrupted by a sale and purchaseof a child, who happened to be me.

I do not have the luxury of forgetting how I am because I was not given the privilege of knowing how I was to be in the first place. I am deeply human. I am deeply flawed. I am full of the capacity to fix my/self, and am taking the time, space, and energy to do so. I am deconstructing the limitations placed onto and into me. I am magic. My magic has been capitalised on and upon by those around me. I am moving on so I might reclaim all parts of my/self as my own and become whole.

I find myself asking myself, how might I forget who, what, where, when, why, and how I was to be in the first place. I find my/self living a li(f)e in which I leave everything behind, so I might become myself again.

I do not know who I am, and I know exactly who I am.
I do not know what I am, and I know exactly what I am.
I do not know where I am, and I know exactly where I am.
I do not know when I am, and I know exactly when I am.
I do not know why I am, and I know exactly why I am.
I know exactly how I am, and I have no clue how I am.

I have no clue how I have survived the lifetime I have lived, and yet I keep living it. The world is full of people who are working to make the world better and I am one of those people.

People are not meant to be contained, held, and bound by borders. Borders, like the ideas and ideals of individualism, and the notion of the independent human body, are arbitrary constructions. We are interdependent and codependent. We think we have to believe borders are real in the same way we think we have to believe money is real, and so we do. Here is a reminder that borders are not real, though we think we have to believe they are real, and so we do. Borders and money captivate our imaginations. The more real we believe borders and money to be, the more real they become. Borders and money contain, hold, bind, and captivate our attention. 

Borders and money were used to justify the deconstruction of my life. I have paid the ultimate tax, which is of my family, my language, my culture, and my homeland. As I examine my life outside of the context of all I have (n)ever known, I see, hear, feel, and experience the lies I have believed about myself and my origins, instilled and upheld by all cultural forces around me. As my perspective shifts, my beginnings disappear. I realise the photo in my childhood passport from India is not of me. I do not have any other photos of myself as an infant, with which I might compare and contrast my passport photo, so I might accurately confirm whether or not the photo is or is not of me. I cannot accurately deny or confirm who I am. However, since I have become conscious, I have always recognised myself as, and to be, who I am, whenever I look at myself. I know my passport photo is not of me. And, as I become stronger and stronger, my beginnings disappear more and more, revealed for the lies they are. 

My body, mind, emotions, and spirit are proof that borders do not exist. I experience my body, mind, emotions, and spirit differently than I am told to believe I experience them, which is not at all. 

I no longer believe in borders and money. I encourage you, dear reader, to do the same. Though we may still be subject and subjected to the structures and systems of life, (un)civilisation, and money, we do not have to be. We could all sit down, rest, and visit the places where we are all indigenous; from where we have been taken. Though none of us may know the way home, or even where home is, I know how to find the way back, which is to sit down, rest, and look within.

Ryan Jafar Artes

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

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