This has been something I have wanted to write for a long time. I have been trying to put my thoughts together on paper for some time, yet nothing seemed to fully express my feelings. To be fair, it is my own fault for not being as articulate as I could have been. I wrote something years ago addressed to Ms. Vargas expressing my anger towards her, how I hated her for hurting me the way she did all those years ago. I tried to show the depths of my pain and the scars left behind as a result of her actions, and yet I look back at it and I am embarrassed by that writing. I wrote another piece addressed to Ms. Vargas a year ago where I expressed my thanks to her. I said thank you for hurting me because that pain made me a better person. It stuck with me for years into adulthood and has made me a better man. This piece embarasses me too. Both of them held some truth but neither fully showed how I felt, how I feel or how I will feel. Ms. Vargas’ choice on October 29 1997 changed my entire life. Her choice gave me hope, it gave me life, it gave me happiness, it gave me every joy I have ever experienced. It also gave me despair, a fear of abandonment, and every pain I have ever experienced. Ms. Vargas’ choice opened a door of opportunities for me, for all intents and purposes she saved my life. Along with this door Ms. Vargas opened all those years ago, she opened up something else. She opened a hole in my heart, a hole I have tried all my life to fill, only now as I begin to enter the next phase of my adulthood do I realize it is a hole that will never be filled. No matter how hard I try, and Lord knows I’ve tried.

My name is Jean Michael Kraft, but this wasn’t always my name. I was born without a name, for several days I was just a baby with a date 10/29/1997. Although the details surrounding my birth and the events following it are murky and not really known except by some of the people in the room, I do know some things. For one thing, Ms. Vargas had a plan. She had a fake ID made so that when she gave birth it would be impossible to track her down. She came into the hospital, birthed me, and let the nurses take me away. After that she left. She just left me there and vanished like smoke, after that day Ms. Vargas never looked at me again. Soon after I was turned over to a small orphanage in the mountains of Caracas, Venezuela. It was there I received my first name. Sebastian Vargas. To my knowledge the Sebastian part came from Sebastian Rulli, an actor who appeared in many different Telenovelas and who was beloved by the caretakers at the orphanage. The Vargas part, I’m not sure, I don’t remember, I think that actually came from my mother’s name. The one on her fake ID that is. That’s why I call her Ms. Vargas, because that’s the only thing close to a name I have for her. I doubt she could ever even imagine the life I would lead as a result of her choice.

I was adopted by two great parents who took me around the world. I lived in eight countries across five continents by the time I was 18 years old, and visited dozens more. I learned four languages fluently by the time I was 20. I had the opportunity to be a big brother to an amazing little sister. I am attending university in Hawaii, I’m marrying my best friend. My life on paper has been a 10/10, nothing really there to complain about, and still I am left with an unfillable hole in my heart.

I always knew I was adopted. My parents never hid that from me, and they also never made a distinction of “my real parents,” and them, my “adoptive parents,” Bruce and Yolanda Kraft were simply my parents and that was that. I love them and always will, they are my mother and father and nothing will ever change that. Still, growing up knowing that the woman who birthed me gave me up the way she did, it did not bring about a ton of very positive feelings I’ll tell you that. As a child, knowing that your mother took one look at you and said “Yeah, nah I’m good,” oh boy that hurts something fierce. Can you imagine the pain and confusion that realization brings a ten year-old? I’ll tell you, it’s a lot of pain. More than anything it’s a confusing kind of pain, you don’t know what you did for your mother to not want you. You wonder if there is anything you could have done better, “Could I have been cuter? Should I have cried less? Maybe if I looked deeper into my mother’s eyes she would have loved me.”

Little Michael with a bottle of milk at preschool
Little Michael with a bottle of milk at preschool

Then you feel immense guilt for wishing you had not been given up because you have been surrounded by an amazing family for just about your entire life. You wish at least your mother had left something for you, a way to understand her decision, a letter, or a name, a way to find her so you could get closure, but no such thing exists. There will never be closure. You wonder about your father. Who was this mysterious person? Did he know? Did he love your mother? Was it a one night stand? Was he a good man? Or were you the result of sexual violence? The mind of a ten year old wonders these things and more, there was no way to not wonder these things, my mind simply wondered. It still does. At the end of the day no amount of wondering will change anything. Nor do I want anything changed. My life has been remarkable, I have been blessed with great joys, and great pains, but I would not give a second of my life up or change it to know about Ms. Vargas. She birthed me and left me, she abandoned me, as such I refuse to allow her to torment my mind with all these unanswered questions.

People have always told me to be grateful for her, and I mean yeah, I’m grateful. I’m grateful she abandoned me, I’m grateful she carried me to term, I’m grateful for the life I’ve lived as a result of her choice, that doesn’t mean I’m overcome with joyous gratitude when I think of her though. I was told my entire life “Oh she gave you up so you could have a better life, it was all for you, it was always about what’s best for you.” I tried my entire life to believe that, thinking it would help me plug up my heart. When I was 14 I was prescribed Concerta for my ADHD, and the psychiatrist I spoke to asked me about my adoption and how I felt about it. I told him I was conflicted, and I knew I should be grateful, but I struggled to have any positive feelings in regards to Ms. Vargas. He told me he knew throughout my entire life I must have been told “It’s for the best and she did what she had to do,” he also said “I know you think that’s all bullshit.” This was the first time anyone gave me permission to feel anything other than gratitude. It was powerful. For the first time I didn’t have to pretend to be happy that I was rejected as an infant. For the first time I could be honest with myself and say “yeah, you know what, it is total bullshit.” Then, years later I received confirmation that my diagnosis of Ms. Vargas giving me up was in fact, bullshit. One of my closest friends found himself in a position where he was going to be a father, he had sex with someone at a party and two months later she told him he was the father. He wanted her to do what Ms. Vargas did, to give the child up. He said he couldn’t be a father and wanted nothing to do with the child, and the mother said the same thing. That was when I finally understood. It wasn’t for me that Ms. Vargas did what she did. It was for her. It was always for her. She decided she couldn’t do it, and wouldn’t do it. So she decided to give me up at her earliest convenience. The only gratitude I have is for the life I have been allowed to leave as a result of her choice, however I will no longer pretend Ms. Vargas’ choice was an altruistic one full of agony and heartbreak. She did what was best for her, my happiness and future was simply an afterthought to her. If I lived a long happy healthy life, great, if not, who cares.

Throughout my life the most consistent feeling I had towards Ms. Vargas was anger. I knew I was grateful to not have grown up in poverty in Venezuela because odds are I’d have lived an incredibly difficult life and could easily be dead by now. My life could have been cut short by the violence that rages in my birth country, or I would have starved due to the food shortages or grown up in the margins of a country growing poorer and more desperate by the day. All I know is it would have been an incredibly bleak life, especially in comparison to the life I’ve been so fortunate to have lived. Still though, my anger towards Ms. Vargas is very much alive and well. I do not know if a day will come where I do not feel anger towards her. She did what she needed to do, and it has blessed me immensely. There is no denying that fact. What makes it all the more frustrating is that I get it. I know it must have been so hard, I hope it was at least. It better have been the hardest thing she ever did. I know she did what she thought was best, and seriously I hit the jackpot with my parents and family. It’s a curious thing because even with all of this knowledge and understanding, I still am angry towards her. I love her for what she did, she gave me my life. And yet I hate her for what she did, she opened this hole in my heart, and I can’t fix it.

I plan to adopt. This is because as an adopted person, I know what it feels like to know you were rejected. I know what it feels like to think “what the hell could I have done that made my mother say she didn’t want me?” To ask, “why didn’t she want me?” As someone who has had to grapple with those difficult and painful emotions, I am semi-uniquely qualified to help those going through the same emotions. I say semi-uniquely qualified because my experience is not unique, so many people are adopted and go through the same experiences I did. I am not special in that regard, however I know I can help those going through it. I know this because all I ever wanted was to talk to someone who was an adult who was also adopted, someone who had gone through it all and come out on the other side. I am writing all of this because I need to be honest with myself. For my own sake and for my future children. If I do not address my own pain, I cannot hope to help them with theirs. I will always be indebted to Ms. Vargas. It is a debt I never asked for and one I cannot repay. It is one I am grateful for, and also profoundly angry about. I will never fully understand why Ms. Vargas did what she did, but at this point, I don’t care. I know I can not fully plug the hole in my heart she left, but I also just don’t care anymore. She fulfilled her role in getting me to where I am. So thank you Ms. Vargas. You did what you needed to do and because of that I have been profoundly blessed. Thank you, I do not have ill will towards you, but I also have no more desire to know you or understand you more fully. You made your choice to cut me out of your life, to reject me, and now I make the choice to cut you out of mine, and to reject you. At least that’s what I’d like to say. But I know I will never have true closure, because I don’t know anything about you Ms. Vargas. I can never have closure, not because I don’t deserve it, but because I literally can’t get it, there is no way for it to happen. And I’m okay with that, or at least I’m learning to be okay with it. One day though, I’ll be okay, and I can’t wait for that day.

Editor at the Ke Alaka’i and podcast host from Washington D.C.