I found and met my biological father in January of 2020, after searching my entire life. He died a few months later. It took me a while to convince myself I was not a weirdo for wanting to have his ashes put into jewelry, but when you are denied an entire lifetime with someone you’ve longed to know so deeply, you hold on to what you can.

And family preservation is a moral obligation

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

Strap in for the Mother’s Day essay you didn’t see coming. Be prepared to get angry with me. It’s fine. I’m used to it. Just maybe sit with this for a while and read the sources, ok?

When I started seriously interrogating my identity as an adopted person, it led me to question adoption more generally. I began researching the ways adoptees are at greater risk for mental health issues, eating disorders, suicide, and even dermatological problems. I found a community of adoptees online who were shouting just to be heard: being adopted…

Reflections from an adoptee on the complex emotions in animal rescue work and adoption

Zany, photo by me

It’s the same thing each time I arrive at the shelter. My hand touches the cool metal gate on the chain-link fence and as soon as it clinks and clanks open then shut, I hear the cacophony of barking from behind the thick walls of the building as I approach. They know I am here.

The usual mix of anticipatory excitement, sadness, and relief rises in my stomach as I approach the back door of the shelter that leads straight to the kennels. …

Honoring myself during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Photo credit: me, with the last pair of pointe shoes I ever trained in before I gave up chasing impossible dreams.

Five pounds was the goal

To dance that part

To fit into that tutu

With the sparkling rhinestones

Five pounds was the stick

Ms. Martha used to slap my tummy

Telling me I looked pregnant

While I did rond de jambe en l’air

Five pounds was the fun I permitted myself

Eating the pizza and keeping it down

But with every smile I grew larger

Each laugh inched the scale upward

Five pounds became ten and then fifteen

It became pills and secrets

To cover the bruises on my stomach

Self-inflicted punishment…

A eulogy for the both of us

Photo by Richard Gale on Unsplash

All day, my stomach did somersaults. I couldn’t even go for a jog because my intestines would not allow it. A familiar, creeping, unnamed anxiety washed over me, and as usual, I tried to drown out its empty voice with wine later that night.

There is always a reason why our bodies protest our own existence like this.

I awoke the next morning with the news in an email from my uncle, the subject line reading, “Your Dad.” The body of the text, I hardly recall reading, except the first sentence, “Andy passed…

Being a child prodigy is not all fun and games. Neither is being an adoptee.

Photo by Alexis Fauvet on Unsplash

**Spoiler alerts for those who have not seen the series**

After watching the Netflix drama mini-series, The Queen’s Gambit, I was struck by so much. The set design, the makeup and costumes, the characters, and of course, the chess. As a woman, I was in awe of the lead character, Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. As much as I love chess, I was never trained to play as a child, partly because my family just didn’t play chess, but also, girls are far less…

It’s not a mid-life crisis. I’m just turning 40 and talking to plush toys.

All my friends, today. Photo by me.

Significant milestones tend to dredge up memories and emotions. Although turning 40 is not as momentous as some of the other events humans celebrate, it has always been a much anticipated day for me. As a young child, when I watched my parents mark four decades of life, I imagined myself “going over the hill,” a phrase that makes 40 seem like the fast track to decrepitude. I assumed by then I would have several kids who would all be teenagers at that point, that I…

With no knowledge of what happened to me, who am I, really?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Six Weeks

That’s the length of time unaccounted for. Forty-two days of life. Those are the completely dark days. Six weeks is the hole in my heart. The entire month of October and then some. I do not know where I was. I do not know who cared for me. I do not know what happened to me.

In his book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” Bessel Van Der Kolk argues extensively for a somatic understanding of trauma. When we face trauma, he suggests, our bodies encode the…

It might have left you susceptible to emotional abuse, but empathy is also your strength. Use it to move forward and heal.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

This might sound strange, but I am grateful for the toxic relationships and emotional abuse I’ve lived through. Not because I enjoyed being someone’s mental punching bag — that was painful and still haunts me. I’m thankful, however, because from these experiences, I learned how to better detect subtle and even unintentional manipulation tactics people use. This knowledge inspired me to dig deeper to understand more about why people engage in emotional abuse in the first place. …

How do I know? By thinking deeply.

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

I’m often told I overthink things. In many ways, this is probably a fair accusation. After all, my job as a professional philosopher could arguably be described as an underpaid overthinker. But is it really true that I think too much? Is it true that overthinking is inherently a bad thing? How can we know if we are in fact overthinking?

Goldilocks Thinking

Like with so many things, the correct answers to these questions are probably complicated and lie somewhere at the intersection of several complex variables. At the same time, the simplistic adage of…

Michele Merritt, Ph.D.

Constant collisions between the personal and political. Professor. Adoptee. Advocate. Activist. I write about dogs a lot. michelemerritt.com

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