On December 5th, 2015, a few days after my procedure to confirm or disprove my colon cancer concerns, I sat on the edge of the bed and read and re-read the documentation from my surgeon. I must have read it a million times. I took my phone to call the people I expected to check on me as they know how anxious I had been leading up to the procedure. As I started to text, a flood of emotion and tears began to take control of my mind and body. It was déjà vu. It was déjà vu. I had been here before but this time as a grown man—all 6’6” and 205 pounds of solid muscle mass. Am I supposed to let the effects of an awful 2015 keep me from striving to be the man I never was? If I make the call or send the text, what do I want in return?
In 1960, my biological parents decided that I would be better off without them, and they signed me over to the state of California. No fanfare or explanations. So I shouldn’t be surprised that it could or would happen again. People will let you down and circumstances will baffle you. As I threw the phone across the room, it landed on the most personal and sacred piece of furniture in my home – on the forbidden cedar pine chest that my father insisted on bringing to Australia when my mother died in 2004. As a child growing up in Los Angeles, the chest was off-limits. It contained all the family secrets, adoption documentation, a small hand gun, tax documents, insurance paperwork, and other grown-up stuff.
I’ve looked at that chest for over fifty years and never really gone through it like I really wanted in order to know who I am. In order to get to the next level, you have to understand who you are before you can accept who and what you are capable of becoming. No matter if you are black, white, blue, or purple, or male or female. Go and open the chest you have been avoiding and get to the bottom of your core.
I made a decision right then and there. My biological parents abandoned me. My adopted parents had passed. I lost my job and my dog had died. I had lost the people in my life outside my wife and daughter that I depended on for support and true friendship. Coming off the back of a cancer scare, what was the worst thing that could happen if I opened this chest and found out who I was? To master the art of rejection and abandonment is to fortify your mind and conscience of the greatness and awesomeness you possess without anyone else having to validate your existence. You don’t need others to create your pathway to your destiny. Go, open the chest, and don’t just look inside. Dive in and embrace the things that make you who you are.
As I opened the chest, my heart pounded and my eyes teared up. I saw photo after photo of my adopted parents as children and of my father in the United States Army. I saw photos of me as a baby growing into a man. And then came the most startling discovery of all: I found paperwork from my adoption process. Can you believe that I found out the original name of my parents? I found out their height, weight, and what they did for a living. I even found out what my name was at birth. Can you imagine going through life and reaching the age of fifty-five only to finally find out you started life out as a John? My name was John Brown.