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The Painfulness of Not Knowing My Family Lineage, 2021 Year in Review

Mai Li Schubert

Originally published October 16, 2021.

The painfulness of not knowing my family lineage

“Mom, why do I have freckles?”

“Dad, why do I have blue eyes?”

“Grandma, why do we have dark hair?”


Every kid asks “why” questions at one point or another.


I can ask those questions too, but the answers are incomplete. They stop with my parents, with my uncle, or my aunts, or my cousins. There is no genetic answer as to why I am flat-footed or have brown hair, or why I have a birthmark on my shoulder blade.


As a kid, asking “why” is such an important part of growing and learning, but I never got a satisfying answer. It was always: “I don’t know” or: “we won’t know for sure.” Sure, there are other whys that I could get answers to: “why is the sky blue,” “why does the sun come out,” “why is the grass green?”


I never could get answers to the questions I had about myself. And as I got older, I stopped asking the questions. I knew why people had no idea; I understood. But those questions are still there, and they will be in five years, in twenty and maybe forever.


It’s hard to do some school projects because of the unknown. In ninth grade health class, we had to create a brochure about a family illness. We had to explain the illness and write about how it affected our family, as well as how genetic risk factors could lead us to having the disease ourselves.

"I have no prior knowledge of genetic risk factors, any more than why my hair is brown or that I am short."

I didn’t know anything about an inheritable genetic illness, because I can’t physically ask my birth parents about illnesses I could get or have already. I have no prior knowledge of genetic risk factors, any more than why my hair is brown or that I am short. I have done blood tests to see a hereditary problem.


When I was young, I did ballet, but, as I continued, I started having ankle problems. At first I thought I was just working too hard, but the pain continued. After a while, I had my blood drawn for tests to see if it was a genetic problem- three tubes worth.


And as much as that information was helpful, it answered one question: is there a genetic problem with my ankles?


Doing blood tests requires doctors, nurses, and a reason why I am getting tested. I need to know the question I am trying to solve, but I have so many questions to answer.


The “why” to my questions may not be answered by myself or with my family, but it brings up the possibility of trying to find my biological family. It has always been in my mind; to find them, talk to them, to understand them, to know them, and to know myself better.

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