Family Matters Most

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This is the 8th story of Our Life Logs.


My family is everything to me. I don’t know how to describe our relationship as anything other than that. My whole life, they have always done their best to show me the beauty of the world and the strength that comes from loving one another. During the hardest times of my life, they are there for me, dropping everything to show me the support I so desperately need. As an adopted child, family to me has never been about who gives birth to you. Families are made of people that stick around and choose to raise you with selfless love. My family would come, and has come, from a whole world away just to be with me.

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I was adopted at birth by my parents from Colorado in 1993 and headed with them to Bolivia a few weeks later. My dad is an engineer, with a focus on clean water cultivation. That means he would travel to often remote, third-world locations, where he would help survey the land and educate the local people to build a well so that they could have clean drinking water.

My dad was always an inspiration to me. He often took my siblings and me along on these projects. He made it a point to show us the value you can bring to a stranger’s life by simply being kind. I grew up all around South America and Africa while my dad helped create wells for various towns. This brought us even closer together, as we only had each other to rely on in a small rural village.

Water Site Ethiopia
Me (in a blue dress) with other villagers on a water site in Ethiopia.

I was the oldest child in my family. My brother, who is also adopted, is the middle one. My sister is the youngest and the only biological child of my parents. We grew up very close with one another. My parents did an amazing job of never making my brother or me feel any less loved than our sister. They were fair and equally loving to all of us. Truthfully, it wasn’t until much later that I learned how some adopted children have the vulnerability of not being able to fit in. I never felt that way. The inclusivity my parents showed each of us was remarkable and became a pillar of strength for me through my entire life.

Siblings in Bolivia
My sister, me (middle), and my brother.

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My parents always braced my siblings and me to be ready for the future. I was never afraid of change or trying something new, except when it came to college. We had decided a long time ago that each of us would attend college in the United States. It provided the best opportunity of a meaningful education and career. Being the oldest though means I’d be the first to go off to college. I worried about having to sacrifice the time away from seeing my family.

I was petrified at the mere idea of that, and I wasn’t the only one, either. I think my parents and siblings didn’t want us to be split up. They wanted us to stay together and be as close to one another as we could. It was for that reason, and my grandmother’s ailing health, that we decided as a family to move back to the United States.

My father was originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, despite previously living and meeting my mom in Colorado. Therefore, we decided to move to Cincinnati. Knowing this, I tried to tour colleges that were nearby, so I could visit my family easily. The transition from one world to another was hard, but I was grateful to have my family there with me going through the same thing. It allowed us to rely on one other for support in a society we weren’t all familiar with.

Soccer Game in Bolivia with Mom and Sister
My sister, my mom and me (right) in a soccer game in Bolivia.

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My first year of college was difficult. I chose a small college in Indiana unsure of what I wanted to do. While geographically I was only a few hours from my family, it felt like a world away. I didn’t have any sense of direction. My eyes had been open to the fact that it wasn’t for me, so I decided to take some time off. I went back to Cincinnati with my parents to rethink. If they had not been there for me, I’m not sure if I would have had the ability to reconsider my passions. I spoke with an advisor at the University of Cincinnati while I was working and decided to attend school there. I majored in both Criminal Justice and Political Science.

Coming from a very traditional and family-oriented city in Bolivia, I was not prepared for college life in the US. My conservative background seemed to hold me back in some ways that made my experience different. Behaviors and reactions that I viewed as “rude” were often done in the US and considered the polite thing to do. There was a learning curve that I had to figure out from experience.

Luckily, there was a large group of international students who became my best friends and walked alongside me as we figured out what it was like to live in the US. Life got better. I started working in an interpreting agency and on campus as a recruiter.

Over the next several years I had some amazing work opportunities. I was able to work as a legal translator in the court system while I studied criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati. It was through this job and talking with attorneys that I decided I’d try a different career path. After graduation, I found my way into a human resources position by chance. A local company was looking to hire someone with knowledge of a program that I had experience with through my recruiting position in college. My knowledge of the program paired with my HR experience from college landed me a job with that company.

I soon found that HR was the right fit for me. All the while, I was able to stay close with my family since the job was in Cincinnati. It’s almost strange now being out of the house for a few years. I still see them regularly of course, and we talk almost every day. I’m living my own life, but they are still a big part of it.

Inca Ruins in Bolivia with Mom and Sister
Me (left) with my mom and my sister at Inca Ruins in Bolivia.

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Now that I’m growing up and facing new challenges, I think about how much my family rooted me through every good and bad thing I experienced. Even when I didn’t know the answer, my parents and siblings would reach out with kind words and blessings for my success. I owe everything I am to the years of love and support they granted me. My only hope is that I can be the rock for them, like they were for me. I never forget how amazing the people around me are, because it is through them that I’ve succeeded.

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This is the story of Hannah Harlan.

Hannah, 24, currently lives in Cincinnati working in human resources for a company in Mason, OH. Though she was adopted, she never felt that her parents loved her any less. She lived in South America until she was 18 and moved back to the US for college. Hannah still travels as much as she can. She likes to go to at least two new places each year. She plans to keep going back to Bolivia to see her childhood friends.

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Harlan family at Christmas (Hannah in a red dress on the right).

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on June 30, 2017.

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