As I reflect over my adolescence and young adulthood, I have recently sought to identify the factors that have contributed to my success. First, when I say success, I mean success. Most young people who grew up in Detroit and faced the childhood trauma that I have, just did not make it. Not that I have already achieved it all, but I am certainly on success’ highway. Firmly, much more confidently. Boldly. Courageously!
In the picture above, I had just come home from a 1st grade school dance at Van Zile Elementary. I was happy! I remember having had so much fun with my friends. Yes, me–the nerd girl. Well, I had so much fun, and I came home looking like a bum. I was even smiling in the picture because I genuinely had fun. My fun, was not okay though. This picture was taken as proof that I had messed up my clothes, and it was followed by a severe beating. One that I have never forgotten. My mother’s husband (boyfriend at the time) was not happy about my appearance. She was at work, and I got a beating for this. My childhood fun and innocence was often stripped away by this man, who shuffled between different personalities of being very charismatic and some kind of demonic monster. For many years, I smiled on the outside while vehemently crying within. The smile hid the horse whips and unwarranted beatings, often in conflict with how my mother “governed” her children. I wore that beaten smile from kindergarten to early high school.
How did I survive?
- Education: The more I learned, the more opportunities I had. I did not physically have to be in my abusive home environment and I learned that I deserved better. There was a great world of possibility beyond the current hell I lived.
- Faith: It was weird, because I dont think I was sure of my faith but I remember being full of hope. I wrote letters of inspiration to myself on the good days. I wrote prayers and tucked them into books.
- Counseling: Great teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, social workers. I didn’t care for it when I was in high school, but I was consistent. I was able to cope. College, I knew that I needed it to survive. As an adult facing crisis and trauma, it became vital to recovery.
- Friends: A few good women. I always had a few good girlfriends that gave good counsel, tried to parent me when I wanted to act a fool, take up a fight if someone looked at me sideways, and just loved me through it all. They listened to my tears, challenged me to overcome my fears. Even sang and hugged me to sleep through the paternity testing of potential fathers. Good, good big sisters! Role models. Women that inspired, cared, prayed, loved me. One very special adopted mother.
How did that little girl survive? That village, her faith, your prayers. Thank You!
Susanne, Cassandra, Rita, Sheena, Dionne, Anne, Bendita, Brea, Shemika, Elizabeth, Sherry, Wykehlia, Sheena, Shelley, Ms. Decker, Becky, Hillaurie, Tammie, Ella, Diane, Gloria, Lori, Jillian, Taneka, Vida