Whenever I failed to listen or behaved stubbornly, my sister would just throw me in a cold shower to get me to act right. Even at six years old I was sassy and bold. But truly an eleven year old shouldn’t be raising a six year old anyway. My sister and I didn’t really have parents, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. My sister’s father was abusive, my father was bipolar refusing medication and our mother had fallen to drugs and alcohol to cope with life.
My sister and I would fend for ourselves! If we felt like it, we went to school. I could never remember how to walk there on my own, so on days she didn’t want to go to school, I wandered. On a mellow evening, my sister and her friends were the only ones around. Sometimes, I was their entertainment. “How funny would it be to get your sister high?” was a question asked when I was six. All I remember was running and running, flapping my arms like a bird. This is where I get my free spirit and love for running.
There were many nights my sister was my caretaker. She told me a story about holding me to keep me safe while we watched someone put a gun to our mother’s head. She owed him money for drugs and he wanted her to know he was serious. I can’t imagine how brave my sister had to be. She was almost twelve and I was almost seven, but she shouldn’t have had to protect me when she needed someone to protect her. This is where I get my sense of bravery and feeling of duty to protect others.
During some of the more exciting evenings, our mom had people coming in and out. The guys liked to host boxing matches while I refereed. I was the youngest, so I was trusted to be unbiased in judging a winner. I called the fight when I saw blood and rushed out with the roll of toilet paper to clean them up for another round. I remember my heart breaking with every punch and wishing they didn’t enjoy hurting each other. This is where my nurturing soul developed.
My friend and I used to go dumpster diving around the apartment complex I lived in while our moms did whatever they did. We would always be in search of treasures. I remember finding a pair of cute shoes that I couldn’t believe someone had thrown away. I was so excited for my new shoes. They fit and I felt like Cinderella. Who cares if I found them in the dumpster? This is where my ability to see the beauty in things comes from.
When your mom goes to prison and you’re only eight years old, someone has to take you. My dad had been on his medication, so he did. Angry and confused, I went to live with a stranger and was separated from my sister. Having my childhood robbed from me and living a life I didn’t understand left me with a hunger for knowledge. I wanted to know the answer “why” to everything. This is why I love learning and was the first of my family to graduate college.
I don’t know why it happened, or how I got so lucky, but I was born with a limitless amount of unconditional love to give. There have been many turning points in my adult life, but I credit my adverse childhood for some of my best qualities. I used to wonder why I got dealt the hand I did in life. These few stories only scratch the surface of what my daily life was like as a child. For most of my adolescent years I wanted to use my childhood as a reason to fall apart. As I grew up I realized they are my reasons to thrive. My past has given me a unique ability to connect with people, believe in greater ideas and leave sunshine wherever I go.
I will likely always struggle with separation anxiety, a fear of not being good enough and have unease when it comes to stability. I am still a work in progress and I know I will have many more day one, life changing moments. After much soul searching, I can look back with peace and see how I was meant for these challenges. I am meant to be on a path that will leave a mark and my childhood gave me the courage to do so. I am currently a teacher, working with underprivileged youth. I am insanely passionate about providing children with an education, so they too can overcome obstacles. Even more so, I am lucky to give my love to little humans who need it as much as I needed it back then. Making a difference in the life of a child doesn’t happen overnight. I give my all to my students one day at a time, so they too can write their very own day one story.
Story submitted by Sandra
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