Growing up in one of the few Black towns in Northern California had its perks. I grew up with a sense of community, respect for my elders and the knowledge that if I ever set a toe out of line, somehow it was going to get back to my mother or grandmother. In a small town, everyone knows or thinks they know your business, and they are not afraid to tell everyone what they have heard.
My mother raised my brother and I with the help of my uncle and grandmother. We loved and protected each other the best way we knew how, and I have always felt very fortunate to have the family that I have.
My mother moved from L.A. with my brother and I, after my dad was sent to prison. Their marriage had not been an easy one. My mother was only 18 when she met and married my 29- year-old father. He had lived his life hand-to-mouth on the streets of Boston since he ran away at the tender age of fourteen. My mother was a quiet, sheltered bookworm, starting out her first year in college when they met. She had me 9 months after their union.
My dad was a hard man and didn’t know how to provide or care for a family. When they met, he was in the Mosque trying to turn his life around. But he soon found that family life was much harder than he had anticipated, and he quickly turned back to the life that he had known before — hustling to make ends meet.
By the time I was three years old, I had witnessed my father emotionally and physically abuse my mother. But I loved him the way only a daughter could. And when my mother received the call that my father was in jail and wouldn’t be coming home, my heart was broken.
I am a survivor. After a traumatic childhood in an alcoholic family, I entered into my adolescence with deep sadness and heavy resentment.
I had my first psychiatric hospitalization when I was 15 due to suicidal thoughts, and I was already a self-injuring “cutter” by that time. My parents and I had continuous friction in which they became abusive and overly restrictive, so I chose to live in a group home right before I turned 16. I got my own place when I was 19, but unbeknownst to myself --- I had already cultivated very unhealthy relationship patterns.
As a co-dependent, I was subconsciously attracted to and comfortable with the same patterns of dysfunction that became so familiar in my family of origin. This generally meant someone who was active in an addiction, narcissistic and self-serving in nature.
I have had friends, best friends, boyfriends, lovers, one-night stands, enemies, family, etc. All have come and gone to make me who I am today.
Someone I once knew said, "Some people are in your life for only a season." As I think about it now, it is the perfect way to describe life when you are young.
Heartache, love and miracles happen. As individuals, we must take each experience as a learning lesson to build our character.