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Imagine, an abrupt change; being robbed of everything you knew. A life of confusion, curiosity, and the unknown, something so different from the life you had just yesterday. These are the feelings that consumed me when I was told, “Mariah, your father is going away for a while.” Okay, so he’ll be back in a few days is what the naïve child in me thought. But, those thoughts were to be shattered, when we made the distant trip, to a prison. At the time, I had no understanding of what he did or why we were there, I was just angry and wanted to know why the “good guys”, were taking away my dad. That day, the life I had known, took an abrupt halt.

Anger, fear, and hopelessness, for my future, my life, and my family. A feeling as though there was nothing I could do but give up. But, I felt that I couldn’t be angry and fearful because, I had to be strong for my family. I felt as though, my sister, brother, and mother, were holding a heavier burden than I was. My sister, older than I, was more torn apart, my brother, had the only male in his life taken from him, and my mother, her partner and her husband was gone. I had never considered what it had done to me, I just learned to internalize me fears and my emotions, to help someone in greater need. Taking the trials and tribulations of life, and overcoming its obstacles, was what my family needed to accomplish. It would be over the next few years, that our family would learn to do just that. Not to say, that is wasn’t difficult or came without fault because, it certainly did.

After our father went to prison, our entire life was re-rooted. We had a new home, new school and new friends. For anyone, this is a difficult change, but we had the extra weight of the burden we carried. Our new life, consisted of one parent, one income, and one entirely different lifestyle. We not only had to adapt to this, but we had to learn to look beyond economic instability and what other people might think. Everyday, I went to school trying to make new friends, but also fearful of what someone might think of me when they found out about my father. But, why would I be ashamed of the person I love so much? It was a difficult question to maneuver and it took me many years to answer. I realized as I grew older, that everyone had something they were ashamed of, but in actuality, it makes each person someone stronger and more interesting. It was one day in eighth grade, that I decided to share the life I had lived for five years. When I shared with the class, the matters of my father in prison and the new life I had to live, they were sympathetic, and understanding. For me, it was more than just that, I felt as though they accepted me even for what my father had done, and it took the burden of hiding it from everyone away from me.

Now, with the burden of hiding my father’s faults uplifted, I was able to overcome my reserved and shy personality. With the support of my friends and family, I was able to overcome the coming of the “unbearable” tribulations of my father getting out of prison. It was at this point, that I would have suspected my guilt and difficulties to have ended. But, it was at this point that my life seemed to become even more difficult. After my father got out of prison, he had to come to the realization that my mom had moved on and had a new person in her life. This angered him and caused a culmination of threats, abuse, and court hearings. It became so violent, that my father had several order of protections against him and my mother feared for her life. At this moment, I no longer saw my father as the loving and kind person he had been, but rather as a “monster”, someone I was afraid to see or be around. He took the enjoyment of being in my life again, away and he was sent to prison several more times, and no longer was a part of my life.

Throughout the entire ordeal, I never asked for sympathy or saw it as an obstruction to my path of life. I look back at it as a learning experience. It has taught me to look for the good in everything and everyone, to never give up, and to always be determined and optimistic about the future. I was taught to take life as it comes to you, overcome its obstacles, and to always persevere and look beyond the bad, the difficult, and at times the unbearable. It has made me who I am; a strong willed, open minded, non- judgmental, confident, responsible, self achieving person, that never allows anything to get in the way of their aspirations. I have learned to savor the good in life, learn from the bad, and aspire to be someone that will make yourself proud.





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