For approximately fourteen years, I grew up as a “tomboy”, in a poor and abusive household. My grandmother, who raised me since birth, took care of all four of my mother’s children. My grandmother took in me, my sister and two brothers because our mother was a stripper who was on the streets, doing drugs and prostitution. My father was in and out of prison for drugs and weapons possession. Neither of us had the same father. My sister was born crippled and my two brothers had anger management problems and as for me, well, I wanted to help but I was the youngest; therefore, there wasn’t much I could do but sit, observe, go to school and play with the little boys in my neighborhood.
My days growing up had just a slight bit of normalcy. When my mother would come home at night from being drunk or “drugged up”, she would start arguments, yelling and cursing at whomever was there. Oftentimes, her own children and mother would suffer the wrath. Being the youngest, I couldn’t say or do anything that could stop it, and although my grandmother wasn’t physically able to stop her either because of her age, she tried anyway.
In this “slight bit of normalcy”, many issues ensued; none of which I could control. We were kicked out of our first house. Being homeless was miserable, but I managed to find solace in being at school, immersed in a world of learning. It still did not hide the fact that my sister was developing a bad habit of drugs and gang affiliation and poverty was our reality. There were days the water, electrical, and gas bills couldn’t be paid, so we’d use candles and flashlights at night, we’d go to the park for water to boil at home for us to clean dishes or I’d go to my friends’ houses to take showers and wash clothes. I was bullied for wearing dirty clothes to school, but I didn’t really pay attention to the comments and stares. I was determined to strive academically. Something intrinsically, did not allow the negativity to crush my spirit. In fact, it intensified my drive.
Thankfully, my mentor came into my life, introduced me to church and took me there every Sunday. I was so involved with church, I was barely home. I sang in choirs, dance, and went to Bible Study and I loved it because I put all my energy to use. By the time, I was in middle school, I was placed in academically challenging classes and working in the school as a student leader. This led to a recommendation from the principal (who was familiar with my home life) to participate in a program for children at risk. This program became an outlet for me. I could complete my homework without the distractions of the dysfunction at home and meet students who were filled with the same tenacious energy. Because of the program, I have been able to maintain academic excellence. For the first time in my life, my slight bit of normalcy was turning in a sense of complete normalcy.
However, things changed when my grandmother suffered a stroke. I was forced to move in with my paternal grandparents. Since then, I’ve worked harder and harder to accomplish my goal to make my grandmother proud, and if I have school work to do—including college work—I haven’t fulfilled my duty. And even through my hard times, I never allowed myself to give up because I know that if I did, I wouldn’t make my grandmother proud.