We underestimate our strength, especially when we’re younger. What we’re able to survive. What we’re able to make normal, even when it isn’t. The ability to bear the weight of the world on our little shoulders but still find the strength to play.
Somewhere along the way as we get older, we lose a bit of our strength. To the world. In the name of being realistic. And no matter how long it takes for us to get back to that “carefree, honest, true, and raw part” of ourselves.
No matter how long we battle the flashbacks and skeletons that remind us of when we were “ridiculed, shunned, teased, and ignored,” Eric shows us we can always find our power, again.
I’m from Milwaukee, WI and was born while my mother was in prison. She was 34/35 when she had me. From what I know of it, they released her in a medical way to have me and I was immediately placed into the foster care system.
I was always unsure of what was going to happen next. In the foster care system, there were times I did live with my birth mother and then a complete stranger. Then with my mother and then with a family with only white kids. It seemed to change from month to month.
The last time I was taken from her, social services came in and I was literally holding onto the door frame screaming at the top of my lungs. I remember her standing there. She didn’t say or do anything. It took me a long time to realize that was her decision. She birthed me but she wasn’t a mother. To the point where at three and four years old, she didn’t allow me to call her mother. I called her by her first name.
Growing up, in the foster care system and having that experience, I have a lot of memories of a lot of things. The things you wouldn’t even expect to remember. I also felt like I always had to be an adult in any situation. Even at ages four, five, and ten. That goes with holding people’s secrets, other people’s mistakes. Having to push through everything.
The last time I was taken from [my mother], social services came in and I was literally holding onto the door frame screaming at the top of my lungs. I remember her standing there. She didn’t say or do anything.
I had to fit myself in and fight for a space. Outside of me being in foster care, my birth mother died when I was five. So that mother-son connection that other kids had, I didn’t have. That connection to a father or male figure, I didn’t have. And the fact that I was constantly being uprooted from whatever space I was in prevented me from ever really being able to connect to anyone for a while. I just felt like I was there and floating around.
Though I am a product of the foster care system, and I very much have that experience of constantly moving and never being able to settle or find a space of my own, I did still have my family around me. My mother had nine brothers of sisters–eight girls, two boys–so eventually, me and my three brother and sisters ended up with family members.
I was raised by aunts in single parent households. There were times I went from aunt to aunt to aunt, always bouncing around. During that time, women dominated my life based on numbers alone. I’ve learned a lot of my lessons and the way I love people, forgive people, and move about the world from the women in my life, too.
By eight, I was finally put into a more traditional family structure. My mother’s youngest sister finally took me in. She already had two kids of her own, and I lived with them until I was 18. They were the picture perfect family with two parents, 2.5 kids, etc. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. But I got a sense of normalcy by eight years old. And that’s when I was exposed to one of the first male figures in my life.
Women dominated my life based on numbers alone. I’ve learned a lot of my lessons and the way I love people, forgive people, and move about the world from the women in my life, too.
I was a complicated kid. It was hard to read me or get close to me because one minute I could be laughing and smiling, the next I’d be over in a corner silent by myself. I would literally say whatever came into my head. I never held back anything. I would ask all the questions, get on everyone’s nerves, and was very loud and energetic. I was always a creative kid and gravitated toward art, music, and writing. Those things kept me sane, in a way. I was able to easily access my imagination and that was an escape for me.
In high school, things changed a bit. Because I didn’t know who my birth father was, I felt like I was always searching, wondering to myself, “Who am I?” There was always tension between who I was and what people expected me to be. I was such a geek and so smart. I would be the person in the classroom with straight As but hung out with any and everybody. I fit myself into whatever dynamic I needed to. I was a strong personality, even as a teenager.
I started working when I was 13. I worked at restaurants and did all kinds of weird things. I pushed myself to do everything. I was trying to overcompensate to get someone to really sit down and see me. That was my whole childhood. No one really paid attention when I told them what I was passionate about or what I really wanted to do. I never felt like anyone was actually invested in helping me be the best me. What I wanted for myself simply was not supported.
I remember asking if someone could help me find my dad, but I was always put on the back-burner of everyone else’s issues. I think people forgot I didn’t ask for any of this and it wasn’t my choosing. Eventually, I got so frustrated with not being seen or heard and I just kind of stopped going home because at that point home was unbearable. It was more stressful to be at home than go out and do my own thing.
By the time I was 17, I already planned to leave Milwaukee. I’d applied to Morehouse and had been accepted. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it and didn’t know how I was going to get there. But I did. My parents didn’t pay for anything or my flights or anything like that, outside of taking me to the airport. Neither of them ever set foot on my campus. Even when I graduated and Obama was our commencement speaker, neither of them showed up.
Every major event or success I had in college people would always ask where my parents were and say how proud they must be of me. I always had to smile through gritted teeth. But leaving Milwaukee when I did was probably the best decision I have ever made. Had I not moved then, I would still be there.
I’m getting back to that carefree, honest, true, and raw part of myself when I was younger…a very natural state of being for me after years of it being ridiculed, shunned, teased, and ignored. I’m finding my power again–my love and passion for me.
My college years were where I was really able to let go a little more. Answer the questions I need to answer and explore every part of life that I could. I had to be comfortable with sexuality. I had to get comfortable with myself, and the way that people perceived me. I had to realize that if I’m going to live the life I want to live that I’m going to be misunderstood a lot and fighting on my own most of the time.
I’m still searching and growing. But I’m the happiest I’ve been in a very long time because I’m doing what I love. I’ve stopped trying to fit into the mold of what everyone else expects–all that cliche stuff. I stopped compromising myself. I stopped not loving myself.
From a very young age, I’ve always been drawn to anything artistic. I recently graduated with an MFA in Acting, and I’m getting back to that carefree, honest, true, and raw part of myself when I was younger. Now, I don’t have to second guess my purpose or myself because I’m getting back to a very natural state of being for me after years of it being ridiculed, shunned, teased, and ignored. I’m finding my power again–my love and passion for me.