I was born in 1976 to a poor family in a poor town. Our family was held together by a God-fearing religion that I often refer to as a cult. I didn’t understand this God who would place so many restrictions on his children and call it love. I woke many nights from nightmares of dangling over hell or of a multitude of snakes slithering over my body. My biggest fear in this world is snakes and the church taught us that a snake represents satan.
Because of the strict worldly limitations placed by the church, I never felt like I belonged. I hated going to school even though I was an honor roll student. I would fake being sick so I could go home early from school. My mother would tell me to go back to class but if I went behind her back and called my grandmother she would send for me. I was the closest to her out of all my family even though I’ve never heard her voice. She had a stroke in which she lost her speech. Around my fifth grade year, another stroke took her life.
My family life was tough not only because of our religion but because I never fit in there either. Most families have bonds that tie them together but somehow we seemed to lack those bonds. I was the “black sheep” and “snob” in my family. I haven’t decided if those are hurtful or empowering words.
I left home the day I turned sixteen and was legally emancipated several days later. It was also at sixteen that I married for the first time. We were married for two torturous years before I finally had enough and walked out. I filed for divorce the following week which was granted almost a year later. While we argued over the divorce, Ex #1 stated words that haunt me to this day. He said, “The only reason you were with me and married me was to get out of your parents house.” I think he may have been right.
I carried on and finished high school while working full time. I started a respiratory care program at the community college but found myself struggling to pay for tuition. At this point I was also drinking heavily and hanging out in clubs often. I had an epiphany one night while out clubbing. I noticed the older crowds were the exact same people I would see there every time I was out. I also noticed how drugs were running rampant in both the younger and older crowds. I didn’t want either of these groups to be me.
At the age of twenty-one, I decided to join the U.S. Navy and see the world. Halfway through my four year enlistment I found out I was pregnant. I was in shock and terrified. I was honestly never sure if I wanted to have kids but throughout my pregnancy I came to terms with my doubt and looked forward to my son’s arrival. His father walked out towards the beginning of my pregnancy. I was left alone with an apartment I could barely afford and a baby on the way. It was beyond words the fear I felt during this time. The best descriptive would be devastated.
I began packing up my apartment to move in with some friends temporarily when I went into labor. My son was born the next night. I lay awake the night of his birth watching him as he slept. I knew I needed to get sleep while I could but I was a mixture of emotions – excited, scared, and in awe of this little person I carried inside me all these months. I knew this would be the start of the next chapter in my life.