“Oh little child, what a frightened child you are. What has made you so?
Oh little girl, what a wounded girl you are. You’ve dealt with pain, I know.
My, my, young lady, what a smart mouth you have. Why do you answer so?
My, my, young woman, what a strong mind you have. What lessons have helped you grow?”
This, in a nut-shell, is the story of my life; brief, though it has been. In my family there are seven children, and every other child was routinely beaten. I am the last “every other child”. I kept to myself for the most part. I tried to blend in: among my siblings, the furniture…the walls. For quite a few years I was successful. It wasn’t until my older sister moved out of the house that I suddenly became visible. Then, the beatings began in earnest.
In response to this treatment I became very angry and began to “talk back” to my mother; my primary abuser. As I grew older, I began to realize that my actions were a way of exerting my authority. I did not like what was happening to me, so I verbally lashed out. It took a few years for me to understand that my form of retaliation only made matters worse.
I am much attuned to children that are experiencing challenges at such a young age; whether it is abuse, neglect, or poverty. I work for a preschool program that provides services to the children of Orange County from birth to five years. I use my current placement to reach the children and parents we serve and seek to provide the services necessary for a better quality of life. My assistance includes resources from the community, childcare, or I simply lend an ear.
I am an intensely private person. And while I will happily share the great moments in my life, sharing past memories takes more effort; for it is difficult to speak of my past although it gets easier with every telling. I like to lift people’s spirits, and generally, hearing words of: “You’re an imbecile,” “You are nothing,” “I can do whatever I want with you,” just doesn’t seem to do it. However, this is my reality and such words seep into the soul. While I never consciously believed I was stupid, my actions reflected the belief that I just wasn’t good enough. However, time does heal all wounds.
I have come to accept the fact that all the greatest qualities I possess have resulted from that horrible period in my life and I acknowledge that I am a better person for my past. Of course, I wouldn’t have chosen my experiences, but they are mine just the same. I have used such experiences to make myself a greater person by reaching out to others in similar situations, including advocating for the needs of children. We all have a story to tell; this happens to be mine. May your story have the same ending:
“I am talented. I am compassionate. I am beautiful. I am intelligent. I am strong.
This, I believe.”
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