Past Does Not Define

Julia - Oswego, Kansas
Entered on October 20, 2011
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

As I walked into my father’s kitchen I would always glance at the wall to see if it was there. If it was in its place I would hurry past and not look back twice. Getting to the other side of the room out of its view was the goal. When I was at the other side of the room, I would then scan the table, floors, and cabinets to make sure everything was cleaned off and no crumbs were on the floor. If something was not clean I would hurry to get it done, so it would not have to come. At this time I was seven years old and counting down the days before I could return to my mother’s house. For years I lived in fear of it. I never knew when it would strike or what would cause it to come off the wall. It was about a foot long, 2 inches thick, made of wood, and wrapped in electrical tape. Bruises were covered, mouths stayed shut, and the abuse continued. At the age of twelve, anger, rage, and pain came out of my mouth as I told my mother of the years of abuse. She told me I would never have to return.

She thought she could prevent me from ever seeing him but she could not. When I was thirteen years old my father showed up. My sister told him she would not be going with him to his house and he became angry. My sister was clinging to the door frame as my father tried to pull her to his truck. I called my mother but she was not quick enough. My sister began to scream and he pulled back his arm and punched her in the face. When my mother arrived he drove away, but he left behind my sister with a swollen black eye. My father did not need it to terrify anyone; it was just a tool on the wall. I did not fear it, I feared my father.

I built a wall around myself through my childhood. My wall was made of cement and NO ONE would break me.

To release my anger I started to give. I began to spend time with abused children; I slept on the floor of an old school to spend time with children in downtown St. Louis; I have climbed mountains of trash bags to find a pair of pants for a homeless man, and spent time in Haiti.

I am no longer the child that was abused. My wall was slowly torn down by the people I was able to give to. Each person made a crack in my wall to help it come down. I thought I would continue with the cycle of abuse, but that is not me. I am the end of the cycle, and the past does not define me. I refuse to let the past define me.