Most people will say that there was a specific moment that significantly changed their life forever. A specific moment that they’ve come to some realization, some meaningful insight or recognition. Something significant and powerful. Something they can take and apply to their lives. Something emotional that would alter their lives forever.
This wasn’t how it was for me.
There wasn’t a particular moment, a particular circumstance, or a particular reason.
It wasn’t running all over the city, with no supervision until the wee hours of the night.
It wasn’t trying to pick the padlocks that were on the fridge and cupboards to attempt to eat.
It wasn’t seeing my father come home drenched in blood.
It wasn’t watching my father leave.
It wasn’t seeing and witnessing my mother and her boyfriend use drugs.
It wasn’t feeling that thick, leather belt against my skin.
It wasn’t having dog shit in a sock shoved in my mouth and duct-taped shut.
It wasn’t listening to how the Bible and God justified everything.
It wasn’t agreeing out of fear that I was having a sexual relationship with my absentee father.
It wasn’t doing everything in my power to protect my little sisters from any harm, even if that meant I got it more.
It wasn’t having my mother call me a slut.
It wasn’t all the time I spent with the boyfriend.
It wasn’t being forced to lie next to him.
It wasn’t being forced to do things a little girl never should have done.
It wasn’t the first time. Nor the second, or the hundredth…
No… that was just my childhood.
It wasn’t hearing the knock at the door, interrupting the silence of the night, by an officer, detective and a social worker.
It wasn’t going to the hospital in the middle of the night.
It wasn’t watching my mother walk away as my sisters cried for her to come back.
It wasn’t wiping the tears away, guiding one to the car, and stopping the other fight off the police and social workers.
It wasn’t the first night not in my own bed. Nor the second, or the hundredth…
No… that was the beginning of foster care.
It wasn’t finally having some structure, stability and love, surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles.
It wasn’t becoming an “A” student and top athlete.
It wasn’t starting high school.
It wasn’t my first boyfriend, my first job, my first taste of alcohol.
It wasn’t being able to accept my past and start to move forward.
It wasn’t the sexual assault in the stairwell.
It wasn’t the sexual assault at the party.
It wasn’t bouncing from home to home.
It wasn’t the first line I snorted… nor the second, or the hundredth…
No… that was my teenage years.
It wasn’t reaching out for help and finally quitting drugs.
It wasn’t losing friends over drug overdoses.
It wasn’t my high school graduation.
It wasn’t my first day of college and living on my own.
It wasn’t being drugged and raped… and spending the night in the drunk tank because the police did not believe me.
It wasn’t being arrested in a drug raid, being used as a poker hand to bust my brother.
It wasn’t getting involved in volunteer projects.
It wasn’t finding a sense of belonging within a crowd of other crown wards… or in other words, other victims.
It wasn’t the first time I achieved making a difference in a child’s life. Nor the second… or the hundredth.
No… that was college.
It wasn’t living in Toronto, slowly moving up the professional conveyor belt.
It wasn’t starting to make a name for myself.
It wasn’t applying to St. Thomas University and moving to an unknown province.
It wasn’t starting my new adventure with being raped again.
It wasn’t the death one of my closest friends.
It wasn’t pulling out of university.
It wasn’t the first night blacking out. Nor the second, or the hundredth.
No… that was first year of university.
It wasn’t my first day of sobriety.
It wasn’t sorting my priorities.
It wasn’t recovering and healing.
It wasn’t enrolling back into university.
It wasn’t engaging in several volunteer projects.
It wasn’t starting to make a name for myself within campus and government.
It wasn’t my one-year anniversary of my sobriety.
It wasn’t today.
There is an old Japanese proverb “fall down seven, stand up eight.”
Except, I have fallen down much more than seven. In fact… I have lost count of how many times I have fallen down, been pushed down… jumped. But no matter how bruised my skin was, no matter what broke along the way, I have always stood back up. Unsteady legs fighting to straighten out, to stand tall… to breathe again. Just for a moment. To take a deep breath with the fear of falling down once again. To stand back up and know it is not the end.
Throughout my entire life, I have endured severe abuse and dangerous life choices. It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride, with all the bumps, turns, flips and heights you can only imagine. I have been knocked down so low, where I have spent most of my life with no self-respect, no self-love because that was foreign to me. I spent most of my life feeling completely unaccomplished and worthless because I wasn’t shown any different. So, I went and found it.
To swim against the current, to get back into the ring and keep fighting… now that is something entirely different. It is not something significant that you take from a particular moment, a particular circumstance. It is an unending war, victory in one battle and proceeding to the next. It is adaptation and emotion and preparation. It strengthens and exceeds pain. It is the ability to bounce back, to stand back up.
And that, my friends, is what we call resiliency. And each and every single person has this.
Every day was not just about getting up, getting dressed and going about my day. Every day wasn’t about friendly exchanges and fulfilling my duties… No, it was much more than that. It was about the will to survive, to keep fighting, to find my diminishing inner strength and to never give up.
Every single person on the planet has this within them.
Those challenges do not need to be like mine, as we all have our own stories, our own battles to endure. I find it truly inspiring to know we all have that ability to bounce back, to never give up, to keep fighting… to be resilient.
I see a lot of Aboriginals who are very resilient, battling the wounds of our history and trying to move forward while caught in cycles of destruction. I see third-world countries becoming resilient. I see this within my volunteer work. Even though the child welfare system had the intention of saving me, the system is incredibly flawed. I was left to fend for myself. This is the same story of many young people in care.
We become some of the most resilient young people because of our parents failing us, because of a system failing us, and being left alone to fend for ourselves.
It was my resiliency that saved me. It saved me from becoming a statistic. It saved me from snorting up one more line, from taking one more drink. It saved me from going to jail or living on the streets. It saved my education. It saved the person who I was meant to be… my purpose.
It saved my inner warrior to make differences in the lives of those who are vulnerable and weak and struggling – feeling worthless; having no voice. It saved me and will continue to, as it never rests…
Resiliency saved me the first time. And the second time… the hundredth.
Speak Your Mind features speeches written by Communications and Public Policy students.