There are many lessons that I’ve had to learn aging out of foster care and as I’ve worked to build a stable life and family of my own. One of those lessons is best described in India Arie’s lyrics to her song “Slow Down”- “Don’t wreck your future, running from your share a few and mention what they meant to me.
“So far from where I started out.
So far from where I wanna be.
Listening for answers in the wind,
But can't find a rock to plant my feet.
Looking for love in all the wrong places.
Down on my knees and now I'm praying for patience.
I know there's gotta be a better way.”
Surely, I am a “success story”. I aged out of foster care with gainful employment, stable housing and with a college degree; however, I transitioned into a new chapter of my life that was intimidating as I knew I achieved those milestones with support networks of the foster care system and at that time, it was my responsibility to continue this “success” without the supports I had come to know. I was unsure of myself, yet “running so hard” to escape the judgments, stereotypes and failures expected by some family members and others I met along the way that had little to no faith in my abilities to survive, let alone thrive on my own. I was working so hard to prove everyone wrong that I became consumed with reaching milestones that most people my age (and even older) had not achieved. My determination has brought me to a place in my life where I have achieved far more than most people my age and from my background; however, I have to constantly remind myself to “Slow Down” and appreciate and enjoy my accomplishments in the moment. I was fortunate to have channeled my motivation fueled by past disappointments and pain into building a positive reality for myself; however, not all of us Alumni are able to do this. Many of us are so distracted by past pain and disappointments that our rage and fury manifest in ways that are a detriment to our future. We’re so used to being treated “less than” that we become materialistic without regard to our financial health. We become so engrossed in what is not going right or what we wish we were doing in our lives that we overlook the blessings we have. We become so consumed with making people love us that we lose ourselves in pleasing others. We reduce ourselves to uncharted lows to impress lovers and dysfunctional family and friends. We are so busy running from our past, that we are sloppy about the decisions we make in the present and risk destroying our future.
”Sometimes you gotta be still and take some time to rejuvenate, Take some time to clear your space, Chaos isn’t good for your health, Oh No, No”
I have learned that life is not a race. It is important that we STOP and appreciate our accomplishments and the good in our lives. You have to stop trying to please others or be accepted by people who do not acknowledge your worth. Life is not about trying to be better than the next person or fighting for things that already belong to you. What do I mean by “fighting for things that already belong to you”? I mean that you don’t have to fight for success or fight to be acceptable to others or fight to be loved. Your success and future are completely in your hands. If you want it and you work for towards it, you will have it. It’s already yours. You ARE LOVED and ACCEPTED! The problem is we try to pursue love and acceptance from the wrong people, ignoring those who have always been there or who are right in front of our faces. Those people who already spend time with us, listen to us and understand us. Love and acceptance already belong to you; you don’t have to fight for it. I’ve learned that the family I’ve made for myself is all I really need. I don’t need acceptance or love from family members that have never really been there for me or who are nowhere to be found when I’m celebrating accomplishments or in pain from pitfalls.
Most importantly, stop fighting YOURSELF! You have NOTHING to prove! You are enough! Leave the past where it is - in the past. Take a breath and take in your present. Hold your children, your partner and your best friends close to you. Release toxic people and situations (you know who and what they are). Recognize your dreams and aspirations and know that you can and will reach them in your own time. You have made it through some of the worst set of circumstances. The worst is behind you. Any time calling itself tough will pale in comparison to what you’ve been through.
Stop running. Right now, in this moment, you are right where you need to be.