Unstoppable-The story of me

I’m On Fire!

I’m on fire!
 
I have something to say but I am afraid to speak.
Afraid of being heard, seen, judged, even listened to.
Afraid to fail but dying a little every day that I’m not trying.
 
Ever since I was a little girl, I had this passion for equal justice, this desire to make an impact and make this world better. But I can’t do that alone.
 
Every experience has helped to shape me into the woman I am today. I’ve made choices, some things were decided for me. I decided what to do from there.
 
Growing up, moving a lot, initially having financial stability and access to things such as basic needs, performing arts and outlets only to be torn out of one life and dropped into another, becoming homeless at 11, then being dumped into the projects in the hood, growing up without father or role models, mother being mentally ill and declining and addicted to drugs, being poor, desolate, forgotten, broken, confused. Finding my place selling drugs and hanging with gang bangers, having a child alone at 14, his father being incarcerated most of his life and inevitably being brutally murdered in the middle of the street in front of his aunt’s house.
 
Being somebody’s statistic, finding myself raising not 1 but 2 children alone after finally leaving an abusive relationship that I was so broken, I didn’t even realize until I got out and began healing. Having to fight to prove myself and twice as hard as people with certain advantages/privileges says a lot about me but it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t paint a picture of the woman I am today. But it has made me aware of things that otherwise, I may not know exist. It has made me want to fight to make a better life for my children and one day their children.
 
I remember growing up, all I wanted was to make it, to make it out alive and just make a life for my family. That is true for so many young people growing up in poverty or unpleasant circumstances. But that’s not enough. We were taught that life was hard and not to help pull each other up. We were taught to tear each other down. We were made to believe that we didn’t deserve better and if by some chance, we found a way, just go! I have also, through the grace of God and a spirit to prove authority wrong (make people think differently), had an unwavering determination to succeed.
 
I left high school in the ninth grade to pursue being an adult. I had a child, worked full time and school was holding me back. I met with the superintendent to request permission due to special circumstances to test for my GED. He complied but I don’t know that he thought I would pass. I did, my first try without any preparation. I was embarrassed by that for a long time. Who knew I would sit in a meeting with that same man years later? Shaking, I reminded him of what his small choice allowed and made an impact on my life forever. I was able to start college, I took my first college class at age 15 at the urban center for $10 a credit hour. Enrolled in the local University at 16 and competed at 21. I was the first in my family to go and graduate from college. I bought my first home at 27. Became Vice President at 30.
All of these things have been preparing me to live my purpose (empower, educate and challenge). It has taken me a long time to realize that these events have everything to do with me and nothing to do with me. I’ve lived through this so someone else doesn’t have to. So that I can be angry enough to use my voice to ignite at the very least a discussion and God willing, a movement. I’ve had these experiences so that I can reach people that don’t look like me and people that do. If you were to see me, you would never think or even believe my upbringing or what I’ve lived through. Thank God, I don’t look like my struggle. I can escape it, hiding behind my privileged appearance. But what about the rest of the world, the people who can’t?
 
It is our responsibility to make the world listen. It is our job to educate, empower and challenge individuals and organizations to do better, to think and live differently. Where does that begin? It starts with you, the choices you make every day. Where you choose to live, go to or send your kids to school, socialize, worship matters. We can’t continue to segregate people in communities and expect real change. Where does change in a community happen? It happens in the community with the people who live, work and go to school in those communities. How do you add diversity of thought, diversity of experience, race, gender, socioeconomic status? By moving into these communities and becoming active on councils and boards, by going into the streets with a broom and trash can to clean with a group of friends, by mentoring, speaking to youth and adults, educating them, connecting them to available resources to help them become more self-sustaining.
 
It can also be speaking up, advocating for others that don’t have a seat at the table and making room when there is an opportunity for them to sit at the table. Taking risks with people who don’t look and think like you. Caring enough to ask questions and be vulnerable about your lives. Apologizing for things we may or may not have done. Asking how we can start to make it up and heal together. Realizing that we can’t put a band-aid on this wound any longer. We need to organize/orchestrate and create real solutions with everyone at the table. We as nonprofits need to discuss what’s best for the individuals, we serve by including them in the conversation and hearing their perspectives.
 
The system is flawed…No, the system is broken. It was designed and has successfully continued to increase the gap; segregating our communities, lending itself to keeping the oppressed, oppressed. We must be willing to make radical changes if we want to see a radically different reality.
 
Creating social change, social impact through awareness. Having the conversation, acknowledging that others may have a different experience in than you do and embrace them.
 
Identifying the social challenges, we are facing and developing innovative and strategic solutions to make an impact, quality of life overall for all, better/stronger economic and workforce development opportunities.
 
Bringing people and communities together, not just to share a meal. We must be willing to take risks together.
Stop sending our children to private schools and instead invest in bettering our public-school system.
Start moving into neighborhoods that are less than desirable and bring others with you. Than create opportunities together to improve the neighborhood and its quality of life.
I don’t have this all figured out. But I do know, it is up to us to make changes today not only to change our reality but to change future generations to comes reality.
 
So, I ask you, how will you start?
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Unstoppable-The story of me

Reflection

If you would have told me a year ago all of the changes that were coming, I don’t know if I would have believed it.  We struggle to envision miraculous things because we can only see from our view.  If only we could begin to see things through Gods view, we would realize things are possible beyond what we could ever imagine.  Yes, God is that good!

This last year has been full of uncertainty and excitement.  It has been terrifying, yet quite extraordinary.  It has been challenging, yet enlightening.  It has pushed me further than I would have ever chosen but so worth it.  I have learned so much about myself and the world.  It has forced me to look deep within and to uncover things that I didn’t even realize were still there.  It has forced me to deal with pain, anger, resentment, healing, love, loneliness and joy.  It has given me great perspective.  It has given me peace.  It has forced me to make choices; some easy, some difficult, but all necessary.  It has brought my family closer.  It has forced me outside of any comfort I’ve known.  It has forced me to question everything I’ve known.  It has forced me to trust people I don’t know.  It has reminded me that I only have to answer to God.

You see the world has been harsh.  People over time have taken piece after piece of me, leaving almost nothing.  I used to have this light about me, this pure beauty and confidence, this ambition and motivation that anything was possible.  I wanted so much out of life, for myself, for the world.  Over time, I allowed people and the world to dim that light.  I inadvertently started to believe them, what they saw as possible.  I allowed them to keep score for me.

I don’t know what’s next but I am looking forward to it…

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Unstoppable-The story of me

Faith & Transformation

2018 has been a transformative year for me. Last year I woke up and realized I had been living someone else’s truth.  By the world’s standards, everything was great, my family, my house, my job.  But none of it seemed right for me.  It was as if I’d outgrown everyone and everything around me.  I felt like I was being called to make a change.  So, I did just that.  I left everything I knew and started off into the unknown.  New state, new house, new job, new everything.  During this time of extreme soul searching and discomfort; I began dreaming big and facing new fears that have pushed me and elevated my level of resilience and confidence. I’ve been given opportunities from relocating to starting a new role to reinventing myself.  Or better yet, finding myself. and my purpose… My Purpose|To educate, empower & challenge the disadvantaged.  As the transformation is not yet complete, I am excited for 2019 to embark on living my purpose and being my best self.  I’m stepping out on faith to start and grow Tiffany Lynn and Thrive.  I plan to serve my community and make the world better by educating, empowering & challenging individuals and organizations.  I can’t wait to see it unfold.

“Provision will follow Vision”.

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Unstoppable-The story of me

14 and Pregnant

You’re pregnant!

I left the hospital in shock. At this point, I didn’t even know I could have a baby. Silly, I know. How could I be so naive? I honestly don’t have a good reason. No one had ever talked to me about sex, let alone safe sex or pregnancy. I didn’t understand. Why would I be pregnant? He cheated on me, I had planned to never speak to him again.

What was I supposed to do now? The car ride home, I was silent. My mother was in a rage. She started screaming and shaking. She was telling me that we would take care of this. I had completely tuned her out. I was lost in my own thoughts. I was talking to God. I was asking him, why now? I was asking him if I was capable or if I should go the route of adoption. I didn’t think I would be strong enough to give my child up for adoption. Suddenly, I hear her say, you will not have this child! Your grandfather would roll over in his grave. She said he’d better be blonde haired and blue-eyed.

I finally told her to shut up! I told her I didn’t care what she or anyone else thought. I told her that I would find a way and didn’t need her support or approval. I also told her how ridiculous she sounded. She was furious. She slammed on the brakes and told me, she would force me to have an abortion. I told her, it was not her choice and I didn’t care what she did to me.

She had her own deep issues arise during this moment. She herself had an abortion at 15. It was traumatic in of itself but more so because from what she told me, she had to travel to New York alone to have this done as it was illegal at the time. I tried to be understanding but I really couldn’t understand. Looking back, I can honestly say abortion was not an option for me, it never even crossed my mind.

We arrived home and she continued to carry on. I went to my room and closed the door. How was I going to tell Randall? How was my life going to change? How would we provide for and raise this child? I wanted a girl. Ironically, I never wanted to be a mother. I never dreamed of being married. Up to this point, I hadn’t thought any further out than the day in front of me. As I young child, I had huge aspirations. I was extremely bright and excelled at all that I attempted. I wanted to be the first women president of the United States. By my preteen years, all had diminished. I had no goals, no hopes. I was just trying to survive.

We were so poor. We had nothing. I didn’t know what my next steps would be but I knew everything would be OK. I felt as if it was God sending me a wake-up call. It was as if he shook me with two arms telling me to wake up! I heard him.

I told Randall that I was pregnant. He was excited. See, I think what brought us together initially was our desire to be loved. We were both so lost. We had so much potential, but no one around telling us to use it or even how to. His aunt Loretta, God rest her soul. She loved us. She was probably the closest I ever felt to a mothers love. She wasn’t happy at first but she was there for us. She always gave it to you straight. I miss her to this day. No matter what terms Randall and me were on, I knew Loretta was always in my corner.

The next several months were hard as we prepared for the birth of my son. Not just because of the grieve and judgment I received from others but the actual pregnancy. I gained 70 lbs. I had stretch marks from here to Sunday. We had a few complications throughout that had to be monitored. I remember being so big and uncomfortable. But I never complained.

My whole mindset had changed. I went from not caring about what happened to me, running the streets, doing things that I shouldn’t have been to going to school and job searching. I didn’t have a plan written out but I knew that I would do whatever it took to provide a good life for my son. I wanted him to have everything I didn’t. I didn’t want him to be tarnished by having a teen parent. I wanted him to have his mother and father. I wanted that so deeply that I subjected myself to things I would have never tolerated otherwise. I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my family together.

Randall was slower at coming around. While I was in labor, he couldn’t be found. Or didn’t want to be. I just wanted him. By this time, we weren’t really together. Well, he wasn’t with me. They found him at one of his girlfriends. He hoped in the car and headed to the hospital. I was so angry but relieved that he was on his way.

Due to complications, my doctor ordered an ultrasound the day before. It was then, that he realized, 3 1/2 weeks to go, I had an almost 9 lbs baby. I was admitted to the hospital to be induced. The medication that they gave me made the contractions worse. Not that I had anything to compare it to. But it was awful. I just wanted it to be over. The labor was not progressing. They continued to try other medications to help me progress. I wasn’t dilating. My contractions weren’t picking up. They had to use a fetal monitor. They broke my water. They were afraid I would be at risk for a dry birth and a c section may be necessary.

Suddenly, the nurse said it was time to push. After being in the hospital and labor for days, I was exhausted. I started to push. It was hours of pushing. I wanted to give up. His heart rate was dropping. I just pushed with everything I had. His head was stuck. I had to be cut. They had to forceps. But finally, he was out.

The room was silent. He was blue, he didn’t cry. I didn’t know anything was wrong. The look and urgency on everyone’s faces made me panic. I was trying to see what was happening. They told me to calm down, I was being stitched up. I couldn’t move. I felt helpless.
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Unstoppable-The story of me

The morning of no return

I woke up like any other morning, came downstairs to find my mother sitting at the table drinking her coffee and smoking a cigarette. She looked unusually troubled. She was sitting there with a police officer. I say, “what’s going on?” She says,”Tiffany, sit down.” So I hesitantly take a seat. She proceeds to tell me that I need to go to the hospital for psychological evaluation. Confused, I sit quietly. The officer asks me if I want to harm myself or anyone else. In my mind, I’m thinking, my delusional mother at this moment. I angrily say this is ridiculous and explain to the officer that she was just released after a two-week stay at the University of Cincinnati Hospital Psych unit. I work a fulltime job, take classes 5 days a week, take care of my young son and this household because my mother can’t.

My mother tells the officer to take me away. The officer looks at my mother and explains that you can’t check someone in against their will unless they’re a harm to themselves or others. My mother is furious! The officer leaves with despair on her face. I think she knew that whatever would follow, would not be pleasant.

What prompted this? I had recently told my mother that I was moving out on my own. I couldn’t take the stress of all that I was carrying, to come home and have to take care of her house too. She was not having this, she knew if I left, my check she received would leave too. She had recently been scammed on the internet for the little savings we had.

So I get in the shower continuing with my plan of going to look for places before work. After we get ready, I come downstairs to find my mother, her sister and their friend. I’m a small girl, 15 years old, 5’5, maybe 125lbs carrying my son, whose 1 years old and about 40 lbs. My mother is blocking the stairs where I’m trying to walk down. They begin to taunt me, of how they’re taking my son and forcing me to check into the psych ward. I just ignore them and head towards the front door, the friend blocks the doorway. I quickly rush towards the back door, my aunt blocks it. Beginning to panic, I head for the phone, my mother rips it out of the wall. They’re screaming at me, telling me I’m going, they’re taking my child and there’s nothing I can do about it.

My mind is racing. I can’t think straight. I make my way to the couch in disbelief. They approach me, grabbing for my son, yelling at me. I had him wrapped in my arms blocking them with my legs and feet. All that I can utter out of my mouth is you all are crazy and you will have to kill me to take him. I just begin to pray, looking at my son thinking god will get us out of this. But I couldn’t imagine how it seemed so unreal and out of control.

Suddenly, my dad walks in the door. He stops dead in his tracks and yells, “STOP!” They are so shocked, they actually do. He says, “Tiffany, go!” I’ve never moved so quickly in my life. I left with nothing, not even his car seat. I can hear them taunting him now, asking him what’s he gonna do with me, he’s never been a father. He tells them they’re crazy and I don’t deserve this. If I can back up for a second to tell you, I never got to know my father, had to relationship or respect for him. I had nothing but anger and resentment because of my mother’s words and his absence in my life. I don’t think my father ever stood up for anything or anyone a day in his life until that moment. It was powerful; it was as if God sent him at the exact moment I needed him most. As I reflect on this, I’m tearing up. It’s just powerful.

He comes out of the house with a diaper bag and car seat. We leave, unsure of where we’re headed.

My dad…

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Unstoppable-The story of me

Randall

When I tell you, I loved that boy! He was the first person I ever felt really understood and accepted me. He made me feel like everything would be alright. We had the best time doing nothing with nothing. We just enjoyed each other’s company. I think we were both so lost and broken, we found refuge with each other. I would have done anything in this world for him. I saw something in him that no one else seemed to see. I believe in him and supported him. I would have married him.

9th-grade year, Randall broke my heart. After a few days of not seeing Randall, I decided to go find him. I found my bike laying outside of a building. A few days earlier, I lent it to a friend. I was tired of waking so I went and knocked on the door to tell him I was taking my bike to find Randall. A lady answered the door. She tells me he’s not here but she’ll tell him. As I turn to walk away, she says, aren’t you the little girl that used to go with Randall? I exclaimed, no, I still go with Randall. She proceeds to tell me that she’s been sleeping with him for a few weeks.

I don’t believe a word of it. I hop on my bike, pedaling as fast as my legs will allow. I see Randall so I follow the car to my house. He gets out and I am hysterical, crying and screaming for answers in disbelief. He admits it. I was just devastated. He cheated on me. He threw everything we had away! Just like that? I felt like nothing had even come close to that pain. A few days go by and my mother finally says, well at least you weren’t sleeping with him. Did I forget to mention, he’d been living with us for months?

So I go to the doctor to get on birth control. This was an experience. The doctor was so mean! She wouldn’t allow my mother to stay with me. She said if I was big enough to need birth control, I was big enough to be in there alone.

She sent us to the hospital for blood work. The phlebotomist comes out and says, it’s positive. We’re like, positive, what? You’re pregnant!

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Unstoppable-The story of me

Childhood

I’ve blocked out quite a bit of my childhood for one reason or another. I went to 13 different schools from kindergarten to college. I’ll explain later. We moved from Kentucky to Florida at age 3. I don’t remember much but I spent most of the time with my nanny Nana and her family. Her daughter Fea and I danced 5 nights a week and had recitals on most weekends. I loved Fea, I looked up to her. I loved to dance and I was good at it. I remember wishing my mom could see me dance. She was never around. She owned her own business and worked a lot. Looking back, I don’t think she was always working. I think she was trying to find comfort in her misery. Anyway, back to dance. I auditioned for The Nutcracker and was cast as a Soldier in the Miami Ballet. It was a big deal! My family even came in from Kentucky to watch me. I was so proud! Having my family come in made me think it would be great if they were around more. I begged my mom to bring us back to Kentucky. I was always with the nanny or at dance class. And when I was with my mom, she was screaming at me for what I was doing wrong.

Finally, she sold her business and we moved back to Kentucky. She started another business here in Kentucky. We settled into a new house. I thought it would be home. I thought I’d see my family more.

I was alone a lot. At 9, I was getting myself on and off the bus, making my own dinner, which sometimes consisted of a whole loaf of butternut bread. She never cooked. She never did much of anything with me. When she was home, she’d stay in her room with the door closed. Her attempts to show love consisted of her buying me things. She’d buy me whatever I wanted. I still to this day don’t know what love feels like or how to accept it. I subconsciously still think gifts are love.

My mother grew tired and sick. I think she was so mentally ill that she made herself physically ill. I hadn’t seen my dad since I was 3 and didn’t remove him. At age 11, she brought him back to Kentucky from California on a child support warrant. So of course, she married him for a second time upon his release from jail. So here is this man who she raised me to hate and resent, living in my house. I struggled with this. I was angry, angrier than before.

He wasn’t working and she just kind of gave up. She lost her business, we lost our home, we lost everything I had ever known. Suddenly, we were homeless.

My best friend Amina who I spent most of my time with took me in. I stayed with her family for the remainder of the school year. I love her family from the bottom of my heart. They loved and accepted me and still do. I’m forever grateful.

Preparing to start the new school year, we found a house. We moved there but was short lived. We were homeless again. I went to stay with my dad and his sister. This was the 3rd school for my 7th-grade year. My mother finally got a place. We moved to the projects. I was going to a prestigious school in Cincinnati from the projects. It seems as if I was just adjusting and we were yet homeless again. This time, my mom’s friend told the police she was selling drugs.

I was greeted at the door by two detectives there following a search team. I don’t know exactly what happened or how my mom got out of that situation. None the less, we found an apartment in the city. I started school in yet another district. The irony, I’m very introverted and I don’t like change. I taught myself to act as if I did. So I start the new school and decide it’s not for me. I was skipping school and running the streets. Bri and I somehow talked my mom into homeschooling us. I should have never made it through my 8th-grade year. I met a young man, named Randall. He was my best friend. We were inseparable. We did everything together, stole my first car, got into fights with people, you know, the usual. We literally had nothing. We were so poor we used food stamps to make change until we had enough for cigarettes. Any shoes or clothes I had, were borrowed and never returned from my friends. But we were happy.

By the 9th grade, you couldn’t tell me anything. Not that you really could before.

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