We all have a story, a story we have lived and internalized and lived to tell. I believe that how we tell our story is crucial to who we are, how we are, and what we believe about ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Stories are the glue of the past to the present and they give meaning to what otherwise may seem out of context. Stories give context, content, impact, and message. The author makes choices about that impact and message. We are all the author of our own story.
My story is about my why and how of the work I do, the passion I hold, and the life I live. The delivery of a story has a huge impact – positive or negative – that leads to insight and emotion. The same story can have many layers. Let me show you what I mean with my own story. There are two versions of the the first part of the story. Both are true. Each holds unique messages for me and for those who come here to find out more about me….
I was born into a family where drugs and guns were the family business. It was a world of violence and chaos. Survival was the name of the game. I was all that was left of my immediate family by the time I was seven having lost my mother, two brothers, and a sister. What saved me was the color of my skin. My mother was full blood, Native American, and my siblings all had her creamy brown skin. With a Caucasian father, I was lighter. I was whiter. In the era, they were easily dismissed; another dead Indian. I was not so disposable. That was what allowed me to survive; the color of my skin. I came to grips with my survivor guilt much later as I learned that this was white privilege.
As a child of 7, I was a mule, running drugs for the adults in my world. By 10 years old I was a full blown addict, a myriad of drugs in my arsenal and at my disposal.
At 15 I was taught to steal cars, my contribution to the family business; my initiation into what I could do to ensure my survival. That’s where I learned to drive like I stole it.
Long before, I knew this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. This was not what I was meant to be or do. It was this time period, however, that I began to understand that the way out was education and that I had a choice because, while I was poor, I was also white.
I was born into a family of entrepreneurs. It was a tough business and tragedy hit our family hard. In my first seven years I lost my mother, two brothers and my sister. What I was left with was the strong awareness that my mother loved me, that I was lovable, that the world had a bright spot and I belonged in it. These were important lessons!
Throughout my childhood I was given more and more responsibility in the family business. By the time I was 15 my initiation had begun. I quickly realized this was not the business I wanted to inherit, not the legacy I wanted to live. I recognized, too, that education would be the way out.
The rest of the story….
I was the youngest of eight grandchildren. My mother had had a sixth grade education, my father an eighth grade. I was the first of all the grandchildren to graduate from high school and the only one who went to college. College was my tool to leave the world of violence and the family business behind. I ultimately left with skills; the skills of an entrepreneur, of a survivor, of tenacity, and the ability to see more than one way through a problem. These were strong tools that have and will continue to serve me well!
It wasn’t easy. There were lots of challenges along the way. I didn’t always make the best choices (heck, I married my dealer!). I had to wrestle my high school education from the inner city public school where I graduated. I had to work hard to get the tools I needed to go on to higher education, to continue my life my way.
I went on, over time, to become a single mother (divorced my dealer), a recovered addict, and a college graduate. First with a bachelors degree in psychology, then with a masters degree in education/special ed and, today, almost a PhD in educational administration and leadership. In my travels I have come to know myself, to be able to see my journey for what it is; a learning tool and a teachable moment.
Within my learning, I decided, everyone has a right to be. Regardless of skin color, gender, gender expression and identity, who one loves, or what deity is worshiped, and what level of smarts one is equipped with. There are tools and strategies and theories out there that make it so there is no excuse but to treat all people, all beings, with respect. My story is why I do what I do.
Yes, I’m about cultural competence (really, it’s cultural acuity), communication, effective leadership, and effective use of conflict. But more than that, I am about RELATIONSHIPS!
That’s my story. I hope understanding that about me, you can understand what I do, why I do it, and how WE can do it TOGETHER!
Want to know more about what I do? Check out With Respect, LLC by clicking here.