Turning my Ashes to Their Diamonds
As babies we are programed with nursery rhythms, “1st comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.” Then as children we go to school and are given unrealistic goals to meet with minimal help. Told that we need to get it all done in preparation for college and the work field. If you want to have children, as your programmed too, then you must go to college. However, in order to go to college, you have to work yourself to the bone studying to guarantee a scholarship, have loaded parents or work and take out loans. Don’t worry once you’ve gotten your degree in your desired field you will have enough debt to owe the government until you die. Good luck staying afloat with all that debt, plus your responsibility to be a spouse and parent. You see in my hometown, the hood if you will, we weren’t the richest and our community had very little funding. So you learn how to survive in school like you do in the outside world.
Where I come from, mental health was “all in your head,” so people didn’t know how to cope. We just learned how to survive, alone and as a community. I’m grateful for my home community, for without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. This action, learning to survive, in the mental health world is a coping mechanism; this helps us adapt to our circumstances, just to go through the motions in life and do what we need to do. To the outside world, this may look like a older sibling stealing food to feed their family, or impulsive behaviors, and it is 100%, adaptability.
As I stated before, I learned how to survive in school. This started after a very traumatizing event happened in second grade. We were instructed to read aloud during reading group time, and I was the 6th student out of 6 students to read. While, my 5 classmates read ahead of me, I focused on ensuring my sentence was perfect, because I wasn’t at a 2nd grade reading level yet. My time came, I read my line and there was a single line left. What I didn’t take into account was that Ms. Grossi was going to demand I read the next sentence too. I began to have, what I now know to be a, panic attack. I slowly and extremely softly began to read the words, sounding them out one by one. I could hear my classmates now making fun of the fact that I couldn’t read. My teacher is standing over me, tapping her foot on the ground, all I can do is try to block out everything and continue. I can feel Ms. Grossi’s impatience growing large enough to fill the room. “Louder please!,” Ms. Grossi shouts just as I get myself out of my own head. I begin reading louder and I’m actually really proud of myself. Until, boom, I’ve hit a word I must sound out.The immense amount of self embarrassment hits me like a 10 foot high wave crashes down on a surfer. Funny thing is, still to this day my brain wont reveal that word to me.
The amount of embarrassment in this moment, makes sounding the word out, out loud, debilitating. Here I am, back under the pressure, trying to get it together; sounding out in my head, over and over and just not getting it. Just then, Ms. Grossi, throws her hands in the air slamming one on the desk as she screams, “Come on Antoinette! My hair isn’t gunna get any grayer!,” it was then that I completely shattered. Even though my mom stood up for me when I told her, it just wasn’t enough. That incident severed a nerve and the damage was unrepairable. This triggered my survival mode in the school world. I managed to even get into all honors classes in 7th grade, by surviving. Do not get me wrong, I had some phenomenal teachers along the way that truly loved and poured into me. They’re apart of that community I expressed gratitude for earlier.
As so many people know, academics are not the only thing children have to survive in the school world. You also have people to survive, and I wasn’t very good at fitting in. I don’t see things like the rest of the world. I see the good in even the most evil. I think the world would be a happier, healthier place if we all loved everything and everybody. I absolutely despise cliques, and everyone whose been to high school knows that is clique central. I was the biggest social butterfly you would have known, I was friends with at least 1 person in every “clique” in high school. But with this care free nature comes an abundance of negative energy or evil eye. I was always bullied in school, someone convinced me to go to a soccer game after school when I was in 6th grade. I went and had a blast but had to be home by a certain time, so I left before the game was even over. As I was leaving, I was jumped by 4 girls and 2 boys. Pinned on the floor, face down being kicked a punched. I ended up with a concussion, a restraining order against the main girl and short a few friends, since they set me up.
In high school, a girl use to follow me home. One day she found out where I worked and showed up to fight me. Of course, I was in uniform and I needed my job to eat and provide for myself, so I couldn’t do anything to her. Then she walked up to me and hit me, if it was not for my manager that may have ended very differently. So you see, between surviving academics, I was on a 1st grade reading level in 9th grade, and surviving bullies, I was done. At 16, after completing my 9th grade year, I decided I was an adult and didn’t have to deal with school anymore. I enrolled and very quickly dropped out of GED classes. However, I did enroll and complete my certification for nail technician and I even got licensed. Didn’t matter though, I didn’t like it and didn’t pursue it. I managed to do all of this before I even turning 17, ha.
At 17, I found out I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. This was everything I ever wanted, to be a mom. I was about 6 months pregnant, on my lunch break, when my hormone enraged brain had an “Oh, crap!,” moment. I dropped out at 16 years old, after completing my 9th grade year, leaving school at a 1st grade reading level. My daughters father whose about 6 years older than myself, dropped out at 15 years old after retaining 7th grade 3 times. I knew for an absolute fact my daughters father couldn’t read, plus I could not read. We are bringing a child into this world, and our job is to teach and guide her. How can we do this if neither of us are even literate enough to read a report card? My neighbor was having a yard sale, she had a box of children’s books. I asked the priced and she said that I could have them for my daughter. Little does this woman know, I bought them to teach myself how to read. Every single night, from that day forward I read. I read out loud, I stumbled and had to search the internet and dictionary for meanings and pronunciations of words, but I read. And every night and even during the day my daughter heard her mommy read to her. My daughter will forever be the blessing of teaching me my strength and endurance to want something. I had never wanted to read nor learn to read, let alone self learn, but I knew she deserved better than that!
In the end, it has really been an essential tool for my life, my growth and my family. Learning to read has been an absolute blessing. I know this was my journey and how it was supposed to play out. Realistically, if I didn’t experience where I came from I wouldn’t know how to be better for the future. And if I didn’t have my experience with this world and my own struggles I wouldn’t be well equip to fight the same system, for my children, that let me slip through the cracks. I can say proudly because I experienced what I experienced in life, I was well over equip for the battles my children have and will continue to face.
I’ve always wanted to be a change, what I didn’t realize is the change would be in me. I didn’t realize 14 years ago, when I became a mother, that what I am here to do is break generational curses within my family. Maybe even help a few people along the way. Don’t let anybody, including yourself, dim the light of your dreams. And always remember; our dreams aren’t always what we expect them to be, rather they are what we are meant to be.
Antoinette!!! This story is incredible. You are amazing. It’s so crazy how the way someone treats you in a moment as a childhood can have such a ripple effect. What strength you have to take it upon yourself to learn to read for your child, and lookout you now!!! Writing like a pro! I am in awe of your strength and your courage. And I am sure your children feel the same. You’re a fighter and winner.
Thank you for sharing your story.
@shelleybrill this letter is a must read. Check it out.
Reading your story reminds me how important it is for teachers to be positive and caring. I am sorry you had that awful classroom experience but it seems in the end it made you stronger and extremely determined to overcome your difficulty with reading. It sounds like you are a wonderful mother. Good luck to you and your daughter.
All the best,
I am glad that you are able to not let your past affect the future of those around you. that you are able to change your darkness into their light. i wish more people on the earth can find a way to go about this but not everyone is made the same as others so you cant expect much from the human race. continue to shine your diamond on others and be an influence in the world.