I was raised in foster care, my biological mother used to be a drug abuser, my biological father a drug dealer who spent the better part of my childhood (and adolescence and young adulthood) in prison. My first foster mother was physically abusive and my second one was emotionally abusive. I went to some of the worst schools in the city, and although I was in their so-called "gifted" program, they were still academically behind and didn't teach us some of the most basic things.
I was lost. I was confused. I was angry. And I felt invisible.
During my childhood, I was really soft-spoken. I hardly said anything during school hours and really only spoke to my sister while at home (if that's what you want to call it). For a long time, I didn't think my thoughts were valid so I didn't want to share them with others.
But I had hopes and wishes and dreams. And, more than anything else, I wanted to fulfill those dreams. I worked hard in school, got a scholarship to a top university, and was one step closer to getting my dreams.
When I got to Columbia, I was not at all academically prepared. I was struggling. At one point, I was thisclose to making the decision to go to a community college just so I could be a top student again. But I wanted more and I had a determination to learn the ropes and excel at it. I got tutoring, went to office hours, did extra work and research and eventually caught myself up. For our graduation ceremony, I was chosen to lead my class in the procession. It was one of the best moments of my life.
Having a baby after graduation derailed my plans to apply to grad school, but not too much because three years out of undergrad, I applied to grad school. Ending things with Aiden's other parent in order to get out of the physically abusive relationship proved difficult at first, and although I struggled to balance motherhood and school work, I finished. With two master degrees.
This is why I love my job so much as an elementary school leader at my low-income school — because I see boys and girls with bright smiles and faces who remind me of myself when I was their age. I can be an example for them to go get their dreams. I can be an example to their single mothers to keep pushing forward.
Because, according to the statistics, I wasn't supposed to be here. I wasn't supposed to graduate high school at the top of my class, I wasn't supposed to finish college, I wasn't supposed to get two master degrees, I wasn't supposed to have a thriving career.
But I wanted to reach my goals. Badly.
And, no matter who you are or what your situation is, you should want your dreams badly enough to go get them. With determination and persistence and grit.
How badly do you want it?