Have you ever looked at someone and thought to yourself that it would be nice to live their life? Well I think most of us have, but in reality their life is not what it seems. Just think about all the things you have been through. Do you want someone else to walk in your shoes? Life in my shoes was not, is not, and probable never will be an easy life. My life has taken me through many up and downs. Through those ups and during those downs I have learned so much about myself, others and living life in general.
I know I do not want to trade my life for someone else’s life because the grass is never greener on the other side, it just disguised to look pretty. With my life I know where I have been, where I am at, and the plan to get to where I want to be. It hasn’t always been cookies and cream but it is the life that has made me the person I am now. Growing up in a small town, living with the parents I have, enjoying the small things I love, achieving some goals, and creating more goals is the road I will take you down. Let’s take a walk in my small town shoes.
Clanton, Alabama located in Chilton County which is central Alabama is where I, Shantrese, was born. My delivery would be unusual for most people today because it wasn’t handled by a “real” doctor. Well he was a doctor; a horse doctor is what my mom called him. I know that sounds crazy to most people in today’s world but back then, 1981 you would take who was available. He, the veterinarian, was available and I am thankful to him for helping my young mother bring me into this world. Although I was born in Clanton, I was raised mostly in Maplesville and Selma Alabama. Both towns are small but they have different advantages and disadvantages.
These towns help mold me into the person I am today. During my years in Maplesville, a town made of mostly Caucasians and few African Americans, I felt out of place. Not just because of my race but because of my family as well. This was my mother’s home town. She grew up in Maplesville with her 12 sisters and brother, mom and dad. Now my family totally loves me and everyone within the family, but being a niece that was around the same age of a few uncles and aunts made things hard. I never felt like a real part of the family being the only dark skinned little girl within this circle.
I know I was loved, but that’s different from feeling it. I would usually hang out and enjoy a couple of cousins. As I think back it was probably because we were walking in similar shoes being dark skinned girls in a small town of Caucasian people, with family members who were light skinned as well. Life was never made to seem hard but no one knows how you feel on the inside because they are not walking in your shoes. No one even considers that you felt left out, unwanted, or secluded from family and functions. It wasn’t where I wanted to be growing up. I had a very difficult time in Maplesville.
Then we moved to Selma, Alabama. Selma is made up of more African Americans that Caucasian Americans. This made a difference for me. I was no longer one of four or five African American in class but now I was in the majority. I got to interact and go to school with my own people. I got to find out things about my own people that I would never have known had we stayed in Maplesville. Although this transition was not a comfortable one at first because I did not know anyone it became the best time of my school age years. No one pointed me out for the differences because I wasn’t different any more.
No one treated me like an outsider. They treated me like I was family. I felt like I was home. In chapter three it states that “friendships are important for good mental health, providing us with affection, support, self-esteem, and an outlet for stress, “(Witt, 2010) I quickly made friends in Selma which gave me those things. I also started taken dance class at Selma Youth Development Center, African dance where I developed more great friendships. In particular there were two females that I bonded with and if you saw one of us you saw all of us. It felt good to feel like I belonged and I did belong.
I even got my first boyfriend. In Maplesville I could not even think about dating a boy there because we were all related, but not now. Not in Selma. High school came and went. The years passed by so fast. Maybe because I was enjoying life so much that I didn’t realize the time was swiftly moving forward. It’s funny how life can pass so fast at time and so slow during other times. That’s how I felt about my family. My family was made up of my dad, mom, and brother. The extended family was large two grandmothers, one great-grandmother, one grandfather, one great-grandfather, eight aunts, nine uncles, and countless cousins.
My parents were married a year after my brother was born. Back then I think it was expected of them because they did have a child together. Which could have been great, and it was most of the time. There were some bad times as well. Sometimes I wish I could forget but those memories seem to stick more than any other memory. The times when I overheard my dad accuse my mother of being unfaithful and having a relationship with another man. The times when my dad hit my mom and made her bleed and bruise. The time when my brother and I had no clue on what to do, scared in our room praying it would stop soon.
The time when my mother would pack us up and leave, only to return in a few days or weeks. Those childhood memories will always be there, but they do not outweigh the good times. The good times when we took family vacations, partied in the summer, had Christmas in July, or just the love beaming from both my parents onto me and my brother. Those were good times but I don’t think my parents realized how the bad times would affect me and my brother as adults. They did not realize that those things that happened then would have such an impact on us now. I have started to deal with my issues from those times.
I even talked to my mom and dad to explain to them that the arguing and fighting scared me. I told them that it also scared my brother. His scars may be deeper than mine because I at least voiced my opinion and concern as a child. My brother, however, never had an outlet. As a man today, I think he feels it’s somehow his fault that he as a boy couldn’t protect our mother. I have tried to talk to him and even suggested he get some counseling but he’s not quite ready yet. He’s coming around and I know soon he will address our unhappy past. Life in my family had many ups and a few downs, but we survived.
I am who I am today because of the life I lived as a child raised in an abusive home, placed in a predominately white town, moving to a school with more blacks than I had ever seen before, and growing into a well-rounded, open minded woman who has achieved much. The woman I am today is based on my upbringing and my environment (Witt, 2010). I have achieved the things in my life because of who I am. Entering into the US Army and becoming a soldier, not because I wanted to serve my country, not because I needed the money, not because of the educational benefits, but because all my life people kept telling me what I couldn’t do it.
Becoming part of the military was just another thing I was told I would not be able to achieve. Some said my attitude was too bad, some said I would not be able to handle the physical requirements. So I joined the military first to prove everyone that they are wrong about me. To prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind on. To prove to my son that no matter where or who you are, life can be rerouted to fit the life you want for yourself. I proved them wrong and myself right. By taking the challenge I set for myself I gained self-respect, honor, integrity, friends, and family.
I was able to serve my country and do it proudly. Proudly because I achieved a goal no one thought I could. I stand proudly as a United States Army Veteran who has gained self-worth from serving in that great organization. Being a part of the army helped to carve out parts of who I am. Those carved parts have made me become a better person, daughter, sister, friend, and parent. “One of the biggest psychosocial challenges that we face in life is mastery of our various roles…as adults we must learn how to be a good worker, spouse, parent…” (Witt, 2010) before becoming a parent my parenting skills were none existent.
The role models I had as a child was not worth passing along to my children. I became a parent at the age of twenty. My son was born on January third, one day before my birthday. It was a great joy to receive such a gift from GOD as a birthday gift. I gave birth without his father being present, but I had plenty of support. My mother, father, brother, one aunt and uncle (who are my children’s God parents) and one little cousin were all there for me. I was thankful to have them as my support system since my son’s father, Todd, was in BCT (Basic Combat Training).
Todd wanted to be and would have been there to see our son born. He was happy knowing that he was becoming a father. Well at least that is what he wrote in his letters. Those words meant a lot to me, until his actions told me that he wasn’t the person I thought he was. He was not the man I feel in love with and decided to have a child with. He was not a man of his word. He was still just a boy taking his mother’s advice as right. Todd and I ended our relationship and I became a single parent. My parents stepped in and helped me take care of my son.
I, however, have a strong will and do not let anything get in my way. My son needed me to be strong and independent for him and myself. I decided to attend job corps to get a trade in order to support us. I finished my trade in Phlebotomy within four months. While at Montgomery Job Corps Center I met my Army recruiter who helped me enter into the U. S. Army. Attending job corps changed my life for the better because I would never have met my recruiter otherwise. Because I entered into the army I was able to grow as a person. They helped me to find things out about me that I looked passed before.
My attitude about life and people was a nonchalant attitude. I did not care about anyone but myself and my child, the army changed that outlook. The army helped me to mature and become a great person, parent, and soldier. I took my jobs seriously. The army gave me resources I did not have before. They offered parenting classes for all parents but especially single parents, and I happily accepted their offer. The class showed me how to be a better parent. I have taken those lessons and wrapped my life around them. The army also gave my son a father figure.
Not just one particular person in the army but a few great men came into my child’s life and taught him things I as a woman could not teach him. I am thankful for those men, I am thankful for the army, and I am thankful for my children. I am happy that I was chosen to be the parent to the children that I have. I look forward to the years to come with my boys. I look forward to growing as a parent and a person. My education will allow me to grow into a better more productive citizen of the United States of America. I never thought that I would be in college at the age of thirty-one.
I thought that my education would have been completed and I would be married, with kids, and with a great career. My life took a different path than I planned. I made some decisions in my life that caused me to be where I am now. But because I “recognize the need for a degree to open doors for employment and better salaries, “ (Witt 2010) I have chosen to return to college to finish my degree. I am mature enough to know and understand the mistakes I made and how to fix them. Taking the step to go back to college is one of the ways to fixing the mistake of not completing my degree right out of high school.
My education is important to me because I want to be able to support my children and myself without relying on anyone else. I want my children to see that if I can go back to school and finish my degree to become a Psychologist they can do anything. Continuing my education will help me in the future to do all the things I have ever wanted to do in life. My education will get me the job/career that I desire. My education will help me support my family and give them their wants instead of just their needs. My education will allow me to earn a nice salary which in turn will allow me to travel with my boys on great vacations.
My education will in the end help my children with their education. I am grateful to the U. S. Army to have provided me with the benefits of getting an education. I look forward to continuing my education and becoming a Psychologist. Being a great parent and raising my boys, completing my degree, giving back to society, and becoming a great Psychologist are goals I can’t wait to achieve. These goals will make my life worth all the ups and downs. The most important achievement I can ever accomplish is raising my boys to be great productive men in society.
If that is the only job I had and I accomplished it my life would be complete. But because I have the desire to accomplish other things in life as well, I look forward to completing my goals. Receiving my Bachelor’s degree will be a great honor, but finishing with a doctorate degree in Psychology will be the best feeling and greatest joy. While on this journey of completing my degree I will give back to my community. I love helping children become more confident and self-loving which is why I love doing volunteer work. I volunteer at my church, homeless shelters, and my oldest son school.
Anything where I can give back I am all in. The one thing I want to do before my life ends on this earth is visit Africa and help in any way I can to make their lives just a little better. I also think that by becoming a Psychologist I will be able to give back to my community by offering some of my services free of charge. A look at someone else life may seem like it is better than the life you have, but in reality your life isn’t as bad as you think. I know when I was young and growing up in the small towns of Maplesville and Selma I felt that life could be better.
But the life I have lived and the places I have been have helped mold me into the mature woman I am today. My life has not been “cookies and cream” but I have made the best of it and continue to work towards making life even better for me and my children. The army has given me the opportunity to finish the education I started and I am taking full advantage of it. I look forward to achieving my goal to become a Psychologist. I am walking this life the best way I can. My walk has not been easy, but I would not trade my shoes for any other.
Courtney from Study Moose
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