I've been longing to write about my childhood for awhile now but fear of offending people or feeling judged has held me back. When I first began to write my story, I wrote openly and graphically, but the details were shocking to many. I don't find my openness and vulnerability shocking, I find it like breathing. I wish to write about my entire life and not bits and pieces like this one below, but for now I will spare you of the details. In a summarized version, I wrote about some of the challenges I had faced as a child. I write, not for your pity. I write for all of the times I was made to feel ashamed for having a voice and a tragic story. I write to open up, to be vulnerable and to share with you my story. For this is unapologetically, who I am.
I spent the first twelve years of my childhood in a small town right outside of Flint, Michigan. A town suffering from poverty, between the re-occurring head-lice outbreaks at school, frozen tv dinners as my main source of food and wondering how the bills were going to be paid when my mother purchased something ridiculously unnecessary. (One time a bow flex workout machine if anyone remembers those) It sat in the middle of our small trailer, used probably once. As a child this way of life seemed normal but looking back at it now, I just didn't know anything different. This was the life I had grown accustom to. My older sister raised me from the time she was eleven years old, giving up her childhood to take care of me. I had never realized that sacrifice she had made until I was much older. My mother was mentally checked out; battling her problems with a bottle of Southern Comfort and my father was half-way across the country running from debt collectors.
When Child Protective Services came to my school in 6th grade to question my situation at home, it was determined that I was to move elsewhere. My sister was in college at this point, and my grandmother offered me to stay with her along side three of my other cousins who were already living there as well. I spent the next two years living there and it more often than not, had more people living in it than bedrooms, so some resulted to living in the garage. It was almost always completely chaotic there, the house was used as a base for their dumpster diving scheme for scrap metal. I tagged along occasionally, scrummaging through trash to find clothes that people would toss. Truthfully, as a child, you don't really realize when your living like this that any of this is abnormal. I was struggling in school and desperate for attention, I began acting out and being disrespectful to my teachers, family and friends.. because any kind of attention was better than none at all. Over time, I began to realize how unhealthy living like this was and another relative had offered to take me in. Carrying my few things in a trash bag, I moved once again.
A year goes by, I had been sleeping on my aunts couch in their home. Living with her was one of my favorite memories, even when I return it holds the feeling of comfort. Word of mouth throughout family members got around that I was sleeping on a couch, and I didn't want to be a financial burden to my aunt any longer, so when I was approached by the opportunity to move to Colorado to live with distant relatives, I had no other choice but to say yes. Truthfully, I was hesitant; I didn't even know where Colorado was and I had only met these people once but desperate of somewhere to call home and yearning for a normal life, I jumped at the chance. I was fourteen years old and two new schools later, in a new state living with people I had barely known. It was the first time in a long time, that I had my own bedroom. You would think growing up with almost nothing, that I would have been a little more appreciative for the things they had generously given me.. but in some ways I had resented them. I was constantly feeling like a burden to those who took me in. At that age and having endured so much emotional abuse, it's almost like you're in denial. I had seemingly forgotten what I had been through and refused to acknowledge the truth. I spent a year with this family, who opened there loving arms and welcomed me into their world but I had a longing for home. I don't know exactly if I wanted to go home because that's the life I had known or if I was just so used to moving each year that I was no longer content in one place.
With my sister graduating college, I suggested moving back home and moving in with her. Living together was actually very challenging for both of us, we hadn't lived together since I was twelve and it was difficult finding that balance between a mother or sister figure. Truthfully, our personalities are so vastly different that it's always been very difficult for us to really connect. I thrive outside, my curiosity for nature and exploring left me restless in classrooms but that's where she excelled. She was driven to have a better life than the one we had known and I don't blame her. Nearing the end of high school, college was discussed but I didn't want the debt of pursuing a career that I hadn't even decided on. I wanted to try something different. I wanted to leave the small town that hardly anyone escapes from. I applied for a job in Aspen, CO and there wasn't a single person who approved of this decision but that didn't stop me from buying a one way flight with the only two hundred dollars I had and moving to a place that I had never been to and didn't know a single person.
That was four years ago, I'm now twenty-one - still living in the place that I had ran off too. I started working a minimum wage job when I had moved here and quickly accumulated debt. Granted Aspen is one of the most expensive cities to live in but I had nothing when I moved here, minimal winter clothes, no bedding, housing accessories/appliances or even a car and regardless of how badly I wanted to give up because it was difficult, something inside told me that I couldn't. So, I worked harder and found a career in the things that I'm passionate about. It has allowed me to share my passion with others, to create events that connect women through fly fishing, to mentor children and be the positive light in their life, and the chance to fly fish all around the world. By no means do I have it figured out, I also never want to portray being someone that I am not - - as life is something I will always be navigating. But for the first time in my life, I finally feel grounded. Fly Fishing gave me a purpose, a sense of drive, direction and hope. This is my journey, and it has only just begun. I hope to use my voice and my story to encourage and inspire others, to be the hope for children who don't think it's possible to do it on their own. I've learnt this life - - unfortunately about abandonment, pain and learning to live again - - and really live, with joy. It will not be an easy journey but it will be worth it, that is something I continue to remind myself of each day. It took a few years - - but my heart is rinsed and I feel alive.
"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny" C.S. Lewis
Thank you for your endless support and kindness. It's because of my friends, family and people like you that inspire me to chase my passion & to continue to share my journey.
You can also Donate to the Mayfly Project, a non-profit organization that mentors foster children through fly fishing. Click the Link below to donate or read more about how to get involved.