There was a time when I was a scared little rabbit. Most people who know me from my youth remember a quite and shy person. Those who have been acquainted with me in my adult years would be shocked to know that I was once afraid of my own shadow. I suppose that I was essentially forced to change my ways by circumstance.
I had always relied on my mother to fight battles for the family. She was daring, willingly to face down any challenge. She always told us not to be intimidated by anyone because people are just people. For whatever reason I still felt somehow less than and never wanted to actually confront any issues. I learned how to hide in the shadows and just be comfortable not rocking the boat.
My first foray into speaking up for what I believed came in Debate class. I found that if I researched a topic I felt strong enough to voice persuasive arguments and to refute opposing ideas. It was as though I was able to create an alternative persona when I was engaged in formal debate just long enough to present my arguments. I discovered that I was actually fairly good at speaking up for myself.
My real transformation came when I was twenty years old and my mom experienced a psychotic break. It was a traumatic time for me and my brothers and at first I attempted to convince one of my aunts or uncles to take responsibility for getting care for her since my dad was dead. They each in turn insisted that they had no idea what to do and wished me luck as I navigated the world of mental health. I knew that if my mother was going to get well I would have to be the one to take charge. I understood that I was on my own.
The funny thing is that up until that moment I had never even driven on the freeways of Houston. Since she ended up being treated in a downtown hospital I had to also learn how to navigate the roads as quickly as I had to become her advocate. My days as a child ended forever in that moment, which was good because I would face a number of daunting challenges while still in my early twenties. I would become tough and worldly wise, convinced that I was capable of handling most anything.
My mom’s mental illness was chronic so I became her lifelong caretaker. Before long I also had two children, one of whom developed hearing problems that required medical attention and my ability to find the proper doctors and therapies for her. On top of all of those things my husband contracted a rare fungal disease and spent three months in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy before I had even turned twenty five. Luckily by then I was a self assured outspoken woman who fully understood what my mother had always taught me, namely that working with other people was not as difficult as it had once seemed.
I suppose that those early adult years fashioned my courage in ways that lead me in the direction of being a champion for anyone with a need. At work I spoke up for my fellow teachers and fought for my students. It seemed that nobody frightened me even on occasions when they probably should have. I endured the wrath of one principal when I pointed out her abuse of the faculty. She threatened me and my career but I stood strong and in the end the school board learned of my complaints, investigated and asked her to resign.
Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself as being the person of my youth. I was definitely a late bloomer but when I began to flower forth I never looked back. I assumed an overdeveloped sense of purpose and no fear when it came to speaking up.
Ironically I am still a rather quiet and circumspect individual. I don’t like to draw much attention to myself but I will shout from the rooftops if someone is in trouble. Otherwise I lead a rather unremarkable life. I prefer my routines and the familiar hum of ordinary days. I try not to become obnoxious in my opinions because I’ve learned that nobody is likely to change just because I show them a different point of view. Still, I have been able to bring about positive change now again by respectfully suggesting alternative arguments just as I did when I was a debater.
I now possess a strength that allows me to feel good about myself. I learned from my mother’s example and refined my courage because of her illnesses. My tutelage was outstanding and provided me with the foundation I needed to battle challenges that might once have crushed me. Having an important cause had the power of turning me into a warrior. I’m strong and I like being that way.