The Power of Knowing Who I Am
by Amanda Taylor
I’m a mixed chick born and raised in Gainesville, Florida. No one ever thought I’d be anything, no one graduated high school in my family. My mother worked at Taco Bell and my father fled the country on criminal charges when I was three.
I grew up in an abusive home with my two younger brothers. By 12th grade, I had been raped, molested, abused, homeless and hungry. I remember every detail of my childhood very vividly, every man my mother brought to the house, every one she left us for, and the one who tried to drown my brother in the bathtub while she ran to the store.
I remember living in a trailer with no electricity, a tarp for a wall and a piece of plywood where the floor was supposed to be. I remember moving every single year from one project to another. I remember seeing so much violence as a child that I became desensitized to it. It was just a part of life.
I remember being homeless, walking miles as a child, bus after bus with my bothers, just to get to the free food lines. I remember waiting in the food stamp line for what seemed like forever just so my mother could hand us all a brown food stamp dollar to spend at the ice cream truck.
I remember sneaking out of my window at night just so I could sleep in a quiet place, so I wouldn’t be tired the next day at school. I don’t know what it means to be broken or weak because growing up, survival meant I had to be strong and vigilant. They told me to drop out of school when I was 15 to learn a trade, but I didn’t.
I was the first person in my family to graduate high school. Until I was accepted into the University of Florida, the teachers, the career counselor and my mother told me that I wouldn’t. They said I couldn’t be a doctor, so I said, “watch me!” I feel at home in the struggle, it motivates me like nothing else. From the mud I was formed and out of the mud I grew.
I lost my best friend in 2010, I’ve been divorced twice now at 32, and I am a single parent with two toddler boys. My story isn’t sad, it’s real. This is real life! Nothing sugar coated about it just like me. I don’t need your validation. I’m not swayed by your opinion. I know who I am and the value that I possess.
Every struggle that I have endured I’ve strategically mapped out so that I can share it with you. My father from Kingston and my mother from New York both grew up in poverty as I did. So, what did I become? What I always was buried deep beneath the mud. A diamond, too tough to break, too beautiful to ignore. Love — I became love — unconditional, unwavering, strong and pure.
I’ve been through hell a time or two, but your hell doesn’t scare me. I am never blind. I know where I am going and I know why when it’s dark or when there’s light. At the top of the St. George Museum on the 14th of July, I looked over the skyline in Paris, France, that little mixed girl from the hood who they said would be nothing more. One thing I am is free because I love who I am and what I am meant to be.
Life isn’t always pretty, but if you keep going with purpose you will see more. I did graduate from UF, learned French, saw Paris. I graduated with my master’s degree to help people cultivate hope when they feel like giving up. I’ve faced eviction, I’ve had my things repossessed, I’ve been incarcerated without just cause, I’ve been homeless with the anger and heartache of knowing I couldn’t provide basic necessities for my children. Yet, I ask for nothing from no one because my faith is that God has a plan for me and moves people as he sees.
So even as my partner put his hands on me, lied to me, cheated on me, stole from me and tried every which way to sabotage me, I still made it. Three years into my PhD, I stand here. I’ve learned a whole new career and became a mother times two. None of these are small feats.
So, what I want you to learn from who I am is how powerful it is to know you who you are and what you stand for regardless of anyone else. Who do you want to be?
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” - Carl Jung