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Monday, October 4, 2010

People Change

I debated posting this. It has a lot of very personal information in it. But I decided to because really it is how I feel and I am tired of judgmental people.

A lot of things have occurred recently that has made me think. How often have you heard the phrase, “Once a (fill in the blank) always a (fill in the blank).” People are way too quick to judge other people. I firmly believe that it is a personal choice to let your past dictate your future. It is not important to me what a person has experienced in their lives but what they do with what they’ve experienced. Making a mistake does not make you a bad person. It gives you the opportunity to learn, to grow and yes even to change.

I was abused as a child. Horrifically. Both my mother and my step father ended up in prison serving long terms for the abuse I suffered. My step father had sexual abused me and that abuse turned into rape as I got older. I’ve got scars from his physical abuse; stabbing and burning me. My mother was often away from the house prostituting herself, to get money to pay for her cocaine habit. To many people these two would be considered poor excuses of humanity and would be written off as bad.

I spent much of the next years bouncing around foster care and being required to visit my parents in maximum secured prisons in Chicago. I missed a lot of school going back and forth to the prisons. And guess what, my mother changed. Once she was in prison she was able to get help for mental health issues, addiction and anger problems. She has spent much of her life on drugs and addicted to men. In an all women’s prison she was forced to face her demons. Turns out she was rather intelligent. While in prison she got clean, earned her GED and then earned her vet tech license. My step father killed himself in prison when I was ten years old. I will never know if he would have changed. My mom finally signed her rights over to me when I was fourteen. However, we stayed in contact until she died.

As much as she learned from her past, learned what not to do, learned and grew as a person she could not outrun her past. She had H.I.V. she was not sure if it was from the prostitution or the sharing of needles. Eventually the H.I.V. progressed into AIDS. When she became sick with pneumonia the fight for her life failed and she died. It was at her funeral and memorial that I became reunited with some of my biological family.

My mother had been writing me since she had given up her rights. I had gotten to know her and to forgive her. Forgiving her was much easier than forgiving my step father. I eventually forgave him too, the forgiveness was more for myself then for him. I couldn’t continue to have those negative feelings weighing down my shoulders.

I know people have the ability to change. They have the ability to overcome their circumstances and to grow. They can learn from their mistakes, big or small, and move forward in such a way where they allow good to come from what had been bad. It is possible.

My mother changed. She was a convicted felon. She changed her outlook on life, her attitude, her self esteem. She changed everything. But she couldn’t out run some of the consequences of her past- namely having H.I.V. Sometimes the things we do in the past continue to haunt us during our day to day activities. My mom had to take a ton of medication and her health dwindled. But even as she had that constant reminder she was able to stay positive and keep being the new person she was. She didn’t give into the past but continued to grow despite the past.

I was an abused child. The system failed me. I bounced around foster care. I’ve never been part of a loving family. It is what it is. I don’t allow that to affect my day to day life. I have never been arrested, I have never abused anyone, and I have succeeded in life in my own ways. I have compassion for others. I am not bitter and angry. I do not use it as a crutch or an excuse for bad behavior. I have never once tried an illegal drug, or even a cigarette. I recognize the fact that my family had an addiction problem and I’ve learned from my mother’s mistakes and refuse to repeat them or repeat the cycle. I have every excuse in the world to be dysfunctional, the things I have seen, the people who have hurt me have given me that right. Or have they? Do you ever have the right to hurt another person or to do things that you know are wrong? I don’t think so. I don’t get to abuse a young, innocent child just because I was abused. That does not give me an excuse to hurt a weaker person. Period. End of story. I don’t care what has happened to you or what you have done in the past, you know as an adult what good behavior is.

I also know that my past affects me every single day. I battle PTSD. I battle insecurity. I have attachment disorder and a real problem accepting love. I carry those around like my mother carried around H.I.V. But I learn from my past. I learn from the pain and I use it to help other people and to help myself. Mistakes do not have to be regrets. Mistakes can be learning tools and can be building blocks to a successful future.

I understand our pasts help shape our futures. But we each have the opportunity to decide how they will affect us. You can grow and change and evolve from it or you can dwell and focus on it and repeat the past. I do not believe that once a person is “bad” or act in a bad way that they will always be bad. I believe that every person has the ability to change and simply needs to own up to their behavior and face it head on. As adults we run out of excuses, we know right from wrong. Stop making excuses for behavior and start changing it. Anyone can start over, anyone; no matter what you have done wrong, because each day is the opportunity for a new beginning.
I am not a judgmental person. My friends come from all walks of life, all circumstances.

Some of my closest friends have past that include drug usage, jail time, failed marriages, teenage pregnancies. I do not care what you did in your past. To me your present and your future are more important. Who you are today is more important to me than who you were ten years ago. Being a good person now, having learned from the mistakes of the past, is what matters to me. If you are a good friend to me, honest, loyal and caring I will return the favor.

4 comments:

B'Man said...

WoW. That's rich. Thanks for sharing.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
externallymotivatedwife said...

Hi Jessica I appreciate that you shared the really hard "stuff". For whatever reasons it helps those of us to commiserate. I'm so so sorry for what you had no choice but to endure. I am inspired by your ability to forgive. Like Josh I'm not even close. And for me it couldn't include contact, just a change of heart. Thank you for sharing. I wish I'd done so sonner. Take good care of yourself. KayLynn

butterflysblog said...

Hi,

Thank you for this beautiful post. When one of us has courage and breaks the secret, it helps all of us have courage to break our secrets.

- Butterfly
www.reasonsyoushouldntfuckkids.wordpress.com

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