Let's flashback to 2007.
My home church in Killeen, Texas was having one of its annual youth-led services in honor of the seniors graduating high school. Church was ending, and it was time for altar call. The youth minister asked if I could come down because he wanted to pray over my next journey in life as a college student.
I expected to hear the typical “God watch over my life, keep me safe, and help me to remain focused in school" prayer. Instead, the minister tells me that I have overcome the odds of a single-parent home without even realizing it. He says by my dad dying when I was a younger kid, the odds were already stacked against me and that most people can't survive the death of a parent.
Usually their life spirals downhill immediately afterwards.
He says there was a calling to be fulfilled because I overcame the odds. He was speaking about those single-parent statistics that say most children growing up in that type of environment will drop out of school, turn to drugs and alcohol, and become a single parent themselves. It was then at that moment when I thought to myself, “Hmm, I'm not a statistic after all, maybe there's more to my life than I originally thought."
I kept that memory close to me and used it as motivation whenever I thought about quitting college.
Fast forward to 2009, I'm sitting in a psychology class, and again I am hearing those same statistics about single-parent households. The topic of discussion is the statistics of those living in poverty and low-income families. I hear the professor and other students say, “Most children in single-parent homes are African American or Hispanic, uneducated, will not graduate high school, are prone to drug use, and will have a criminal record."
I proceeded to tune them out, but the more they spoke, the more infuriated I became. Surely everyone at this age has been taught the damaging effects of generalizing stereotypes to a specific group of people.
I decided to join the classroom discussion because I was in the outlier that beat the odds, and I wanted everyone to know it. I graduated at the top of my high school class and was one of the few that actually went off to a four-year college. I didn't have any problematic behaviors, no drug use, no criminal record, and I did not have any children. It seemed like no matter how much I spoke up for myself and the other outliers that existed, no one was listening. It's as if they already had their minds made up about what was factual, but no amount of research studies was going to make me feel defeated. In fact, most people aren't aware of the real statistics that state Caucasians actually have the highest rates of welfare assistance, and African American women are earning more degrees than ever before, but no one is talking about that either.
I remember being so angry that I left class to call my mom so that I could vent to her. I was on the verge of tears. How dare these people and society try to tell me how my life is going to go? They don't know anything about me. It was at that moment I felt even more motivated to beat those odds and statistics against me. I wanted to prove everyone wrong, especially those that doubted me.
Children from single-parent homes can be successful.
In fact, I think it motivates us to work harder because we want better for ourselves. We know what it feels like to go without as children, so we are sure to make up for that in our adult lives. Being raised in a single-parent home has taught me:
How to be a strong woman:
I am a self-sufficient woman that has the determination and drive to be successful in life. I can be just as successful as, if not more than, any man, or child that grew up with both of their parents in their lives. My circumstances do not define my abilities to be great. I learned how to be bold and fearless.
How to survive on my own:
I understood the importance of handling responsibilities at an early age by watching my mom. She taught me how to work hard, run a household, and manage money at a young age. She used to say, “If all else fails, bills will be paid, and food will be on the table." I somehow became the family cook as well.
How to persevere:
Despite trials and tribulations that may arise, I will persevere. Setbacks will arise, but I am a survivor. I've learned to keep moving forward regardless of what happens in life. Failure is not an option.
I remember at one point thinking I would never make it go college because I kept hearing those same statistics over and over. Luckily, I was able to see beyond my current circumstances by refusing to let anything negative guide my life. Not only did I graduate high school and college, but I went on to earn a Master's degree.
I quickly learned how powerful my own words and thoughts can be.
This week's motto is “Not a Statistic." Be bold and brave enough to beat those statistics, stereotypes, and odds set against you. Kick down the doors to discrimination, and write your own rules. Like the old saying goes, you can do anything you put your mind to, just believe in yourself.
Never let anyone tell you that you can't reach your goals, or that you won't be successful. Make the choice to be who you want to be, not what “they" say you will be.
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