It was somewhere around the age of eight when I was sure I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I suppose that dream was motivated by the summer vacations to theme parks like Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland which was also around the same time I discovered my talents of drawing all the characters I’d encountered during those trips. I wanted to work side by side with Mr. Walt Disney himself, creating my own cartoon characters. That dream didn’t last very long. The older I became; my interest began to change. For a brief moment I considered advertising, intrigued by designing logos and campaign ads. I despised football as a child because that’s all my stepfather watched and even when he’d doze off on the couch, we knew not to try changing the channel because he was still “listening” to the game as he would say. However, I was fascinated by the commercials during the games and how catchy the slogans were. The problem was, just like the cartoons, I could draw the characters as well as the logos, but could never seem to come up with a catchy phrase of my own or humorous skit. Upon reaching my pre-teen years I became fascinated by the idea of becoming a courtroom sketch artist. My true motivation was simply a way into the courtroom out of curiosity regarding certain trials along with all the details. Now, by my sophomore year, thanks to an amazing art teacher, once again I was certain after winning my first T-square Tammy was going to become an architect! Yeah ok, that was until I found out the level of math required for this particular field.
Unfortunately, within our household there was little to no encouragement nor support regarding career choices or their requirements. Certain family members constantly preached about how important education is, but I was unaware not only of college opportunities in general but more specifically Historical Black Universities until visiting the campus of one down south well into my adulthood. I was in awe of the culture as a whole and confused as to why I had been so uninformed. Not to pass blame on my family or anyone else, I’d say it basically came down to me being stuck in survival mode after becoming a teenage mother. My career path began as a scared teen. The nurse who assisted me during my delivery had such a negative bed-side manner that I thought to myself, I can do this job. I wanted to provide comfort and support to other young expecting moms; however, my first job as a medical assistant led to working in urology instead. After a few years in various areas of the field, I decided this wasn’t the career for me. It was yet another example of how I let fear dictate my decisions. I loved the work and wasn’t bothered by the atmosphere at all, but aside from the AIDS virus just arriving on the scene with little information, the politics of how business was conducted and me constantly bearing witness to people who desperately needed care yet were being turned away. At that time, I was unaware of what to do or if there was anything I could do to change what I was seeing.
As much as I’ve always loved working, I never cared much for office jobs although the call centers helped me to develop tough skin. Most “desk” jobs in my experience were a repeat of that same boring tasks day after day. It was the labor jobs I enjoyed most like working the saw at the lumber mill and grading wood. Staying on my feet, constantly moving so the wood didn’t pile up made the time go by faster which meant getting back home to my children for the day. Be it teaching art, K-3 HOSO science, housekeeping at the Day’s Inn or standing on my feet for hours in a huge freezer packing chicken for Tyson, at each job I obtained vital skills to aid in the next phase of my journey. Wherever there was an opportunity for advancement, I did and those leadership skills helped prepare me for my purpose. Once when I was managing a Taco Bell a young girl accused me of thinking that I’m always right. The other employees were sure I’d snap back at her, instead I laughed because she was right. I think of her often wondering if she realized the gift in the lesson, she taught me that day. I was fourteen years old when I began working, remaining consistent with employment until 2016 when the seizures became more frequent and finding myself with a second felony conviction. After being denied several times for SSI benefits, even though I’d earned more than enough credits years prior, it was time to start thinking outside the box. Afterall, I am a creator one of my professors would tell me. So, I began creating opportunities for myself by utilizing the skills I’d obtained through out my journey along with all my accomplishments. Including those skills that we don’t get paid for and often go unnoticed like raising children and managing a household.
Now turning 50 later this year, I feel so strongly that I’ve finally discovered my purpose for being here-because I truly believe WE ALL have one and it’s never too late! Looking back on the circumstances I’ve witnessed, experienced and overcome, I can’t help but to acknowledge that I survived for a specific purpose. With all those situations along with people, good and not so much that have crossed my path, there was always a lesson to be learned in each scenario. I view those lessons as power which is why I can’t define myself as being a victim. All the years when I thought God had left me behind and forgotten about me, He was actually preparing me. I am convinced that my purpose is to support, inspire and offer hope to others through my lived experience by providing a platform where we can “Voice Our Individual Cultural Experiences” while combating stigma and gaining courage!