My dad is in prison. He’s been there for a long time and will most likely be there an even longer time. I wish I could say that he was there for a noble cause but he’s not. The truth is my father did a bad thing and will spend the rest of his life (most likely) contemplating that action.
I spent a really long time being angry with my father. I was angry he was in jail. I was angry I wound up in foster care and bounced around to family members who didn’t want me. I was angry at not having and angry for wanting. I was angry about having to be responsible around people who weren’t, and most of all I was angry that no one else seemed to realize that my circumstance wasn’t right.
“Circumstance.” It’s a word that always has resonated with me. I think I understood its meaning before I even knew the word existed. I don’t know how I knew, but somehow I knew the situation I was in was “temporary.” I was smart enough not to share my thoughts with the adults that I was thrust with — the abusive foster mom, the unhappy stepmother, the drug addicted, abusive grandmother — but, even as a young child, I knew I was just waiting for my real life to begin.
It’s not that my early childhood didn’t have happy moments, such as the foster mom who would make pancakes before school and arrange Christmas visits with my biological mom. There were quite a number of those happy moments. It’s just that I was aware of all the bad choices that other people made which impacted my life and I knew that when I was given the opportunity, I would choose differently.
Every fiber in my every ounce of being told me that my circumstance determined where I was but wouldn’t impact who I would be. I wish my father had known that then. I’m proud that my mother believes it now and I’m blessed to have understood it as a child.
I love my dad. I always have and always will. I wish a lot of things had been different in his life and that some things had been different in mine, but life is made of more than wishes. It’s filled with smiles and tears, challenges and choices, love and lessons, dreams and purpose. And, every step forward is mine to take, savor, experience and choose. You shouldn’t let your circumstances define you, but they should inspire you to become the person you want to be.
That has been my dad’s greatest gift to me. I am thankful for it and grateful that I get to share this gift with others who find themselves in challenging circumstances. I keep them focused on their futures. Life is simply too short to let yourself be limited, feel powerless or afraid to pursue the life you want to live. You get one life in this world. Start living yours as soon as you can.
NAFP is a community outreach partner of The Foster Care Film and Community Engagement Project (FCFCEP), a documentary project depicting the lives of youth in foster care. This blog post is written by film interviewee Charell Star Charleston, a successful business owner and former foster youth. Follow Charell’s daily blog posts at charellstar.com or learn more about the triumphs and challenges of her foster care experience at Feeling Wanted.
For more information about FCFCEP, visit www.fostercarefilm.com and follow the Foster Care Film on Facebook and Twitter. You can also watch short clips from the project on YouTube and Vimeo or check out a trailer of the first live-action short film, Feeling Wanted, to be released in 2015.