Written by Patience Adams
The definition of normal is: the usual, average, or typical state or condition.
I absolutely despise the word “normal”. When I was in the foster system, a phrase I heard constantly was “we want to provide you a normal childhood.” My lifetime of unique experiences don’t allow me to check the “normal” box. I have had to overcome a lot of hardships in my life; while this isn’t the life I would have chosen, these difficulties have shaped who I am today. Many adults in my biological family struggle with addiction and because of this, I didn’t grow up in a normal two parent household. My parents’ addictions prevented them from raising me; therefore, my maternal Grandmother chose to be my Mom. My Nana raised me for 14 years before she tragically died and I went into the foster system.
When I was 14 years old, the death of my Nana was one of the hardest things I had ever experienced. The only mother I had ever known died right in front of me. When you watch someone you love die, it’s nothing like the movies, you don’t get to say goodbye, it’s like having no air to breathe, it’s like the floor drops out on you, and it all happens in an instant before you even realize. When my Nana died, I was so angry with God, the world, just everything. I had not only lost my Nana, but I had lost the only home I had ever known. After my Nana died I moved in with my biological Mother, and my two brothers, all virtually strangers to me. While struggling to cope with my grief, I was living in an unstable home with an adult who couldn’t take care of me. My world was falling apart and I didn’t think things could get any worse; however, on May 17th, 2019 my brothers and I were removed from our Mother’s home and we entered the foster care system. When things seemed to be at an all time low, they finally took a turn for the better.
I met my CASA. Smiley, goofy, awkward, and chipper are how I would’ve described my CASA when I first met her. If you asked me then I never would’ve thought she would become one of the most influential people in my life. Overtime she became my go-to person, my secret keeper, my jam session buddy, and the role model I never knew I needed. She came into my life when I was the lowest I had ever been. At a time when I had resorted to self harm, deserted my own values, and had no self worth. She was the one person I felt like I could go to and not have everyone’s opinions pushed on me. She was on my side no matter what. She was my advocate and my voice when I didn’t feel like I had one. She brought normalcy into my life when it had been completely turned upside down.
I remember telling my CASA, “I feel like you’re the only one who isn’t pushing what they want on me. You’re the only neutral person, you’re on my side.” Once a week we’d go do something fun, it could be anything from water painting at the park to petting puppies at the pet store. After a while we came up with “the usual” which was McDonald’s, Starbucks, sharing new music, and talking. At one point, this was my favorite part of my week. It felt like an escape from the chaos and like I could just be me in that moment. Not only was our once a week hangout an escape, but she did so many behind the scenes things for me, such as: advocating for me to be able to have sleepovers, see my younger brother, and get my driver’s license – things any teenager should be able to do.
These last two years took me on a long journey to learn how to love myself again and it’s a journey I will continue. Before I went through all of this, I was a shell of the person I am today- I was reserved, I had very few friends, and I never spoke up for what I needed. I am no longer reserved. I have an abundance of friends and if you ask any of them to describe me, I’m almost positive they would say that I am bubbly and extroverted. Seeing my CASA advocate for me helped me to learn I had a voice and I could advocate for myself, not only in regards to the foster system but in all areas of my life with my parents, friends, and at school.
Now that I’ve learned to speak up for myself, I am going to pursue a bachelor’s degree in child development at Point Loma University in the fall. I aspire to step up for children who are struggling like I was and advocate for them like my CASA did for me.
I used to let fear keep me quiet and impact my every decision, but today I’d like to defy that and end with this quote by Meredith Grey, this was also was my senior quote:
“Don’t let fear keep you quiet. You have a voice so use it. Speak up. Raise your hands. Shout your answer. Make yourself heard. Whatever it takes. Just find your voice, and when you do, fill the damn silence.”