Hello, my name is Katie. My journey to Women’s Bean Project started at the moment of my conception. As I know it, my mother attended a New Year’s Eve party when she was 16. In her words, she was raped and months later learned she was pregnant. I was conceived by an act of violation and born into a family of untreated mental illness.
As I look back on my life it is easy to see how depressed my mother was as well as her mother before her. I have very few memories of my mother that aren’t accompanied by the reek of alcohol, whereas my grandmother took to hoarding in an attempt to fill the void in her life. When the school system implored my family to take my depression seriously, I felt they blamed me for being a burden.
I struggled through a life of self loathing and poor support.
By 17, I was so convinced that I was unlovable that when the first time a man showed me any kind of affection, I was willing to sacrifice anything to keep him. I quit a good job, cleaned out my bank account and went on the run with the man who would become my son’s father. While I was young the red flags of our relationship were never a worry. I saw no harm in letting him spend all my money, or letting him make every decision for us. But after learning that I was to be blessed with a little boy, the inequality that jeopardized our lives grew intolerable.
Even at the early age of 20, I was all too happy to grow out of selfish ways so I could offer the best to my beautiful son. I wish I could say the same for his father. In early 2015, I struggled to find gainful employment that would justify the cost of childcare. Many long conversations with my husband left me convinced that his skills were more marketable and that the best choice was for me to stay home with our son.
Soon thereafter, his sole control of our income resulted in resentment that festered between us. We fought constantly about purchases he made. He had little regard for my opinion or concerns, at the cost of an eviction from our apartment. Because of his choices, my family of 3 became homeless and was forced to move into a single room in my aunt’s townhouse.
Having never known a healthy relationship; personal, family or otherwise, I anticipated a painful living experience. Funny how fate always has other plans. After the seeds of a true friendship between my aunt and me sprouted, I found the courage to make changes – with or without the support of my husband.
First, I needed to make my own money. I went to United Way 211 to find employment services. There I found links to Women’s Bean Project website. I watched a video on their website and wept as I felt like an angel came down to make Women’s Bean Project just for me. Getting the phone call offering me a job was the first time I felt something positive happening in a long time. Mary, the Program Manager became my beacon of light that has guided me through the darkest days of my life. I have shed so many tears in Mary’s office as she helped me to become a better me. The one I never thought I could be.
During my time with Women’s Bean Project, my husband left me, my aunt, whom I grew so close to, moved out of state and I struggled to find housing for my son and me. Housing was by far the hardest challenge I have ever faced.
So many hours spent making calls to low income housing to hear that there was no availability, or I was ineligible. Months of constant disappointment as rejection after rejection for housing left me feeling utterly destroyed.
When I felt there was no hope and I had no strength left, the amazing people at Women’s Bean Project picked me up off the floor. The incredible support and compassion shown to me by every colleague and member of staff was powerful enough to keep me staggering forward. They cheered me on every step of the way to getting housing with Warren Village where I now reside, taught me to love myself enough to not let an unhealthy relationship exist in my life, and prepared me to find employment elsewhere. Pushing me to always dream bigger.
I have never had a truer family then the one that I have at Women’s Bean Project. I know that I am not only truly cared about, but my son is as well. I owe them so much for every incredible moment I have had.
At Women’s Bean Project we make so much more than delicious soup, we make empowered women! I have learned what that looks like; being determined, dependable, honest, and courageous. I learned that change is what was and is needed. For the first time in my life I am not afraid of change. The impact made in my life will echo through my work and my son. As I move on to a life dedicated to giving back, I vow to foster the love I have received and share it with the world.
Thank you Women’s Bean Project for being everything I have ever needed in my life.
At Women’s Bean Project I learned that, sometimes when you find yourself in a dark place you feel like you’ve been buried, but in reality you’ve been planted. A dark place is nothing but an opportunity to grow, and this is exactly what I’ve done.
~Katie, 2015-16 Graduate