A lot of my childhood consisted of the expectations that I act older than I am. I grew up fast. I started using drugs when I was 13, mostly to escape. My mom left me when I was 16 and I did my best to try and be an adult. I managed to graduate high school and moved away. I got a job at a preschool and began to further my education. I really enjoyed working with kids but I didn’t know how to manage my emotions or heal from my childhood so I kept using. By the time was I 21 I found myself at my lowest of lows and I ended up in federal prison for two and a half years.
After being arrested, when I sobered up I did a lot of self-reflecting. After about 6 months I went to plea. Choosing to plea guilty and say it out loud was the first time I took responsibility for myself as an adult.
In prison I enrolled in a 9-month long drug rehabilitation and life skills program. It was intensely therapeutic. I learned to take an honest look at my life and heal from the trauma that I was previously allowing to define me. I grieved and processed and gained a new perspective of my past. The program helped me change the course that I was on in life. I decided who I was and what I wanted for my future. I had never really made goals before, just went through the motions. I left the program with big goals. I like to say that prison is really where I grew into adulthood.
After leaving prison I took the first job I could get working at Subway. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted long-term but it was a paycheck, and I was required to have a job. It was a stepping-stone to something better. So I worked there until I found my way to Women’s Bean Project.
Before prison, the only jobs I had worked in were in food services or in childcare. With a felony I was restricted from a lot of parts of working in childcare. I didn’t know what other job skills I had or what I would be capable of. Working at Women’s Bean Project, I learned that I am a leader and that I have a voice, along with learning that I’m capable of so many different things. I have a lot of great qualities about me that I can bring not only to a good job but to my relationships and to my life.
A couple months into being here, I had some ideas I wanted to share and Jessica told me several times that “nothing was off the table.” If I had an idea I could voice it. I could challenge my capabilities. That is something I can take with me. While I was in job search, I applied for jobs that I was not 100% qualified for, but if nothing is off the table for me then why not try and grow from it? I will never forget her saying that.
Having an employer that believes in me and being offered a platform to grow encouraged me to step into a leadership position and challenge myself. While working here I became a Production Assistant Lead. I was really excited when I got the promotion because I wanted step into a space of growth. But it was also stressful in its own ways. I was challenged to my full potential as a leader here during the holiday season. I was training new hires on top of temp workers and volunteers, while also managing my own production line and ensure quality. I didn’t always do the right thing or communicate with my peers in the right way, but it has been, and still is, a learning experience. It’s taught me a lot about being a leader.
I also made friends at Women’s Bean Project, which I don’t usually make or have. I met women that have a lot of similarities to me and my story. It was good to create those connections and have those people in my life.
I want to tell future women who come to be a part of the program that nothing is handed to you here. There are a lot of resources and help and guidance, but the work put into this program is all you. You choose what that looks like and how you deal with that day in and day out. Yes, there’s support and love and caring here. But there’s also challenges and days that are not easy. But the possibilities of growth are endless.
I want my story and my situation to positively influence somebody else. I am passionate about being of service to the community, especially women who are going through similar things that I have been through.
I’m proud that I chose better for myself after prison. I’m proud that I joined Women’s Bean Project and that I was vulnerable and courageous here.
There’s a lot in life that I’m ready for now. I’m excited to start my new job as the Day Program Lead and Virtual Coordinator at a residential treatment facility for adults with intellectual disabilities. I’m excited to move into my new townhouse with my boyfriend. These are steps toward my long–term goals of building my career and having a family. Knowing these goals are within my grasp motivates me to keep going and brings me happiness.