When Paying It Forward Hurts You

It has been awhile since I’ve wrote a Medium post. I forget sometimes that I have this platform to share some of my more intimate musings. They say that sometimes it is best to write down how you feel and this is one of those times when I hope my words ease the weight on my shoulders while also hopefully reaching those who are in similar circumstances to me.

This story begins February 27, 2000 when my the woman who raised me lost her battle to breast cancer at the young age of 54. This woman who raised me as her own poured so much knowledge and drive into me that at times I feel I am too much like her even though she did not give birth to me (thanks for making me tough SOB mom). My mom suffered from a her fair share of illnesses yet it never deterred her from being an amazing parent and amazing foster parent to so many children. My mom got me as an infant and parts of that story are in a previous Medium post and years later she decided to once again raise children two of which she would adopt and would raise alongside my brother and I. My two sisters are what the system deems “special needs” children as they have handicaps. My oldest sister has autism and MR while my younger sister has MR and suffers from seizures. My mom sacrificed her health and gave her life to give me and siblings a better life.

My mom legally adopted me at 19 roughly two weeks before she died to ensure I was taken care of. It seems like only yesterday when I went before a judge in Queens Family Court who heard my story and with a sad exchange approved the adoption and wished me luck. When my mom passed I was became the “new management” in my home. I realized that with my mother’s passing the care of my sister fell on us and so I embarked on the legal journey to become the guardian for my two special needs sisters. Fate would lead me back to that same courtroom face to face with judge who months earlier signed off on my adoption. He was sad to see me there so soon but he said to me “ you’re doing an amazing thing and I think the kids are good hands”. A smile and signature later and I was legal guardian to special needs girls.

At 19 I was still growing up and honestly it was tough essentially becoming parent. Going to IEP meetings and parent/teacher conferences when I was still a kid myself was incredibly humbling.

Fate once again intervened and reconnected me with a girl I had a crush on in highschool. We were together 13 years before we got married and are going on 3 as husband and wife. She walked down the aisle with me knowing the massive weight I had on my shoulders and like any good life partner has helped me hold it down.

I sit here writing this post 36 years old still raising my two sisters while juggling a job and my mother’s house and just trying to also be a good husband and start my own family which has become a lot tougher as my sisters get older and the cost of living increases in NYC while the their benefits would barely support a normal person much less one with special needs.

I feel I made a huge sacrifice to ensure my sisters grow up in a loving home and are protected the same way my mother did with me. I feel that paying it forward was the right thing to do and in my heart it was but have I sabotaged my future all for repaying a life debt? This question has haunted me ever since I got married as I want to start a family and raise my own children. I am responsible for so many yet feel trapped and powerless within my good deed.

Do I regret this path? As crazy as it sounds I don’t but at what point do I catch a break so I can start my own family and move forward?

I feel I’ll never have the answer or much less the solution but to those in similar dilemmas I say to you. You are not alone!