by Aqeela Starks
My whole life I’ve felt a distance between you and I. We have a very structured relationship and the smallest of conflicts have massive consequences, both physically and emotionally.
Even though I mostly understand why you act the way you do, it still bothers me. Conflict can arise from anywhere and everywhere.
You expect me to clean and you expect me to watch the children. You expect them to listen and you expect me to be held accountable anytime they don’t. I expect to have a normal life and an understanding parent. But expectations rarely match reality.
I am often confused around you and not knowing what to think or how to feel is something I’ve learned to deal with.
But suppressing my feelings because I don’t want to be threatened or hurt is something I don’t want to deal with forever. I really want a chance to put aside helping everyone else in our family and start working on myself and my future.
At home I feel very pressured to do everything. Because opportunities to get out and into the community are rare, I try to create my own opportunities.
You often say that I don’t care about anyone but myself. I know that you feel as if I’m ignoring my responsibilities at home to go outside and be a part of my community.
That’s not at all the case.
I’ve spent most of my life moving from place to place and helping out as much as I can to the point where I don’t really remember much but moving. I don’t feel as if we have any real connection and I’m almost certain you don’t really know who I am.
For years I’ve felt like I was living in the shadows, only called upon to help, do something, or go get something. I became the little helper to you. When other relatives began to see me the same way I began to dread visiting them.
Doing my best to help others and receiving only negative feedback in exchange only enhanced the urge I have to want to get away: to college, down the street, or anywhere else. Once I’m away, even if it’s just at the park up the street, I feel like I can be myself without being judged or having hurtful comments thrown at me by the people I live with.
For you, growing up was far from easy. You often had to tend to your brothers’ and sisters’ every need with no questions asked, causing you to grow up fast.
When I hear about how you were raised I understand that we are more alike than we are different.
Once you started living on your own with little to no help from your parents and a new infant, you weren’t able to finish high school. Instead, you made the decision to drop out so you could focus on taking care of yourself and my older sister.
Times were different when you were a child. Times were difficult for you. The heavy responsibilities you faced as a child have truly made you a strong independent woman.
At times, you can be demanding. You add responsibilities and tasks to my plate and it makes me question myself and who you really think I am.
At times it really feels like I exist only for the needs of others. I can’t help but feeling disheartened when you always say you don’t care how I feel. I feel voiceless and like I have no say. No matter how hard I try, most of the feedback I receive is negative.
If I even try to have a voice or express my feelings, I’m immediately put through the nine stages of hell. I’ve hidden my true personality and feelings just to lessen the struggle and not be a burden.
The only time I’ve been able to find refuge and truly be myself is when I’m working to improve my community. It’s hard to describe why I feel so passionate about the work that I do in the community and at times that can be really frustrating. I wish I could have that conversation with you without feeling unheard, pushed away or longing for a way out.
Going to college has been advertised as a rite of passage. With life at home being really confusing, college seems like both a great way to get out and explore as well as the perfect place to spread my wings and be myself.
Once I graduate high school in 2017, I’d like to study a variety of subjects including communication, journalism, film and physical therapy.
Aside from going to school and doing work at home, I really want to maintain a healthy relationship with my community. I don’t feel like it’s a waste of time because it helps me better my people skills and puts me in a position to meet new people, some of whom I have much in common with.
Having several other children in the house, I don’t expect you to pay or help pay for my college. I’d be proud of myself if I could pay tuition, maintain a small apartment and care for myself.
Once I graduate and leave the house I hope to leave with you proud of me and knowing everything’s going to work out just fine.