Co-written by Nathaniel C. Collins
Where I am now is no coincidence to where I have been, yes, I am a survivor! What have I survived, not war, not physical disabilities, but cycles of life. My story of abuse is no different than many others who have experienced abuse, the same torment, pain, feelings of loneliness and despair.
So, the big question is why did I change?
My journey from nothingness to a fulfilling life was not altered by one specific event, but a series of events over many years, change came one thought at a time. It was not till I was older that I could clearly see the past; they say that hindsight is twenty-twenty, mine was not, it was blurry. The first step to seeing the past clearly was when a kindhearted gift of love was given to me by a stranger.
A stranger that chose to pull me into her household and show me that you can eat and sleep and play without fear, that you can share feeling with others, and that a hug is the best way to express how you feel about someone. This was something new to me, perhaps I was scared not knowing what was ahead as the only cycle of living I knew was ugliness. At the age of nine I tasted hard liquor for the first time. I knew what a broom handle felt like across my back, how my skin would react when hit from an open hand. Age sixteen I was enrolled in my twenty-fifth public school and this is the age where I found myself running away, not just from home, but everything. It is here where my transformation really begins.
This is when I was first shown how a home should be, full of love. It took me a long time to realize that my opportunityfor change had been there, right there, all I had to do was to want it. Perhaps it is best of me to offer an analogy as to how my change occurred. If you think about life cycles, they are round and usually end up at the same point over and over, like a race track. When your cycle of life is good, there is no need to search for an off-ramp, you’re’already going down the “right” path. When on the wrong cycle of life for so long, the exits can become obscured due to hopelessness, you can only find an exit if you really want to change.
I wanted to change and found an exit, I took the “right” turn to something better. Taking the “right” turn was very difficult to do, I realized, with time, that to set a new cycle of life I would have to clear up the past. Emotionally, I set my mind on forgiving the past and those who had hurt me. Standing at my step-father’s grave, I forgave him, it took every ounce of emotional strength that I had to do this, and I was completely drained of all energy. Immediately afterward, I felt something,something anew, the wheels of my life cycles had started to make the turn. As I reflect upon my cycles of life, the cycles of ugliness were clearly evident,the most obvious to me was with my biological father. I did not see him, hear from him, or have anycontact with him at all. I did not know from where I came or who I was, intellectually, emotionally, or physically.
I quickly realized that Iwas doing the same to my daughter, cycles repeating cycles. Continuing forward I was going to do everything in my power to break this cycle, and I did. I re-connected with my daughter, provided financial and emotional support, and broke this cycle. Once this cycle had broken, others fell like dominos. My new cycles of life are extraordinary, a complete reversal of what my past had been.
I ran a successful auto carrier company for twenty plus years. I worked my way up in this industry to become a union steward helping many other drivers find the success that I have had. Throughout this process the cycles of ugliness continued to be broken, so much so I wanted to give to others when I no longer was a truck driver. Knowing that my cycles of ugliness were mostly in my youth, this is where I sought to intervene.
I interviewed for a position as a campus supervisor at a high school in northern California, and got it. Still I, working at a campus where I had only faltered as a young person, seemed to be ironic. So I started, one student at a time, shared my stories, my fears, and my successes. Students began to listen and identify their own cycles of ugliness, perhaps a few had found the “right” turn off that cycle.
As a campus supervisor I saw a need for someone to be an advocate for youth, someone to help them see their own past clearly. I started a public speaking entity knows as Me.Inc. Now®, “me expressing I need change now”. It is my principal goal to help instill self-worth, self-esteem, and self-respect in today’s youth.
Today, after choosing to make a change in my life, I am there for my grandchildren’s needs, I have established positive relationships with long lost family members, I embrace the chance, once again, to be a father to my daughter and a grand father to my grandchildren. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my story with others, I am thankful for what I now have.
Most importantly, I am thankful for learning that “love” is most the powerful tool in my emotional toolbox. I did it, I had changed for the better, no more thought of sorrow and loneliness, no more bruises, no more pain, no more fear.