Stories of Lives Changed
†ďMoving Toward a DreamĒ†† -†† Dianeís Story
ďI wanna do more . . . I can do dozen steps to let me know that I achieve anything I put my mind to.Ē
Well my mom wasnít really there, but she was there, um, my older siblings um kind of cared for me, um, she just wasnít there.† The support I really needed growing up, I had ten siblings, sisters and brothers and Iím the fifth of the ten and she just wasnít there.† My first vision and encounter of seen something real tragic was seeing a baby fall from a seventeen floor window embedded in the ground.† That, that right there just, actually today I still see that vision, thatís like it just changed me, my insight of just looking at everything.† I was, I was a kid just go, just playing, a tomboy actually, but when I seen that baby fall, that . . .that changed me.† At the age of ten it changed me.† I seen all these things and when you hear about it, we so used to stuff that we run to it instead of running away from it.
I was um, fifteen with my first child.† That was hard.† I was in high school at that time and [sigh] I really thought mom would be there cause I really enjoyed school and I remember telling her ďIím gon be a teacher, Iím gon be a teacherĒ and I thought she would be there to support me, but I had to quit high school because I didnít have no baby sitter.† It was hard.† I was a mother quick at the age of fifteen and didnít know what to do, but by me caring for my other younger siblings I did know what to do to be a mother, but all my teenage years and as a child were gone.† I tried to get my GED for thirteen years off and on in Chicago.
I didnít give up.† I was determined to do something with my life, not what I seen all my life.† I was determined and what motivated me was me.† I say okay -- negative/positive, I gotta do this, I gotta do this.† Whereís my support.† I have none.† Me!†† Iím my support, my children my support.† I gotta do this, and I motivated myself to go to school and do different things and try, at least try.† I didnít give up.
My oldest kidsí father, um he was very abusive.† I can remember going to class one day.† The next day I had to stay for, to fill out some extra papers, I was late, and he beat me and thatís just one of the beatings.† I was pregnant and he beat me.† I was coming from my sisterís house and he beat me.† It was just numerous times that he had beat me for no reason.† Because Iím trying to do something with myself, but I didnít let that stop me, I still tried.† I dealt with the beatings for thirteen years.† You know, they said how could you run and itís not that easy.† But I thought the turning point would be when my eleven year old got caught in a gang, well the gang got a hold to him in Chicago.† Thatís when I said, I canít do no more.† I canít, eleven years old this enough, and I moved to Wisconsin.
At that time when I moved, before I moved to Wisconsin, I was dating a guy in prison, and he got out in the process of all that I became pregnant, and um, I got pregnant with a spina-bifida baby.† Joshua um, [silence] survived two months of his life.† [Silence] He had five operations, two back surgeries, a shot; ten-hour brain surgery, a ďGĒ Tube within two months.† And the hardest decision I ever made in my life was when I said --
ďI canít take no more, unplug all these machines.† Enough is enough.Ē† What am I gon do now?† They said, ďHow could you prepare?Ē† You canít prepare.† Just believe.† You gotta over come it because you got other children.† Even if you donít you still got to believe in yourself.† You know I had to think about them.† They are my life.† With out them, I ainít gonna say Iím nobody, but they my strength, they my go-getta.† I know what I need to do I need to do for them.† I donít want to have to grow up and have to be on the system.† You know itís okay; the system is okay for support but donít get comfortable with it, sometimes you on it by force not by choice.† And move on.† And when I buried Joshua, I took a map, I said, ďI donít know where Iím goiní, I donít know what state, I know Iím goiní South,Ē and Nashville is where my finger landed and this where Iím at.† Sometimes in life we have to, as a woman, single mom, on welfare, trying to make it, itís hard.† I ainít going to say it was easy.† It wasnít easy, itís still hard, but you gotta want it.† I wanted it.† And I feel my life prospering each day I wanted it.
Staying in a shelter on Eighth Avenue.† Stayed there for about a month and a half.† Took it upon myself to get on a bus, find out where you go to apply for this, and ask questions, and did it.† Applied for public housing there, no problem just to do what I had to do for me and my family.† Well I think I came at around the time when that Families First um, new law finally went in and I came, when I moved here I was so eager to go back and get my GED I think the YW gon get me for this but, I was really aggressive with them.† Like, I wanna start today I donít wanna wait.†
ďNo you gotta go see the case manager and get processed.Ē†† Why I canít start today?† Why I gotta do this?† Why I gotta do that?† Iím askiní these why questions and being aggressive and the next day I came walking back down the street asking questions, but I was more passive this time.† Listening.† I listened, then I got a letter to come here, and I started Fresh Start, and from then on I just enjoyed it.† I was there every day.† I didnít miss a day.† It was real encouraging for me.† I need that and then the support.† Thatís the key, you gotta have the support.†††
Everything was in place just perfect.† I had no problem.† It was real convenient for me to be able to have daycare right up the street from where I lived.† It made everything convenient for me.† School, internship, and daycare for if anything ever goes wrong by the bus, I donít have to worry about that I can walk and make sure I get there.† I done graduated, went on and got my GED from the YW, worked in a Dollar General intern, and some days I stayed after um, afternoon, some days I just had morning classes, I was like ďyaíll finna leave?† Where yaíll goiní.Ē† Iím still there helpiní um, volunteering whatever I can do, cause I refuse to go look at four wall, I wanted to keep myself busy.††† Dealing with recent death of my baby, I just wanted to keep myself busy.† I became a VISTA advocate with United Way for a year, almost a year be for the YW had hired me.† I was family advocate um, still doing it, motivating women, and empowering them, the same kind of job, and when the YW offered me this position, I took it.† But still in my mind, I wanna teach.† I wanna be a math teacher.
And I applied um, TSU (Tennessee State University) and I been a student since ninety-eight.† Without the support and services like the GED, the childcare, um fresh start, training, whatever component they have, without that support, itís nothing.† I wouldnít know where to go, and to start.† I would have found out later.† DHS is providing this information to us.† Take advantage.† I took advantage of it and it helped me in a way.† What else do you have to offer?† I want it.† You got to use it.† Donít abuse it.† You gotta use it.† Take advantage of it.† Number one is attitude.† Women have to stand up for themselves.† We are not waiting on others like probably what they always have done, wait on someone else to do for them and they can do it for themselves.† Being able to say okay this is what I wanna do today and stick to it and they have the right to say no, no Iím not going; no I donít wanna be a part of that life.† Yes Iím gonna do this.† I know they can do it.† Just believe.† Donít let nothing stop them.† Just keep going.† All the barriers we might have five plan A, B, and C.† Just keep going.† I was five when I told her that.† I can see it plain as day when her and her friends were over and you know how it is with the kids and the baby and she said ďhey what you wanna be?Ē and I said ďI gon be a teacher, mom Iím gon be a teacher, one day Iím a be a teacher.Ē† And thatís what I remember telling her.† I wanna teach.† I wanna do more.† I can do dozen steps letting me know I can achieve anything I put my mind to.† Yeah, yes this is a blessing.