Amy went into the foster system at a very young age, after a series of events that some people will never have to go through in their whole lives. But she was a knight, and she never stopped defeating obstacles.
Trigger warning: physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse
When I was 5, I learned that my existence was an accident.
My mom got pregnant, and my parents had married and divorced all before I was born. I wasn’t wanted, I was an accident and the Universe knew it.
When I was about 3, my biological father (Gary) came back into my life because he had a son who needed a playmate. Turns out, Gary had:
- a crack/cocaine problem
- a thing for young girls
This also included his friend Doug who was always around, “Uncle Duck,” as my brother would call him. Uncle Duck would always find reasons to get me alone, and Gary would always insist I sleep with him in his bed when I was there.
I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on at the time. I did know that they didn’t do it to the boys so I dressed and acted like a boy. It wasn’t until much later that I learned why that didn’t work.
Back at home, my mom was working full time and going to nursing school full time. She was trying to build a better life for us, but she was never home. My stepdad was a raging alcoholic, and moody. Some days he’d be a happy drunk. He’d throw parties, even let me drink beer. He and his friends thought it was funny to get me drunk. Other times he was a mean drunk and would get physical.
I am a foster kid. I went into the system at 7. I was arrested for possession of the crack/cocaine that Gary had sent me to get for him. I found myself sitting at this wooden table in the center of this room. With me at the table was my mom, two cops, and a man from DCF (Department of Children and Families). The DCF man asked me a ton of questions about my home life. Everyone in the room told me to just tell the truth, so I did. By the end of the questioning, I had said enough to lock Gary up for 3 years and put my step dad away for 6 months. I was not allowed to go home with my mom that night. I was sent to a group home as an official ward of the state.
For the first 3 years, I bounced around between 6 different families and the group home. At one point when I was about 10, I thought I had found a loving family, and in their defense they were. When the mom finally got pregnant with her own child, it was decided that my background wasn’t a good influence on their baby and I was sent back to the group home. That trip hurt the most of all of them.
When I was in 6th grade, there was a home where the dad liked to watch his son and I perform acts on each other. His son was my best friend and I fought the best I could to protect him against his dad. I was used to abuses of all kinds, but that kid? He didn’t deserve that. I was eventually thrown out of that home.
I never heard from that friend after that, but I did learn from another kid at the group home, 2 years later, that he had died. I was unable to protect him and I was angry. Instead of turning to my go to: drugs and alcohol, I ended up picking a fight at school with a girl who was talking about a friend of mine behind her back. That was my only formal assault charge. I was 13.
“That parole officer changed my life”
I was no stranger to juvie lock up. I had quite the relationship with the Chicago PD with a rap sheet filled with underage drinking, possession of drugs, and petty theft. I counted the scars on my body from a lifetime of beatings, fights, and being used as an ashtray to pass the time. After about 10 weeks of being in lock up, I was escorted into yet another juvenile parole officer’s office waiting to be written off as just another juvenile delinquent. That parole officer’s name was John, and he changed my life.
John had a daughter about my age and he said I struck a cord with him. John provided me with guidance and support, he treated me like an adult, he stood by me when I got in trouble, and he got his daughter’s soccer coach agree to let me play on her team. He would drive me to practices in Evanston and he would take me to tournaments. He never asked me for a dime for his trouble as long as I met him at his office.
It was because of John, and soccer, that I stayed in school. Just before my 17th birthday, I was living with yet another foster family that saw me as nothing more than a monthly check. One day, I told John I wasn’t going back, I knew I was going to age out of the system. I wanted to leave on my terms. I wanted to have control over my life for once. I promised him that I would finish high school. Screw being another statistic, I wasn’t dropping out, I wanted control over that too. John, his family, and my mom watched me walk across the stage at my high school graduation.
I am a black knight
After high school, I joined the Air Force. I said I wanted money for college. Truth was, I had nowhere else to go. It was during my time there that I met my fiancée. When my enlistment was up, he encouraged me to go to college. I went to a multimedia arts school in Orlando, Florida.Suck it statistics; I’m a foster kid and a college graduate. We were both called back up to go to Iraq in 2002. While there, in late 2003, he was killed in a roadside bomb explosion. I am used to everyone leaving me, but I wasn’t ready for that. I was devastated and in 2004 I left the military for good.
Since then, I worked various graphic and web design jobs and ended up making video games for a living. I am an artist on the largest selling sports video game in the US. Every day I make conscious choices to not let what I lived through in the past consume me, but I accept that it happened and it’s what has made me the person I am today.
Every day, I spend an hour at the gym listening to angry metal and lifting weights. It’s a healthy way to let it all out. Other times I have to laugh. I crack jokes a lot. I laugh at myself even more,I allow myself to fail, and often times those failures are funny.
I’ll always have abandonment issues. I have friends but I’ve always had a hard time truly connecting with people. I’m still full of self-doubt, but to the world, I’m cocky and have self-confidence. I am still a light sleeper, and I’m still hyper vigilant and protective of my friends. I have several tattoos with special meanings to me, to remind me where I came from. Growing up, in my imagination, I was a black knight riding a unicorn and every bad person that came into my life was another dragon to slay before I could continue on my quest.
I have a tattoo that says “Slaying dragons and conquering my world one day at a time.” I was my own hero and I still look up to and admire that little girl who survived so much to make it to where we are today.