Featured Duckling Story

Suck it, statistics. A foster child that overcame obstacles

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:

  1. a crack/cocaine problem
  2. 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.

quote-amy-ugly-duckling-storyFor 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

Amy's creations, ugly duckling story

Amy’s creations

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.

Amy's creations - ugly duckling story

Amy’s creations

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.

- Amy

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117 thoughts on “Featured Duckling Story

  1. In a rare fit of self-consciousness, now that it’s out in the world. I want to clarify some of the symbolism in regard to the black knight and unicorn. My black knight was (is) an acknowledgement to the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I’m not sure how familiar this audience is with that (It’s a classic movie, I recommend it), the Black Knight guarded the bridge and refused King Arthur to pass even as King Arthur cut off each of the Black Knight’s 4 limbs in battle (it’s a comedy, I make it sound far more gruesome than it is) the Black Knight continues fighting, saying things such as “tis but a scratch,” “it’s only a flesh wound,” and “had worse” as the limbs are cut off and declares himself “invincible” until he finds himself without limbs, at which time he says “All right we’ll call it a draw.” In that scene, the Black Knight keeps fighting and never gives up no matter how dire his circumstance. The unicorn is a symbol of being wild and free. I AM a big nerd, and I own that, but there was a method to my madness when I was imagining those things.

    • Hi Amy. Thank you for explaining, and thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am from South America so I am not familiar with the movie itself although I have seen memes of the black knight and heard about Monty Python. I wanted to ask you something about what you wrote: what happened to the parole officer and his family? Are you still in touch with them. I was so curious to know if that person who saved your life is stil… part of your life.

      Much love.

      • The scene in question is this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7nD9C4 (it’s about a 3 minute long clip) The joke here is that the stream King Arthur is attempting to cross is small enough he could just jump or step across. WARNING: Mild language and there is some very obviously fake blood, but it’s pretty tame compared to what you see on a lot of 1 hour dramas on network TV now days, it’s certainly not gore, nor is it aimed to be such.

        I have stayed close to John and his family through out the years. John himself died of a heart attack in 2012. I attended his funeral and was privileged to be considered a part of his family through that. Though I live in Orlando, I do still go back to Chicago to visit. I spent last Thanksgiving with John’s wife, his daughter and her husband and their 2 kids. I wrote to John almost every day while I was in basic training, and he and I would write back and forth when I was stationed over seas when I was in the military. I joined after high school in ’97 and was sent to Bosnia as part of the NATO peace keeping there in ’98 and I was obviously sent back to Iraq in ’02. They will be a part of my life as long as they allow me to be. If it weren’t for them I’m not sure how much differently things would have turned out.

        Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that I have a pretty good relationship with my mom at this point. The older I got, the less I blamed her for things. I know she was trying the best she could at the time and she didn’t know what was going on. That night at the police station with the guy from DCF, I vividly remember watching what I was saying rip her heart out and tear it to pieces. She now lives in Indiana and has been a nurse for over 30 years and is planning on retiring in the next 2 – 3 years. I make a point to see her at least once a year, either I go up there or she comes down here.

      • that sounds like a happy ending to me, if you don’t mind me saying, even though John is now gone. I am just so happy to read your story and to know a little bit more about you and how you made your life something great. Sometimes people are quite weak, but then there’s cases like yours where you want to defy everything. And as your mom, it’s really wonderful that you are still in touch (:

        I saw the clip. It’s hilarious and now everything makes sense. Anyway, I want to let you know that we’ll be here if you need anything. It has been great to learn a bit more about you. XO!

  2. Courtney….WE HAVE THE SAME MIDDLE NAME!!!! 😘 I just wanted to tell you that I really admire you sharing your story. When we were riding up that escalator and you were telling me that the girls asked you to write something for UDI, I was so hopeful you would go through with it!! And then, talking to Beverly Elliot with you and just hanging out with you and all the other girls, really made my weekend. I don’t make friends very easily and I’ll have to admit I was super nervous about meeting you all because I sometimes tend to get uncomfortable around people I don’t know.

    But I felt like were clicked and I couldnt be more proud to say that I now know you and feel as if I can call you a friend!!!

    I shared my story with UDI, though it seems like It’s been ages ago…But I can tell you It’s honestly something of a relief and feels a bit empowering!!! Please….never change who you are, because I absolutely adore the wonderful person I met this weekend!!!! If you ever need a friend. Advice. Or just someone to vent to…you know where to find me!!!

    Much love, Courtney! Stay strong always!!!!

  3. I love happy endings and yours is beautiful!! Thanks for sharing your duckling story, and I’m pretty sure your wish will become true :D xxxxx.

  4. Pingback: I feel empty and alone | The Ugly Ducklings

  5. Pingback: How telling her Ugly Duckling Story changed her life | The Ugly Ducklings

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