Power of One iconPower of One

Ashley Haynes-Gibson

If there is one thing I have learned over the past four years, it is that you should never sacrifice what you need and want for someone else’s happiness. I just returned from Italy, where I had the opportunity to study abroad in the Alps. The study abroad course was on Emotional Intelligence, and is the reason why I’m writing to you today.

I was in the foster care system for 8 years, and was unable to care for my brother and self. It has taken me until I was 22 to truly recognize that I am in control of my life, not just physically but also emotionally. And while life is difficult, it is every bit worth the journey if you work hard enough. As the only member in my family to graduate from high school and college, I’m proud to say that I have my BA in Psychology from Seattle University, and am excited for my future as a therapist.

College is a difficult transition, but especially for former foster youth. The unfortunate stigma can weigh heavy on your heart, as you examine who truly knows you versus who you want to truly know. As a former foster youth, the idea of giving advice seems out of place, as I understand the feelings of independence that come from our past. I yearn to let all of you know that you are not alone, while giving you the space you need to process things in your own time. I will never pretend to know all of the answers, nor act as though my story is somehow better than yours. But if speaking to my experiences can bring peace of mind to even a few of you, then I’m okay with that.

"Regardless of what people tell you now,
or whether they say you’ll
end up like your parents,
you always have a choice.
There is always a way,
you just have to look."

Please know that there is more to this world than you may think; life can and will be difficult, but not impossible. I’m writing this as I’m spending my last euros on a sandwich in Germany, aware that I still have 3 days until I return home. I am also aware that some of you may wish to travel abroad; know that it is possible. Regardless of what people tell you now, or whether they say you’ll end up like your parents, you always have a choice. There is always a way, you just have to look. Hope will come to those who seek it, and if you believe in yourself regardless of what others think, that is all you need.

Don’t lose yourself in the stigma of others, but rather embrace who you are. Embrace your story, because you are the only one who can tell it.

As the school year draws near, some of you will be finishing, while others will be creating new beginnings. Trust your intuition, that fire in your gut that has taken you this far. Trust that even when it seems difficult, or you’re lonely, depressed or even hungry, that sooner or later the right person(s) will come into your life, and you will never be the same.

Embrace the change that calls to you, and be a voice, not an echo.

<< go to December 2015 Mockingbird Times

We Welcome
Your Work

We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ mockingbirdsociety.org. Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.