Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Hydia Clark, a 17-year-old high school senior for our Go Woman Go Future Spotlight Series.
Life sure can throw you some curves balls. At the age of five, my biggest worry was a new Barbie Doll or the latest new Brat Doll coming out; I had no idea what growing up was really going to be like. I learned to understand that life is not what people make it seem to be. Like in movies (or social media) where everyone is happy and their family seems so perfect. I wish I would have learned a long time ago, that it was all a show and it’s not the truth. I was introduced to pain, hurt, disappointment, and loss at the early age of six. My mother and father separated when I was only six years old. That loss devastated me. I loved my father very much. At that point I became very angry and closed off my feelings to everyone to protect myself. That is the day I met Silence.
I am the youngest of five children. I have four older brothers, each with a different father, who were not in their lives either. I watched my brothers grow up in the streets – gangbanging, slinging crack, and going in and out of jail. By the time I was nine years old, each of my brothers had served time in prison or county jail.
Around age seven my mom married a man who wasn’t my father. This affected me, because I felt she should have married my father instead. My father became a distant figure in my life, requiring long traveling just to see him. My mom argued with him about me all the time. At one point I honestly felt like she didn’t want me around my father anymore. She used to tell him he couldn’t come see me and that she can take care of me by herself, and ultimately that my stepfather was being a better father than he was because he was always there for me. Not seeing my father for a certain time period would hurt me because I knew in my heart I really did love him. I felt my mom was being too selfish to understand that her actions were affecting me.
Outside of the things I was going through internally, I noticed my mom starting to become sick because she was so stressed out. My mom worried about me and my brothers all the time. I was nine years old when my mom had her first stroke. She was lying in her bed and I noticed her face was twisted to one side. I told my stepfather I thought something was wrong. When we got to the hospital, the doctors told my stepfather seemingly complicated and adult information about my mom. All I remember the doctor saying was, “If she would have stayed in bed any longer, she could have died: thank God your little one noticed something was wrong.” I cried the whole time at the hospital and the ride home knowing in mind she could have died that night. After two weeks of being in the hospital, my mom finally came home. My mom started to get better as time went by. She was able to get back on her feet and return to work.
When my mom returned to work, I started to become a failure in school. To be honest I didn’t even go half of the time. Kids would make fun of me because I wasn’t as smart as they were. They teased me about my forehead and my hairline. I felt so ugly and unattractive. I told myself only nice looking kids and smart kids went to school. I made myself believe I was not one of them, so I began ditching school and acting out. My mom began to notice my poor grades and my routine of not going to school. My dad at this time had met a lady, and they were living together. She was very nice, and my mom and she began to communicate. My mom talked to my dad and told him she was concerned that I was becoming a failure at such a young age. She eventually trusted my father to care for me. I finally moved to Palmdale, California, when I was eleven and during the holidays, summer and some weekends, I would visit my mom. As I look back now, I believe my mom knew she was still sick and wanted to make sure my dad could handle me in case her illness got worse. I also believe she thought my brothers were a bad influence on me.
Moving to Palmdale was such a big change. It was nothing like Bellflower and Long Beach. I began my sixth grade year at Wildflower Elementary. All the teachers and the kids there were so nice. I was happy, I was now with my dad, in their beautiful home, and I had my own room. I never had my own room before. My brothers and I had always shared a bedroom. My progress at my new school was so amazing, my mother was shocked. My mom was so proud of me. I promised her I would go to college. My first year at Wildflower, my grades went from D’s and F’s to A’s and B’s.
Eventually I wasn’t a blind kid anymore. I realized my father was on drugs, and he drank heavily. My mom had kept this from me. My stepmom was very honest with me and kept nothing from me. She told me my father loved me, and also that he had a problem with an addiction. My stepmom introduced me to God, church and how to pray. I didn’t tell my mom about my father’s poor decisions and how his addiction became worse. I didn’t want her to take me away from my father again. I was doing well in school and didn’t want to go back to Los Angeles.
My father’s addiction escalated. He began to steal money from my stepmom, leaving with the car for two and three days at a time, and losing work. I still loved my father, but the love started to turn to hatred and disappointment. I was so frustrated about everything that was going on. I tried to stay focused on my school work, because that was my only way out of this. I prayed and prayed, but nothing was changing. I began to doubt if God even cared. I started to hate going to church, but every Sunday I went faithfully. My dad even went sometimes. I knew he was trying to do better, but he was also a product of his environment. He was raised in South Central Los Angeles. He was a well know ex-gang member. He never knew his father and was raised by stepfathers and his second home was the county jail or prison.
Unfortunately, school was not enough of a distraction for me. I turned to drugs and alcohol to ease my pain, essentially becoming like my father. When I was smoking and drinking, I didn’t worry about reality. Sometimes I would get so high to the point I forgot where I was and who I was. I wasn’t ashamed that I started to become my father. Drugs were my place of comfort, and they didn’t disappoint me or let me down. I could always run to them to save me, and they did.
One night I went to a party and got so drunk I passed out. When I woke up, I was throwing up everywhere, my head was spinning, and I felt so sick to my stomach. On top of all that, my father was held responsible for picking me up that night. This was the last time I did drugs. That is the night I decided for myself I would not go down the same road that had destroyed my father. I didn’t want drugs to take over my life, and who I really was.
I began to fight what the enemy was trying to do to me. I got deeper into my school work. I knew this was just a phase I was going through. I was beating myself up, over things I couldn’t control. Everything my father was doing was making me and breaking me at the same time. I managed to go to school and deal with my father and his ways even though it was stressful. I managed to keep my grades up and I didn’t let anything come before school. I started to feel that moving to Palmdale wasn’t a great thing after all, like I thought it was in the beginning.
At the end of my eight grade year, almost to high school, my Mom began to get sick again. My mom had a massive heart attack and left this world on January 28, 2011. I was thirteen when she passed. I was so angry and hurt. I thought she would be here for me and stick around when I needed her, but instead I didn’t get the chance to even say goodbye or see her one last time before she left this earth. After the funeral I knew nothing would be the same anymore.
I guess one would ask the question, why I didn’t go back to my mom? Well, I wanted to go back to her, but it was too late, she had passed away. This was not where I wanted to be in life. But my stepmother taught me that we can’t choose our parents. We just have to make the best of it. She wanted me to succeed and become the best person I could be and not dwell on my past.
Since my mother’s passing, nothing got easier. I had no choice but to live with my father and deal with his issues. He began doing drugs more heavily, and the drinking became nonstop. He was always drunk. I thought for a long time he did not love me, because I just didn’t mean that much to become a priority in his life. I realized I couldn’t change him, I could only do what was best for me and that was to chase my dreams of being successful. I didn’t want to go through this for the rest of my life. I wanted to become somebody and pursue my dreams. I didn’t want to struggle like my parents did.
I look at my life and see all of the challenges I’ve gone through and see that I still managed to do positive things, like get good grades. It made me realize I can do great things. It gives me so much hope. I have so much faith in myself. I am a fighter. I won’t give up on me, no matter what. Everything I have been through has made me stronger and wiser, even though none of it was fair. All of my experiences have shaped me into a better person. A lot of things don’t bother me anymore, like sitting in pain over situations I cannot control or trying to be somebody I’m not, and I’m fine with that. My father is doing so much better, but some areas he still needs to work on. One thing that never stopped is the love that I have for my father despite all the things he put me through. I still love him.
My family made me believe that living in poverty is life and that I would never graduate high school or even attend college, but I will prove them wrong and I will prove to myself that I will make it through all my circumstances. This is my last year of high school, and I am looking forward to my future. I am learning how to express myself through my writing. Great things are waiting for me: college, new friends, and new adventures.
My dream plans are either to become a counselor for troubled teens or becoming a police officer and work my way up to being a FBI agent. I’m taking steps by going to college and keeping my grades up. I have kept a 3.7 GPA my whole four years in high school. I been applying to scholarships because I know I’m going to need help in certain areas to make my dreams of going to college come true. I have applied for this Educational Opportunity Progam (EOP), designed to improve access and retention for kids with historically low income and for educationality disadvantaged students.
No matter what I went through in life, there was something telling me I was going to succeed. I knew I was the one who was going to make a change, because I am the first generation child to succeed in my family and get even this far in life. In the end, no one can save you but yourself. You have all of the tools, all of the power. YOU can be the one person you can rely on.
My name is Hydia Clark, and I am no longer SILENT.