The Struggle of A Lifetime

At the age of 12, I was humbled by the struggle of a lifetime.


I used to brag about having everything until the day I lost it all.

At least it felt like I did.

I had become accustomed to moving back and forth. I was used to being “the new girl.” So when I was told that my family and I were moving back to our hometown in New York, I wasn’t surprised.

The thing that threw me for a loop was that this time we were moving into a homeless shelter.

That, I wasn’t used to. I was used to sharing a room with just my sister, not my entire family. It was a shoebox apartment, literally. A one-bedroom with five people living inside.

It was supposed to be temporary; a few months at most.

Well, a few months turned into a few years.

I didn’t realize how difficult it was to get an apartment in today’s world. I was put in a difficult position, watching my mother struggle without being able to do anything about it.

We lived in one shelter for two years and then we were transferred to a different one.

After spending two years at that shelter, leaving was somewhat bittersweet. I made some lifelong friends there whom I now consider family. There were days where I just wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. Because of those days, I learned to be strong.

It wasn’t the shelter itself that made me feel bad, it was mainly my own thoughts haunting me. I didn’t have any real friends then. I tried my best to keep to myself the first year there.

My mom was really depressed and it forced her to sleep all day. We didn’t do anything for the holidays, which was something she never let happen before that since the holidays have always been her favorite time of year.

I had over 20 tardis and absences in school, which almost caused my grade promotion to be in doubt.

There wasn’t much money coming in, so there were times when I wore hand-me-downs and times when we weren’t sure if we’re going to go to bed hungry or not.

My mother and my older brother, Erik, always tried to prevent us from having no food on the table. Since my father wasn’t around, my brother took on the fatherly role for the sake of our family. If he had to work countless hours with no sleep just so we could eat and have clothes on our backs, he did it.

Seeing my mom and brother bust their tails to feed us, made me sad. I wanted to help so bad, but a 12-year-old can’t do very much in that situation.

Things eventually got better. The next year, we were able to celebrate the holidays the way we always did. Things were going pretty well. We were just trying to make the best of our situation.

Around the time when I started high school, things became easier for my mom and siblings, but I couldn’t say the same for myself.

I was becoming a young adult and starting a new chapter in my life, so honestly, I felt ashamed.

I would lie to my friends and tell them I couldn’t stay over or stay out late because my mother gave me a strict curfew.

When my friends would ask if they could come over, I would tell them my mother didn’t want company.

I made her seem like some super strict parent because I was too embarrassed to tell the truth.

I smiled at school and pretended to be a happy girl when in reality, I was angry.

It felt like I was living a double life and I grew so frustrated and so tired.

I started skipping classes, I talked back to my teachers, and took my anger out on whoever, whenever.

I wasn’t even aware that I was so angry. I don’t even know how I allowed myself to become so angry. Holding the frustration in for so long took a toll on me.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I realized that my life wasn’t going to get better for me if I kept letting my situation drag me down. If only people were able to see what it did to my mother. I’m sure she blamed herself for my behavior, but it wasn’t her fault.

I wasn’t angry with her, I was just angry; period.

I knew it was time to get some help. I started talking to the school’s counselor, writing down my feelings, and turning some of my rage into poetry. Honestly, it helped me a lot.

Suddenly, life got better. We finally moved into our own apartment in May of 2015.

We are working on it every day. We’re “normal” again, if that’s even a reality. But I never forget who I was, what I went through, who I still am, and how hard my family fought to keep us afloat. I never will.