Dreams Do Manifest…..In Due Time
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
It was a hot summer day in May 1999, college courses were weighing heavy on my spirit and third shifts in the local steel mill were draining what strength I had while also making it hard to focus during my long days, which also included working a lunchtime supervisor shift at a local sub shop. “Making stuff happen” was the name of that season! I was a rest deprived, workaholic, guilt-ladened young Mother who yet dreamed of what the future could behold. Better, I hoped. I dreamt of overcoming obstacles, outgrowing my pain and doing something big one day like helping others and proving myself to be successful to my Mother and Daughter. However, I didn’t have the entire plan or even for that matter if I didn’t know if I would pass all my college finals. Yet, I dreamt. Low and behold, after giving it all I had while emptying my tank on my finals, my grades for that semester were straight A’s and one D, I recall. What a gut blow! I had worked my butt off to earn a laundry list of academic honors so far: The President’s List, Golden Rule Award, The National Dean’s List, Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges and the list goes on. For this! Gahlee! You get the drift….this chick who always works her hiney off couldn’t pull it off this time around. Damnit!! For an overachiever like myself, this was more than just failing. This was the onset of clinical depression. I had been working so hard for so many years to live up to the somewhat impossible standards that my Mother had set for me. The standards weren’t the problem though; it was the dysfunction that we had been living through for at least thirteen (13) years at that point as a result of my brother’s life spiraling in and out of control due to his substance abuse disorder. Truth be told, my struggles with depression had surfaced years prior in elementary school. But my folks were from a different walk of life and they didn’t understand the signs of mental health issues. See, they were sharecroppers and were cut from a different cloth. Their spirits were rooted in trauma and fighting against adversity in life. All they knew was that when times get tough you have to “toughen up” or “you might give in but don’t give out”; “keep going” is what they would say. Before birthing my daughter at fifteen (15) years of age, my hand had been in the rearing of six (6) nieces and nephews. Still, my folks knew that I was competent and capable even though I was now a single teen mother in high school. I mean, they said that I was the “gifted” kid. They would say that “Tiffany could do it”. Of course I could, but Tiffany was tired.
Fast forward to the next season of my life…. I persevered clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. I made it through junior college after being awarded more scholarships to attend the University of Alabama in Huntsville, locally known as NASA University. My spirit was still reeling from the shrapnel of clinical depression; yet, I showed up for the challenge because it was what was required to stay on course with my personal goals of affording my young daughter better opportunities in life. I owed her that. I mean if it was going to happen for us, I had to do it. Let me tell you, that was the bumpiest ride I have been on in my life! The requirements at NASA University superseded what life had thrown at me so far, by far. But, guess what, I was more than determined to accomplish what I started. I refused to fail. My grit is stronger than any animal in the wild, I believe. As time progressed, my Grandmother’s health perpetually declined as well as my Mom’s and I was their support mechanism. How did this happen? How did the baby of the family become the one who had to carry the weight of the family on my shoulders? My Mom birthed six (6) kids; yet it seemed like I was her only child for most of my life. Oh well, more for me to do because it must get done. That was my mindset. And that’s what I did. Most people didn’t know the burdens that rested on my young shoulders because I didn’t do it for popularity. I did it all out of love and honor for the two women who stood in the gap for me and fought unspoken wars in our broken family unit so that I could keep my daughter and continue to work hard to provide a better quality of life for us. My Queens! For that reason alone, my determination was set to repay them however I could and by any means necessary. So what if I had to dedicate my young life to being their support mechanism. So what! During my junior year at UAH, my Grandmother was diagnosed with acute liver failure. I grappled with the validity of her diagnosis for a while because Grandma had never consumed an alcoholic beverage in her life nor had she smoked a cigarette for that matter. Stress kills; stress and trauma should have been her diagnosis. But, in the midst of trauma and living in survival mode, all I knew to do was keep my train moving to the next critical life situation that demanded my attention. What did I do? What I was supposed to do, of course! After countless doctors’ appointments up to her final hospital visit, I stood in the gap for my Mom and handled Grandma’s end of life diagnosis; hence, I brought her home and provided hospice care for her. See, my Mom had six (6) major back surgeries and she couldn’t physically handle Grandma so that was my responsibility. I stayed by Grandma’s bedside, bathed her and did what was required until her final breath, which at one point required rotating her every two hours. Why? Because that’s what love and honor does and, most importantly, that was my way of paying them back. Well, what about school you may ask? Oh yeah! As I sat by Grandma’s death bed, my decision to drop one engineering course that I had fallen behind in prolonged my time by a year to earn my degree. Time that I didn’t have the patience nor desire to commit to. So, I changed my major from Computer and Electrical Engineering to Physics and Mathematics and did what was required to complete my goal of earning my four-year degree. I did that! And moved on to something new…….
I forfeited my career in space science to stay close to my Mom because I was the only one of her children whom had taken an interest in her health; hell, the only one who’d taken interest in her as a human being for the most part, it seemed. I decided that I couldn’t move thirteen (13) hours away to fulfil my dream of working for NASA in Houston, TX. But, I was hell bent on leaving Alabama. I was ready to cut ties with the trauma that haunted my childhood and stained my young adult life so far. My prayers were answered! A mentor from junior college called me a few weeks after I completed my degree requirements that landed me in Atlanta for what was supposed to be a temporary stint. Low and behold, I was enamored to have an opportunity to work for a legendary organization such as The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center). That opportunity changed the trajectory of my life just as I was warned. It afforded me to meet many Civil Rights icons, high-profile celebrities and to see the effects of reaching the most marginalized and underserved through education and community programs. Let’s be honest, I am a servant at heart. That’s it! I love to help the underdog. Once my opportunity at The King Center finally ended, I had purchased my first home and I had become a true ATLien (Atlanta slang). I then realized that I had finally reached a place that would afford me an opportunity to process my feelings and begin to heal from all of the pain that occurred in my life up to that point. At last, my healing process could finally begin….
My healing journey was very unconventional by far. I tried a range of modalities to overcome my pain because I discovered that what worked for other people was not effective for me. Little by little, I became stronger in my relationships and found peace within; hence, I finally felt complete, whole and safe. At some point, I realized that everything that I had experienced made me hate myself. At last, I was at peace with my process and began to love myself, for once. After years of working on me, I was then charged with the responsibility of caring for my Mom after a stroke had paralyzed her. Of course, I did that alone too! I mean, by now I know full well where my help comes from. I quit my job at the State of Georgia, reinvented myself as an independent affordable housing consultant, started a business from home to provide for us as I became her full-time caregiver. I gracefully accepted my new assignment for the season. What I realized at that point was it was my opportunity to show Mother how to be free in her spirit and afford her the opportunity to live the best season of her life without carrying the weight of the family on her shoulders. I must say, caring for her and helping her to heal past some her trauma was the most fun that I had probably experienced at that time in my life. Despite the countless hospital visits, late nights nursing her and numerous doctors’ visits, we did a lot of laughing, travelled to fourteen (14) states by car, ate plenty of good food and more laughing! It was so much fun! The best part was she didn’t realize that it was a divine reset for her in a sense. Once that season ended, I became consumed with the innate desire to do more and reach many more. Those feelings reached a point that they could no longer be ignored and, in the shortest story version possible, they landed me here in Durham, NC.
is all of this relevant? To share with every youth in the land that life is hard. However, with the right state of mind and effective support, you can overcome anything in life. This is a very abbreviated version of my life’s experiences and yet, I believe, they would have broken most people by far. I will share more of my testimonial here as I feel convicted to over time. During the many trials I sometimes became bruised but was never broken. Somewhere around 2010, I realized that my experiences were for a greater good. And, in 2021, that is what propelled me to create GRACED, Inc. My passion and pleasure are rooted in bringing healing to people who have been through extreme trauma. What I learned very profoundly throughout my trials and tribulations is that people who experience trauma or severe life stressors can sometimes become stagnant on their journey or their lives can unravel without effective support. In this season, I desire to help teens and young adults find healthy perceptions of themselves and strengthen their chances of achieving personal success; hence, break the chains of oppression that generational trauma can create. Effectively in this season, my pain is being transformed into purpose, my dream. My current assignment for this season is to share the strength that was gained from overcoming everything that life threw at me to help as many as possible. In closing, I am GRACED for this! GRACED, Inc. will change the lives of many youth in Durham, NC. More to come…………SUPPORT GRACED, INC.