Everyone has a story to tell that is their life and when we learn each other’s stories, we come to truly understand the people who surround us. When watching the Oprah Show Farewell episode, she said, “little by little we released the shame;” I can’t think of anything better to describe the transformation of my life. In my nineteen years, little by little I released the feelings of shame and unworthiness I felt.
My mom became pregnant with me when she was 18 after graduating high school and so throughout my life she has been a single mother. When I was 2 my father went to prison. My mom became a nurse after having me and for my elementary school days she worked full-time for me to go to private school at Pensacola Christian Academy. She wanted me to have a chance at a better life through going there than I would have in public school especially within the zone we lived. While I’m close to both of my grandmothers, my maternal grandmother and I always had this special bond from her staying with us when I was in kindergarten and first grade. In my elementary school days I always felt this difference from those around me at PCA because many of them came from married parents whereas I came from a single mother and my father was in prison so the feeling of shame of who I am started. How at a 7 years old do you really explain why your father isn’t at your programs when others ask. That feeling of being unworthy started. When I was eight years old, a new chapter started that I link to my independence. At PCA, they have limited spacing for school buses so if spaces fill up, you have to find your own transportation. For the first semester of 3rd grade, I actually rode the city bus to school because my mom had to be at work early. She taught me how to do it the first day then after that I was on my own. I still remember her telling me, if you pull the cord too early then you have to get off wherever the closest stop is so pay attention. That scared me into always getting it right. Also around this time, my father was released from prison, so I physically had him around. I was always close to that side of my family with my paternal grandmother always doing things for holidays and birthdays including my Winnie the Pooh themed six-year-old party but now my father was actually here. When I was in i believe the fifth grade, my maternal grandmother went into surgery to have an aneurysm removed but the day after her surgery she suffered from two strokes which paralyzed her right side and is basically like having to start over with eating, talking, walking, and everything that we learn at an early age. That was rough for me, because I wasn’t use to seeing her in this capacity and in some ways, she just didn’t seem like the person I knew even though, gratefully, she is still here. Everything that happened during my elementary school days caused me to internalize my feelings about situations, and began me not being emotionally trusting and thinking of being different negatively sometimes.
In middle school I chose to go to public school so I went to Workman Middle School. Going into middle school I was different because I didn’t know what FCAT was, I only wrote in cursive, I was the black boy who spoke “proper” and there was a “difference” about me. At the end of sixth grade I decided I wanted to start a community service club so during seventh grade I tried to do this but my advisor ended up moving away at the beginning of the eighth grade. While in the seventh grade, I one day sent a letter to school principal about ways to improve the school newspaper, The Paw Print News. Mr. Rice, the advisor, sent for me when he got this letter and brought me in to talk about my ideas in the letter then introduced me to the student staff. At the end he offered me a position with the newspaper. I look back fondly and laughingly on this because I didn’t know anything about typing or Microsoft Word and all the other newspaper kids were in the journalism class while I came in with some before school started. Middle school started at a late time and my mom went to work early so I got her to agree to let me do this and around 6am I would wake up every morning and take the city bus to school so I could be there an hour before school stared to work on the newspaper.
My eighth grade year began a great journey for me. My father went back out prison in 2003 and I think that took a mental really affected on me and made we distant with others when it came to truly personal information. In middle school I also gained some weight and teased about it which made me less comfortable with who I was. While my truly personal life was shaded in some ways, my extracurricular activities began to shine. Mr. Rice appointed me newspaper editor. After asking literally 11 teachers, the 12th teacher I found, Ms. Kimmel, agreed to sponsor my community service club. I talked to the principal one day and she said how this girl from the high school next door talked to her about starting a Junior Civitan Club here and it is a community service club too. To me it was only a name change for the club I was going to start anyway but now I think it was destiny because of the experiences I had ahead. That year I truly enjoyed working on the newspaper and I learned so much from Mr. Rice and about working with people. With starting my community service club, Ms. Kimmel came across a leadership class done by a newer local teen volunteer center, Chain Reaction. My the end of 8th grade, the Workman Middle School Junior Civitan Club chartered and even though I didn’t realize it, the Junior Civitan higher-ups started to take notice of me. Chain Reaction was starting to become an interesting passion of mine, and I had lost some weight too. Going into high school, a confident me began to emerge.
High school was an experience I will never forget or trade. Early in high school I became very involved with Chain Reaction. I loved planning out things for meetings and talking about Chain Reaction with people. Chain Reaction as a newer non-profit generated a lot of publicity and I got to be a part of it. WEAR ABC 3 :: Angels in Our Midst – Angles Starting A (Chain Reaction) When I look back on it, I realize how being a part of that was validating for me. I started to feel valuable and like I was a part of something bigger but that validation from press can be quite dangerous. I loved being a part of the Chain Reaction publicity but then fall/winter of 2007, a local columnist in Pensacola heard me speak at a luncheon and wanted to do a story on me. When this came about, I think my true internal growth for the better began.
Fall 2007 great things were in the works. The Pensacola High School Junior Civitan Club chartered, and after a couple of years of being asked to go to Junior Civitan district events, the District Governor Katie Snider asked me to represent our district at the annual Dance-a-thon in Canada. After talking to my mom I agreed to do it. Then the above article published on Christmas Eve that year. Ironically, this was a humbling experience for me because the writer wanted to know everything about me and this required me to talk about my father, my mother being a single mother and so on. I didn’t know I would be on the front page so surprisingly there was the key points of my life story on the front cover of the Pensacola News Journal. Being comfortable with that happening was the beginning of me knowing that validation has to come from within. At the time, it was me being comfortable with the cards life dealt. Spring 2008 I went to Dance-a-thon in Canada. It was my first time seeing snow, first time leaving the South, and my first time flying on a plane. The next issue of the Junior Civitan magazine, Countdown, came out and to my surprise, my newspaper article, in which I was still anxious about, was republished in Countdown so my local story went international in the organization I was in. Little by little, the shame that I felt in my life began to fade. Later that spring, Katie, who was an International Director and Tom, the International President, asked me about running for International Director for the next fiscal year at the international convention in Louisville. I didn’t know what I would be getting myself into but I begged my mom to buy me a plane ticket and pay my registration with the argument that if she paid for this and I won, the rest of my trips as an officer would be covered. My mom will bicker with me about things like this but will do it because she knows it will be good for me. That summer I went to Louisville and I won a spot on the international board of Junior Civitan but as I became more involved with Junior Civitan, my time with Chain Reaction began to dwindle.
My junior year of high school, I was an international director with Junior Civitan, became more involved with theatre, and was in SGA. My extracurricular activities became my refuge as my personal life became difficult for me to deal with. I didn’t have the time or drive I use to have for Chain Reaction because Junior Civitan gave me these amazing opportunities that I was growing from. I went to Canada twice that year along with some travel in the country. I met people from all over and was making a difference on a greater scale than I imagined but still Chain Reaction use to be this big thing in my life. My sexuality began to come into question in my mind which was rough and by the end of that school year I experienced how it feels to have your heart-broken. I grew to resent my father so much. My mother and I became closer from me traveling but still my home life was definitely having its struggles that took a toll on me. Towards the end of that school year when I had to put in my intent to run for International President with Junior Civitan, I didn’t know if I would really be able to handle it but I trusted in my love and passion for the organization.
The summer of 2009 I won to be the International President for the next Junior Civitan year and Danielle Wall became the next International Vice-President. Oh how I didn’t know the friendship that was ahead for her and me. As hard as I worked in Junior Civitan, it was because I truly believed in it and it validated me as a person. Part of my amazing experience with Junior Civitan especially towards the end came from Mary Luck. She taught me so much about being a person and being a professional. To have Mary Luck’s approval in my book is worth like gold. She truly helped shape me into being a great president. As my senior year was full speed, I also tried to come more to terms with my sexuality. This was a new shame because we have so much of society saying that being gay is a choice, gays shouldn’t be allowed to have children, and just pushing the stereotypes so it was rough when I heard these things and they made me ashamed and confused about being gay. Danielle trusted me with her secrets to the point where I was like, I just HAVE to tell her I like guys so I texted her “I like guys” and five minutes later she texts back “me too” and then called me. Danielle and I’s friendship works because of the underlying trust, openness, and understanding we have with each other. By the end of high school, I was truly starting to face and contemplate the situation with my father, my immediate family’s issues had still been going so I started to face this in my life, I knew I was gay but wasn’t comfortable with it, and I just started to really confront all these things I felt shameful about.
My first year of college was a chance to really bring out peace in everything that I hid away from others internally. I never really let anyone in before college on everything I experienced and felt in every aspect of my life whether it was my activities, my family, or my sexuality until Danielle. My blog has been lessons I’ve learned over the course of this past year.
Oprah in her finale talked about how we all want to be validated. “Do you see me? Do you hear me? And does what I say matter to you?” We “connect, embrace, liberate and love” each other. That is what Junior Civitan did for me on a general level but this is what Danielle and I did for each other on a truly personal level. We never felt like we were worthy enough at points in our lives. I dealt with it initially in high school in Chain Reaction by loving being in the spotlight with others until that front page story published. There were many more articles after but I didn’t need the public to validate me. In recent years, I dealt with it by staying active and busy and just going from task to task. I love to be busy anyway but it was also an escape like how people love their work so instead of dealing with a failing marriage or empty home, they stay at work because they love that. My freshman year gave me the chance to really contemplate life thus far. I have been able to travel to some amazing places, meet amazing people, and make a difference in amazing ways. I enjoy connecting with others, embracing who they are, liberating them, and loving them for who they are.
This doesn’t truly go into all the stories and experiences I could of course share but this is overall roots that have been my life. I know I am worthy of great things in life and I try not to let any negativity affect my everyday experience with others. I love learning about others and them taking the initiative to learn about me. I love the opportunities that exist if we just take time to think about the lessons presented to us and then run with them. I dream for the best when it comes to every aspect of my life (love, work, family & friends) with the hope that I will get what I wish for; that my thoughts aren’t fanciful but possible because I am worthy.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Feel free to comment, email me, or ask me questions anonymously at http://formspring.com/jarrydboyd