41: Finding My Way Home

41: Finding My Way Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Finding My Way Home

Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms.

~William J. Bennett

My palms felt sweaty and cold, and I could not stop my legs from bouncing up and down. Clearly, I was nervous, but I was also excited as I sat across from my real estate agent in the title office, going over paperwork. After a few more signatures, I was going to be a homeowner. At twenty-five. It was one of the best days of my life, second only to becoming a CPA a few months prior. I always had a plan, and this house was definitely a part of that. I had wanted my own piece of the American Dream for as long as I could remember, and I was about to get it — in all its brick, seven-room, ranch-style glory.

The purchase was major in more ways than one. My birth mother had given me up for adoption when I was born. I was homeless and alone until I was adopted by a sweetheart of a woman who ran a successful business but couldn’t have children of her own. Six years later, she was on her way to a work meeting when her car slid on some ice, hit a retaining wall, and went airborne before landing off the side of a steep embankment. She lingered for about a week in intensive care before she passed away. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. And just like that, I was orphaned. I was alone. And homeless. Again.

A couple of weeks later, I went to live in Mississippi. The courts appointed my adoptive mother’s sister as my legal guardian. She made it clear that she was only providing somewhere for me to stay until I graduated high school as dictated by the courts. The next ten years were miserable. A few months before my high school graduation, she told me that I should stop applying to colleges because I needed a job so I could afford a place to live. She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take care of me on her fixed income after my Social Security checks stopped. A week before my graduation, she reminded me again that I had to leave her house after I graduated since her guardianship would be terminated. I graduated and found myself alone. And homeless. Again.

I knew that day was coming, and I had planned for it by joining the Army Reserve in the fall of 1987 before my high school graduation. After what happened with my adoptive mother and the tragic, impoverished life I had been forced to live in a town that was economically segregated, I was never going to be caught out there again without a plan. The day after my graduation, I left for basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I am not sure I truly understood the oath I took to give my life for my country, but I certainly understood that I would have room and board. I had also received a full academic scholarship to my college of choice, and they’d agreed to hold it for me until I arrived in the spring.

I ended up meeting my biological family that summer. But, more importantly, I met a cousin who lived in the same city as my college. She and her family welcomed me with open arms. She let me live with them when school was out during the year and every summer until I graduated. While my college classmates were partying and having a good time, I was working multiple part-time jobs and preparing myself for life after college in the real world. I knew I didn’t have a safety net, so I couldn’t fail. I decided on a career as a CPA because I could make enough money to support myself.

After I signed the last of the paperwork, the title officer happily gave me the keys to my beautiful new home. Luckily, there were no speed traps between the title office and my new place because I don’t even think I stopped at any traffic lights getting to Lacewood Cove. I even loved my new street name. I pulled into the driveway and quickly hopped out of my car. I sprinted to the door and could barely turn the key because my hands were shaking so badly. I ran inside just in case it was a dream, and I woke up. I collapsed right there on the freshly carpeted floor of the bare living room and cried. I bawled my eyes out for what seemed like thirty minutes.

I stopped crying long enough to look at the four walls of the room I was in, and it all finally sank in. I had a home. No one was going to put me up for adoption and make me leave it. No one was going to die and force me out of it. No one was going to treat me badly and tell me to leave it. In that moment, I had never felt so empowered. I had felt so lost when my adoptive mother died. Suffering through years of physical violence, I had worked hard to become the person I was meant to be. And as I looked around that bare room that day, I knew I had finally found my way. Home.

~Sheila Taylor-Clark

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