August 20, 2001
This week, we are launching 3 stories written by learners from the Saint John Learning Exchange, from Saint John, New Brunswick. As a special event you can read their stories as well as hear them. The Saint John Learning Exchange is a not-for-profit literacy education training centre dedicated to the empowerment of individuals through education, upgrading, training and employment preparation programmes.
Play an audio version of this story
Hi my name is Karen. After raising my daughter and living 21 years in a two parent dwelling, I find myself on my own, raising my son as a single parent.
I currently attend the BEST Program in Saint John, New Brunswick, at the Saint John Learning Exchange. My focus at this time is to complete my GED and then to find work in the field of bereavement. This is something that has always been an interest of mine. In doing so, I hope to live a productive and happy life for myself and my family.
I would like to share a few chapters of my life with you all. I grew up in a house with two parents, four brothers and two sisters. It was a simple, but harsh life growing up in an isolated countryside. We had no plumbing or lights, no paved roads, just darkness, which I disliked. There were no other children or activities to occupy my time. The most I saw other children or people, was when I started school, at the one room schoolhouse in which I walked a couple of miles to each day. As I got older I caught a bus at 7:30 in the morning to go to a bigger school and I arrived home by 4:00. I was always a lonely child, never said too much, and I tried to stay hidden away. I had a feeling of not being wanted or noticed by anyone. My thoughts and opinions were never heard. I was never acknowledged by anyone in my family. I just wanted to be noticed and to be safe. Don't mind her, I would hear over and over again, that's the quiet one. I still am a very lonely and quiet person but I always listen intently.
Eventually I grew up, so I thought. My two sisters left home and got married. I think I envied them because they got away. I wanted this too. Alone again, I said. Time passed and I moved out of my home at the age of sixteen. I went to high school, but that didn't last, I quit in grade 10. I never felt I fit in. I was never at ease. I did not have any friends growing up so I didn't have anyone to talk to. I grew up with thoughts of not needing anyone close to me, or to help me get advise, to push me the right direction. I got a job for awhile, but that didn't last either, although I really did enjoy it. I just left one day. I think my lack of personal growth kept me from achieving things. I always had thoughts and feeling of who I was and what I wanted, but I was too afraid to show these things. I would never ask questions or try to talk to people. I missed out on a large part of my life growing up. Then in adulthood I got myself into a bad relationship, that I knew was not right. I stayed with it for 21 years before I realized I can't do this anymore. I became more quiet and withdrawn. Alone again, I thought. I was never free to speak my mind or do what I wanted to do. I gave my fteedom away consciously and willingly. I hoped it would improve. Do what others want, say what they want to hear, do what everyone else expected. I thought this was the way it should be, so I kept up the charade, and kept my true self hidden away for the sake of pleasing someone else.
Then slowly things began to change. I began to realize that I had been denying myself and that I had to do something. I raised my daughter through a life of unhappiness, fighting and cold emotions with no respect and she faces the same issues I had. I wanted things to be different for my son. He would have scars but there was time to make a difference. I could no longer be weak but to be strong so my children could know happiness, to know it's okay to be aftaid. It's okay to have your own opinion. I want them to respect others and themselves and not to let someone else dictate to them what they should be and do. I ended my relationship though it took me 5 years.
At the time I did not know how to ask or even where to look for help. I didn't feel I deserved to be helped. I was almost ashamed to need assistance from anyone. When you grow up thinking asking for help is wrong, you don't ask questions. Luckily for me, someone had an interest in talking to me, and more importantly I listened. I enrolled in a self-esteem program for a 6-week period. At first I was reluctant to go, but I did. I did give up for awhile but I went back. It was difficult for me, being around others who shared their thoughts and feelings. Eventually I realized I had to make the step forward and see this through. I am glad I did. I found that it was a safe place and I could talk and share my own feelings and opinions with others. And that they would listen.
When it was over I missed going there and talking to the girls I met. I felt alone again and knew I had to find some other means of fulfilling the void still with me. Now at the young age of 40, I took another step, and went back to school, hoping to complete my grade 12. I started in September 2000, and I hope to be done by June 2001. 1 had to fight off my inner critic, in order to go to school and feel good about doing so. This is my choice and I am going to see it through and finish something on my own. I will learn from my mistakes and take pride in my accomplishments. I will not only reach my goal but I will know I can do things I decide to do. It's all up to me. I need to keep a positive attitude and a strong will in order to succeed. I am unique and I can do it.
I rarely gave myself credit for anything or even knew how to accept a compliment. Since coming back to school and being in the BEST Program things have changed. I've been working to get my GED but the program includes many things. Socializing with others, getting along in group sessions, learning job skills and learning to use a computer are just a few. I call it a whole family of friendly people and it was the perfect environment for me. The staff and animators are a group of wonderful, helpful people. They are always at hand to guide you, answer your questions, and listen. They went out of their way to make things easier for me.
It provided me with a warm and caring, not a fast paced atmosphere. I instantly felt welcome and a sense of belonging. I could choose between joining with others or working alone until I was done. I am finding out that it is okay to need other people, they helped to bring out the best in me and now the rest is up to me, to keep it shining. I do not want to be just another human being, but I want to take the steps to become a human doing. You can too, just like me. Good luck to everyone out there.
Keep in mind, someone does care
And they're willing to share
So don't be scared
Be willing to dare
To yourself don't compare
Your life is rare
Being untrue to your dreams is unfair
Keep trying, You will get there