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Rai C on Beating the Odds, Age: 23

It's about growing up without a father, struggling with my identity and figuring out how to make something of myself in a world that only seems to be against me.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

I guess it all started when I was born. I was born into a world filled with an unbalance of hate, love, regret, and hostility. I grew up in an area in which making it to see your 16th birthday, graduating highschool, going to college, and not being a teen mom was beating the odds. My story isn’t so much about my struggle with drugs, suicide, alcohol abuse, or self harm.. but it is about being different, being a statistic and being everything that my environment was not suppose to let me be. It’s about growing up without a father, struggling with my identity and figuring out how to make something of myself in a world that only seems to be against me.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

My help came in the form of education and experiences of others. I used school as my outlet to separate me from the haves and the have nots.. to me it meant leveling the platform and putting me in a better situation so I made sure that I did what I had to do and didn’t let the peer pressure and distractions knock me down. I learned from my family members, friends & their friends. I learned what not to do and if I did do it, how not to get caught up. As of now, I’d definitely say it all helped me to cope with my existence and what I was born into. The people around me was my motivation. Everything can change and with time and effort, I saw that.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

When I was younger, I thought I was honestly helpless. I thought that my city was it and that eventually, I’d end up voiceless and unimportant. I never thought about college. I never thought about moving on and how my future could look. The only things that I ever thought about was wanting a father to complete the family that I never was given the opportunity to have and trying to understand why blacks were so hated, oppressed, and subjected to acts of violence. I was angry, upset and lived in the past. Lived in moments of hurt and confusion. However, overtime, I educated myself and understood my history.. grew to understand that everything happens for a reason. With every single tear, moment of weakness, moment of pain comes a succession of triumph.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is AMAZING and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To know how far I’ve come and to be able to say that I am a first generation college grad from my family is mind blowing. I’m an advocate for social justice and a leader in the very community that I thought I would drown in. I grew into a woman with a passion for success that no longer dwells on the past but is ready to sustain a future. I’m comfortable with my identity and I understand who I am, where I am going and exactly how I am going to get there. Though I still long to be “daddy’s little girl”, I’ve grown to understand that what I don’t have with me physically, is here spiritually. Everything that I am and will become is enough to remind me of my purpose. I’ve come a long way, lost a lot of friends and family on the way but a journey isn’t worth traveling if you don’t hit a few bumps on the way.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

For people struggling with their identity, living with resentment and confusion, engulfed with hatred and pain…. the only way to cope, is to wrap it all up and release it. Talk about it, get it out on paper.. release it into the world. Focus on everything that is good for you and everyone that is good to you. Pain, like any other emotion, is temporary. It’s psychological. Invest in yourself and invest in something that will last you for a lifetime. For me, that was my education. Find your significance and remind yourself that time heals all. Let go of the past and plan for your future, you’re never alone.