Open Not Broken

Open Not Broken

A Picture of Lincoln High School

just recently received this life story from one of my Lincoln alumni students, who represents the internal understanding of resilience, and having the ability to look at life’s challenges as stepping stones of personal growth and hope for the future. Kalvin is enrolled at our community college and excelling in his journey to become a computer engineer, and following his dream to enroll in one of our country’s top engineering programs at the University of Washington. I love this young man and his supportive girlfriend as if they were my own. Grab some Kleenex and enjoy his powerful story that Kalvin has allowed me to share with you, “Open Not Broken”.

Open Not Broken

By Kalvin

Just about everyone has been in a bad situation at one point or another. Some of us more than others, but we all struggle none the less. Growing up I never gave too much attention to the problems my family and I faced, to me I assumed it was normal. Day to day struggle with little to hold onto. I became numb to the problems almost expecting that no matter how much I tried, it would not be enough. You can wish for things but these are only wishes and false hopes, but it is also these hopes that allow us to reach for more and to keep going when we feel like we cannot. The challenges I have faced, I have also overcome through hard work and resilience. I’ve learned the hard way what it takes to cope and work hard. My struggles have helped shape who I am and because of that I will continue to break through the walls that stand in my way.

It was a beautiful fall afternoon my junior year of high school. The trees were filled with epic colors of oranges, yellows and reds. It was the kind of day you wouldn’t mind walking around outside in because it was just warm enough that it was comfortable out. Halloween was coming up and everyone that I knew was in a good mood. To me it looked like everyone was doing great and that nothing could spoil such a great day. It just hit lunch time and I decided I would go to my mothers work and debate for a small amount of change to get a soda. When I got there some of the workers directed me to the back where I found my mother covering her face sobbing.

I proceeded to ask her why she was and try to get the answer out of her. After about twenty minutes she relinquished the answer I was fighting to receive. She said “We have four days to move everything out of our house and to find somewhere new, the bank was taking our

home from us”. I was stunned, I did not know what to say. Finally I collected my thoughts and I asked her; “How is this happening?”, “Why four days?”, “Can they do this to us?”, and “Where will we go?” After my barrage of questions my mother answered only a few. She said the banks came months before but never gave a notice, that they were using that as a way to seize the house without giving us more time. We had only been late on bills once but that was reason enough to get rid of us. We had nowhere to go no immediate family to help us and winter was coming. My mother stressed to not tell anyone about this, though I believe she didn’t want anyone to know because she was to prideful and did not want to feel ashamed.

I felt many emotions in that instant like fear, sadness, and also ashamed. I rushed back to school to catch my next class. The stress that I was going through thinking about what was going to happen to my family and my self was evident. My teacher Genie came up to me and asked what was wrong, I relayed what was told to me. She talked to me about it and she was there to help comfort me in what I was going through. I next went to one of my friends and asked if I would be able to crash at his house for some time tell my family could get back onto their feet. He was happy to be some help for me so we went to his house and talked to his mom which thankfully agreed.

I missed school the next four days, waking up early only to go to bed late trying to take only the things we needed or could sell. My friends all got together and helped with each of those days and alongside them a very familiar teacher who grabbed a school van and rushed to help us pack supplies to a storage unit my mom rented. My family faired about the same as myself on finding somewhere to go. They knew a friend only slightly and he lived in a small house, about three bedrooms. My mom, her boyfriend and my little brother and sister, (one being thirteen and the other being fifteen respectively) all shared one room. My younger sister was on a

bad track making poor choices and on the first night ran away. These problems that we were facing proved too much for her. I did not see her again for about two years. My family was falling apart and pulling themselves together only to repeat the cycle again and again.

I was trying to focus on school along with my mixed emotions of how I felt. I lived on my friend’s sofa for a short time and then they got me a bed. Fall turned into winter, I had no windbreakers or jackets only a thin sweater. I wore many shirts underneath and multiple pairs of socks and two pairs of pants to stay warm. Times were hard but I hopped soon they would be over because, I knew that there were people out there less fortunate then I was in this situation. I’ve built my strengths upon watching my mother and built more by doing everything I could to help my family in our situation.

At this time I was doing a lot of art, it became my outlet a means to communicate how I felt without having to talk about it. Some of these pieces opened a door that allowed me reach college later on. After almost a year my family was able to get into a house. I started to move back in almost immediately, trying to rebuild what we had once had. My teachers who have become close friends of mine and still are today helped pull a few strings and for the first few months we would get care packages of food sent to our house. I was fortunate enough to have people there who cared and who were willing to go out of their way to help me and my family. I will never forget those who aided me in my journey, for it is these acts of kindness that helped shape and build who I am today and the decisions I have made since.

Looking back today I can reflect on what happened to me, and how this event has changed who I am. I had no idea that anything like this would happen nor did I expect there to be others who would help. I see the feelings I locked inside and how long it took them to find their

way out again. The friend and family’s influences that changed me into who I am today. Through this moment in time it allowed me to see just how much control we have in the world.

Control is but a mere illusion a shadow that pales in comparison to our point in this universe. I thought I was in charge of my life at that time, like what I was doing in school, my plans for the next week, and the amount of work I had on my back at the time. This proved folly because of the problems I faced soon after. I had no power to fix my family’s situation nor the control to have it happen at a time that would have made it easier for us. Life can be a bitch and the problems it presents us can also come at unexpected times. It is what we do with these situations that gives us a little control.

Looking back my family and friends played a huge role in my life at that time. I knew my friends since I was in third grade. We’ve never stopped hanging out since and I’ve always appreciated how much they have been there for me when I needed them. I felt ashamed to tell them I was going homeless. I looked up to my friends and I believe I just didn’t want them to look down at me or pity the situation I was in. With my teachers I felt about the same way. I didn’t want them to feel bad for me, but at the same time I felt like I really wanted someone to talk to. That though did not hurt as much as being away from my family. I had no way to go see them while being so packed with homework and they didn’t have time while working and trying to find another home for us. Being apart would make me sad at times and made me feel like I needed to do everything in my power to not get myself into another situation like this again.

Through my teachers and Lincoln high school I worked on building my resilience. I learned ways to cope with my situation over the year this was happening. The hardest part of dealing with something like this was trying to no think about it at all. I missed my family and missed a lot of the freedoms that I had at the time. Another affective way I was coping was just

focusing on school. All of the homework I had and many conversations with my teachers ranging from studies to personal interests. These helped take the problem far away from me but the best way I released my stress and sadness was painting. Painting helped me show how I was feeling when I could not at the time formulate how I felt into words. My favorite of these paintings is represented as my cover page.

It takes a lot to stand up and overcome the challenges that we face in our lives. I believe I have shown resilience through my decisions in the situation I was in. The first step I took in overcoming this challenge was to understand the problem in hand. Knowing my problem I felt I would better know what decisions I would need to make later on. Thinking back I showed confidence in my situation and did the best that I could for where I was. This allowed me to be less fearful and focused more on school which led to opening more doors for me. These doors were connections, people that helped me I felt I was at my lowest and who have stuck with me since. Because of these steps I took and the people who were there for me I was able to overcome these challenges.

From this experience I’ve learned that it is okay to fail, and to ask for help when it is needed. What makes you strong is being able to get back up and just try again rather than giving up. We are all strong in our own way, and the problems each and every one of us face, shape and mold who we are from the very beginning. I’ve learned that bad things happen and you can’t control everything. Life is uncertain and it throws curve balls when you least expect it. I know I will not stand idle when my situation takes a turn for the worst, because of this I will complete my dreams and goals no matter the barriers that lay on the path to my future.

If you have any comments or questions please post you them in the comments section below, both Kalvin and I would love your support. Consider spending some time to think about what your students might be going through and what you can do to help. If you or your students have a story you’d like to share, send it to me through my contact page.