I am not sure how or why this came about but it’s stuck with me since I was 19 years and 11 months old. Most people have a difficult time with 40, 50 and so only however for me (go figure) I had/have an irrational fear of turning 20 and beyond. On this very day for a little more than 2 decades I have “celebrated” (really acknowledged) my 19th birthday. One of my assistants from when I worked with special needs kids made a tiara with Happy 19th Birthday (photo at the end) for me to wear year after year after year.
Sometimes I worked with the same children for several years and each birthday I told them I was 19 and that’s what was acknowledged. Truth is I have been one of those people who didn’t celebrate their birthday other than my Sweet Sixteen and when my sorority sisters dragged me out of my house to celebrate my 20th with a Garfield Cake. Yes, I know 20 years old with a Garfield the cat cake but I love that obnoxious wise ass and thank you JM now JMM for doing that for me.
This year I decided to embrace the day and when recognized I will graciously say “thank you” and mean it. Since I worked with special needs kids I buried my needs and wants in order to immerse myself in the kids. After doing it for so long I just forgot about me, what I wanted, in fact I lost “me” I had no identity other than working with my kids. Strangely not once did I notice I had been doing that to myself. I wasn’t angry or upset, quite the opposite. Working with my kids was my passion, my joy, the reason I fought so hard for better health and it eventually encompassed my entire life.
When school was out for the weekends my time was spent researching, documenting, reevaluating, and making plans all for my kids. Not only did I engulf myself into the kids I included their families because I fully believed that to help the kids I needed to help the families. I made sure that they had my personal cell phone number, business and home email address so I could be available at anytime of day or night whether school was in session or not.
Parents, grandparents, Aunts and Uncles would thank me for my time, dedication, and support and not once did I accept the thanks for myself. Each and every sentiment of gratitude I always replied “—– did the work, I was just there for support, or “it wasn’t me it was —- and you followed through and made this happen, I just cheered everyone on.” In fact some of my former kids and their families are probably reading this right now and laughing because they have the same memory.
When did I lose myself and why hadn’t I noticed it or been unhappy, unfulfilled, upset or even concerned? Hadn’t anyone else noticed? Is it possible that I became one of the strategies used to help the children and families reach their goals and no longer an individual?
Going through my mind is the success the kids and families had and still have and the peace it still brings me as a smile comes across my face. There are so many amazing memories, triumphs, the impossible became possible even though everyone before me believed otherwise. Of course there are plenty of memories from very challenging moments. Everyone would expect being called names, spoken back to, ignored, but would you believe me if I told you that I had been stabbed with scissors, pencils, paper clips? How about having a computer monitor thrown at me or having a child attempt to staple me with a stapler, or punched, kicked, knocked into walls, having doors slammed shut on my hands and feet or a child attempting to kick me in the face, neck and stomach or that I even had a gun pulled on me? Would you believe me if I said that for 6 weeks I drove 20 miles out of my way each morning to pick up a student so that they could still attend my program while they moved back into the area or that a childs family had severe health issues and needed after school to feed, complete HW, bathing and putting the child down for the night and I did that? How about after a parent complained even demand I be fired, I accompanied them from one medical facility to another with their child because they needed the support and I didn’t get home until 1:00 in the morning? Strangely enough I received a letter of reprimand because of the parents complaint and to this day they do not even know?
Would you believe me if I told you that I invited a child with their family to move in with me after they had a house fire and lost almost everything? I can go on and on over how my world revolved around my kids, my world was my kids. This passion for my kids caused professional riffs and I never ever backed down when it came to what was in their best interests. I was my own army, a brick wall, I didn’t care whose feathers I ruffled or how high up the ladder I had to go in order to secure what my kids needed and deserved.
Not one person mentioned that I was ignoring myself probably because I was genuinely happy as long as my kids and their families were happy. Their success was my success and their failures were my failures and my job to solve. This wasn’t ever an issue until I was no longer able to fulfill my passion.
So now I am looking at me, learning new passions, finding a different road to travel down, learning who Stacey is now that her path has taken a detour going to a place of uncertainty and not knowing what comes next.
On this new journey I am no longer allowed to celebrate my 19th birthday because I have to live in the now, in reality, with no one else to make a priority, it’s my time. So happy birthday to me and don’t ask me what comes next because I have absolutely no clue other than I am no longer 19, I am 43!
Happy Birthday today!