Blog

Do not blame your past for your future!

How do you view experiences in your life? Are they just things that happen to you?
Or do you use it to shape your values? I.e. as some source of awareness and growth?

We all have our own values, beliefs and attitudes which we have developed throughout the course of our lives. Primarily, our environment (e.g. family, friends, community, school, religion etc) and the experiences we have all contribute to our sense of who we are.

So is it really true that we are defined by our experiences? Have you really taken a moment to think about that question?

The attitude we develop over time is not only a reflection of our past exposure and experiences but it is an indication of how we will proceed with our life in the future. In that respect, our past does have an influence on our future. The way we understand ourselves and the resilience we develop comes from the struggles and challenges that we have endured. Life is an ever changing or developing story. Our environment and experiences may change which may inevitably change our values if we allow it to. The values we identify with at one point in our lives may be different at another point. This in itself gives us some richness in our lives without limiting us to one way of being. Thus, do not deprive yourself of a good future because of not so pleasant formative years. In fact let these experiences and exposure shape you.

My Story

For most of my childhood experiences with my mom, I can recall her struggles financially and not having access to basic needs including electricity and running water. My situation changed at some point when I went to live with my dad’s mom who was from a well-to-do household (educated, financial security etc.), although I never felt like I belonged.

As a grown woman, I can recall having a chat with my psychologist and always referred to myself as “that poor girl” though I have not experienced poverty for more than 15 years.

He on the other hand saw me differently and posed the question as to why I always referred to myself as “the poor girl”. The truth is living in poverty and living in a household where I always felt like that poor girl was a defining moment in my life which became part of my identity. Although some may not consciously identify poverty as an identity many of us who experienced it have a shared identity of not having enough, being judged by society and being marginalized. Unfortunately it is difficult to break free from this stereotype that has been created by society and think of ourselves that way even if we are passed it. Although I no longer live in poverty, the way I connect to others is a real and acknowledged part of my existence. That perhaps explains my empathy and enthusiasm towards poverty alleviation projects which I have been involved in.

So back to the question … and the answer is two fold:

  1. I think the words “defines” and “shapes” are interchangeable in that context.
  2. Who you are is not only defined by your experiences but also by the environment which you were exposed to. 

The mask we live in!

Expressing supposedly “difficult” feelings is an integral part of our life, because it somehow helps us overcome the feeling of sadness. Yet for some reason it is not, out of fear of being judged as being seemingly weak by society. As a result, this has made some of us push past our feelings without never addressing or processing them. Then we go through our daily lives feeling sad, and our life becomes a constant battle to avoid that sneaking feeling of unhappiness.

Have you ever experienced something terrible in your life? How did you overcome it? Or are you still struggling with these feelings?

Well, I have. A family member raped me at the age of 15. It was difficult to speak about it with any and everyone, but I identified some people in my life at the time whom I trusted and spoke about it with. Although one of these people betrayed me by telling someone else about what I confided in him with, the PROCESS OF ADDRESSING, not only the feeling of my innocence being taken away but the embarrassing feeling that was associated about being judged (e.g. my fault) by others, has helped me and that’s why I can write openly about it today.

At the time, I could not have afforded professional advice, but with emotional support from other family members and loved ones, I was able to overcome the difficult feelings associated with the experience. Today, I greet this family member when I see him. Although, I am always reminded of the incident when I see him, I do not have any malice in my heart towards him. I am not sure if it is normal, but it has been my way to find happiness in my life. 

Not everyone finds expressing feelings easy, but the stereotype associated with a strong masculine identity as weak , makes it in particularly difficult for men to express “difficult” feelings.

Is it really true that men aren’t adept to expressing their feeling? Or is because of the stereotype they do not want to seem weak or vulnerable, in particular to another man?

I wish I could have answered that question. Perhaps, more men should reach out to someone to give some insight. That conceivably would be the first step in addressing or overcoming the creeping feeling of unhappiness and mental health issues.

Give everyone a fair chance – paint your own picture

Can you think of a time when you jumped to conclusions about someone because someone else said something not so nice about them, but after getting to know them for yourself you realize that this person is not so bad after all? Did that experience teach you anything?

Listening to not so nice stories about others causes us to develop pre-conceived ideas and hence judge others unfairly. The truth is people will always have an opinion about others. The experience you have with someone may not be the same as someone else. Your interaction with someone at a particular instance can depend on the following amongst others:

  • State of mind or psychological state
  • Place of meeting/location (environment)
  • Sense of self (self-esteem)
  • Character (introvert/extrovert)
  • Communication skills
  • Point in your life

It is always easy to label someone based on too little information or interaction. We cannot know the thoughts and challenges of others with minimal interaction with them. Avoiding judgment is difficult but yet critical in maintaining a more positive outlook on life.

Every interaction with someone is important. It is an opportunity to get to know someone, who like you is trying to make the most of their life. Being more accepting of the goodness in yourself will allow you to approach others with a more open mind.

Can you think of a time when you have been judged by someone? I have! Too often in fact!

In conversation with a friend, I made while studying for my PhD; she mentioned that she had met someone from St. Lucia, who indicated that she “knew” me in Trinidad when I was doing by BSc. She indicated that she was not too fond of me, and that most people were not either. My friend who had a completely different perception of me was indeed shocked and that is why she mentioned it to me.

Oh well! I have been so often misunderstood, that at times I had this begging feeling to be understood. But as I grew up I realized that it was not my loss. In fact I felt it is just unfortunate to deprive yourself the opportunity to get to know someone for who they are.

What you say about others is also a reflection of who you are. Therefore, when you are busy trying to paint a dark and dismal picture the observer is also trying to paint a picture of you. So while painting a picture of others, you are also saying something about you;  YOU ARE PAINTING YOUR PICTURE, so make it a good one!

 

I was so humiliated by the leaked video, I felt like …

It is not unusual for young people to make mistakes. Mistakes and regrets can and do happen to all of us. In fact, not making mistakes is the biggest mistake one could ever make in one’s life. So do not believe for any moment that your life is ruined by a mistake. In fact, they teach you some of the most valuable lessons.

I write a story about a young woman who opened up about leaked sex videos (which were supposed to be private), which has somehow threatened to derail her future, the impact it had on her and the lessons learned. This is her story in her own words:

Growing up in a single parent household has it benefits and downfalls. My mom who also grew up with a single parent tried her best to assist me in all ways possible, but the truth is, I was lacking the “I love you”, “Oh how pretty you look” attention from my absentee father. I yearned for love and affection and began to look for it elsewhere. Lies and deceit began to follow me.

My life changed on this fateful day when I began a summer drama camp. Tisha (not her real name) and I became friends instantly. We started hanging out and very soon after, she introduced me to one of her male friends. This guy was Alexander (not his real name). We got familiar very quick and soon after he asked me to be his girlfriend. Without a doubt, I was looking for the love and validation I never got from my dad. I was looking for the unconditional acceptance one craves from a parent, but I was also so freaked out of my mind. I was finally going to have a boyfriend. This was like a dream come true, after all I really liked the guy.

Countless studies have shown the downfalls of young girls not having a father figure. The most notable includes: feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness, more promiscuous, sexually aggressive, have kids younger, fear abandonment and rejection, jump into love relationships that are not as emotionally satisfying, stable, and long-lasting (willingness to settle). 

During our relationship, I began to feel the bottled emotions that was missing from a lack of love in my life. I felt loved and melted just by the thought of him. The state of being in love was exciting but at the same time frightening. The fear of losing him that was evoked by the positive emotions was frightening. That is why I gave in to his fantasy of having a recorded encounter with two women as a birthday present in February 2012. I did not think anything of it at that moment nor did I think of the consequences that would follow. I trusted him after all. 

The trouble with intimate films is that while they are always “supposed” to be a secret, one should always anticipate an audience in the near future or years after the recording. 

I then spoke with my best friend about the proposal, she agreed, and on his birthday, we met at his house. We all began foreplay together but I soon got jealous, I could not stand the thought of him touching my best friend. I then exited the room and allowed them some privacy. Once they were finished, I then experimented with my girlfriend.

After our experiences, he showed me the video that he made of the two of us together but also of my encounter with my girlfriend. I was very upset because we had not agreed to the recording with me and my girlfriend. Besides, we were not even aware that he was making the recording. Just before leaving for home, I asked him to delete the videos. He assured me that he would.

I tried to forget what happened that day, but there were some valuable lessons to be learnt. I knew that I would never conform to such request in the future. The feeling of being out of control, not being able to manage what to film. The unbearable feeling of jealously you experience to see your partner intimate with someone else. The worries of him sharing the videos without my consent.

A few days after, my boyfriend told me that he had lost his phone and that he was so sorry but the intimate footages that we shared were still on his phone. I was very upset because he previously reassured me that he would have deleted the footage. He tried to assure me that if the phone was found, the media files would be inaccessible. Back then, blackberry was the “in-thing” and if the password was entered incorrectly a number of times, every file on the phone would be deleted. I was very trusting, of course, only a handful of men are that rat-like and unscrupulous and I did not consider him one of them.

That same year after I left school, I was working at my alma mater as a coach for the netball team. I developed a bond with the netballers and we all trained hard and vigorously to be one of the best teams out there. One day whilst waiting for the netballers to arrive, my assistant coach and I were discussing team matters. My phone buzzed and buzzed but I ignored the call because I did not have a friendship anymore with the person calling on the other end. Our friendship terminated during my last year at school.

I told myself if she called once more, I would answer the call. A couple minutes later, the phone rang again. I answered and she was like “Della, what kind of things I am seeing there?” I was lost and asked what she talking about. She replied, “Porn videos!” My heart sank immediately and I felt my whole world crashing in my face. I did not know what to think or how to feel. You know the feeling you get in your throat and you just cannot swallow, and your heart is racing rapidly but you just cannot move? This is exactly how I felt.

I immediately called my girlfriend who is still one of my best friends to date to tell her about the revelation. She was of course distraught but somehow dealt with it much better than me. I then told the assistant coach what happened. He tried to talk me through the ordeal but it felt like I was in a trance and maybe, just maybe I might snap of it soon. I cannot even recall how I got home that fateful day. All I could remember it was a Wednesday afternoon of November 2012. 

Within a short space of time, people close to me had already seen those videos. I was so embarrassed. A “B+” student and a promising athlete, how could this have happened to her? When I got home, I had to tell my mom what had happened. I cannot recall how I told my mom, but she comforted me, and stated, “You’re not the first nor are you the last.”

When my mom went to bed, the thought of being alive resonated in my mind. I was so embarrassed and filled with emotions that I wanted to commit suicide. I felt like I wanted to die. I was not able to cut myself nor hang myself so I thought a drug overdose would do the job. That night I consumed 33 pills that I found at home (could be some herbal tablets, we never really consumed medication at home) and I just waited for the pills to take effect.

During that time, I called one of my past teachers who was also a good friend to say good-bye. I told him what I had done. He stayed on the line with me to ensure that I was OK and in the meantime, called my mom who was already asleep so she could look after me. My mom ensured that I had something to eat, then I began to puke and slowly started to feel better. I cried and cried because I was this close to just being a name on this earth.

Society had behaved as abysmally as the people involved. They share and circulate such footage and they bully on social media platforms. 

I learnt at that moment, persons who commit suicide are just always hoping that one person would notice, at least one person would say, “You are special!” at least expect to hear the words that, “I am there for you!” I was this close to death and only then did I realise what it meant to be alive. I really wanted to be gone and not worry about-facing the challenges and humiliation that would come.

However, with good friends and a loving family I managed to make it through. It was however, not without challenges. I was particularly humiliated on a Facebook page “C.C.S.S Class of 2012.” It was then that I also learnt who my friends were. And there were those who I never expected to stand up for me, who defend me. That meant a lot in the midst of my ordeal. Reading positive comments from two males ignited a spark in me. I knew then that I had made a mistake and now I should learn to forgive myself and the people involved and learn from that mistake. Despite my new found strength, I still was not feeling as strong enough to leave my home to go to the city nor was I ready to face the shame or get involved in any unnecessary confrontation.

Before the incident, plans were in the making for me to go to Denmark to work as an Au Pair. Luckily I managed to leave the country the following January 2013 to Denmark where I stayed for a year. Of course people continued to talk about me and speculated a lot about my departure. During my time in Denmark, I tried to focus on myself and build my self-confidence as well as my self-esteem and to be able to handle criticism. 

The truth is, there is a demand for greater sensitivity to human mistakes.

 

After a year in Denmark, I returned to St. Lucia, but still felt judged based on the stares I was subjected to. Nonetheless, I came back with a mission to develop a career and myself. I then attended the Sir Arthur Community College where I developed a special bond with two female friends. I was still haunted by my past. There were still rumours about me at the new institution. I then had to share my story with my friends who fully supported me. I was sometimes bullied and they stood up for me. That made me a bit emotional but as they say life goes on. 

Fast track to November 2017, I applied for a position at the St. Lucia Royal Police Force. I did the entrance exam in January 2018 and was successful. The next stage was the background check. I did not even remember this incident in 2012 and I never expect this to affect my success. The officer who did my background check brought up the videos. I told him exactly what Alexander told me. A month after being questioned this same officer questioned me again and he brought the videos up once again.

In June, I got a call saying that my application was not successful and that I had failed my background check. I cried so much, that those tears were enough to fill a 200-litre drum with water. I was in total disbelief, the one job I was looking forward to having just vanished. I would not have believed that a mistake in my past would have affect my career to that extent. It is not like I had a criminal record which would definitely eliminate me. I was a victim of trust and yet still, this was held against me. An unemployed youth trying to gain employment and to do better and be better. The hope of having a gainful employment vanished. I was once again back to square one and had to muster the strength and the courage to hold my head high even after being wrecked by a raging bull.

I am strong-willed, motivated and grateful for the people in my life that continue to encourage me and remind me that everything is going to be alright. That this is just another minor setback and my comeback will be even greater. According to the Rocky, “IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW HARD YOU COULD HIT, IT’S HOW HARD YOU COULD GET HIT AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD!”

This is my motivation, this is my story, this is me, this is who I’ve become and I’m not going to let this prevent me from achieving all my dreams and my aspirations. For those who are going through obstacles today, tomorrow or whenever, you should know that every hiccup, is just a minor setback. So when you are hit, just re-evaluate yourself, remove all the negative upsets from your life, and prepare yourself for what is to come.

Never should you think that there are not people who will be there for you or to care for you in difficult times. When you do acknowledge these people, do not let them go because they are your inspiration, they see greatness within you and all it takes is just one little push from them to get you to the top. So in the meantime, prepare and shape yourself in the darkness, for when you do come to the light; YOU ARE INDEED GOING TO BE A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.

Today I am still unemployed, but very active in sports. I even represent St. Lucia in Rugby tournaments in the region.

I am a strong advocate for building increased confidence and self-awareness in youths and adults who have been exposed to unnecessary negative press. 

Tips for overcoming a humiliating incident:

  • Stay composed and keep your cool – no display of anger
  • Take a thoughtful approach – seek expert help quickly
  • Avoid social media
  • Change your environment – more positive
  • Express your feelings (talk or write)
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Forgive yourself and the people involved

Have a similar story and would like to share. Feel free to contact us using the contact form on the Contact us page. 

Feel free to leave a reply if you found the story inspiring. 

A Totally Amazing and Generous Man – Happy Birthday Bally

Keith Richards (14th June, 1946) born in Barbados to Eldon, father and Adina Richards, mother – now both gone to the great beyond. His siblings still alive are Hartley Richards, Gregory Richards Ciceley Walcott and John Dottin. An older brother, Erington Jackman passed away several years ago.

He received primary education at the St. John Baptist Boys’ School, Holders Hill, St. James and secondary school at the University of Waterford, also know as the Combermere School. On leaving school, he worked first as a customs clerk in government and then in private employment. He subsequently started and is still actively engaged in his own successful customs brokerage business here in Barbados.

Known generally to close friends from various walks of life as Keith or Bally or Richie among others, he has worked assiduously from an early age to improve his knowledge and to assist those who were close to him. He has been generous to friends in need and demonstrates care for the welfare of the less fortunate whom he encounters.

In his early adult years, he was thought to be a quick left arm bowler. He is the father of two Mark and Tracey, both residing in Canada. As a past time Keith travels globally with a group of friends who meet up on weekends to play tennis, among other things, at the St. Michael School.

In December 2004, I was fortunate to met Keith Richards along with his friends while he was visiting Cuba where I was studying at the time. He and his friends offered that I travel in their taxi en route back to the university as we were all returning from a independence party which were attending.

We talked a bit about my studies in Cuba as well as my family back home in St. Lucia. During the conversation he asked if I was going to St. Lucia that Christmas to visit my mom. I indicated that I had no plans since I really could not have afforded it at the time.

During that conversation, Keith asked for my number and promised that I would be visiting home that Christmas. I really did not make much of it; after all, I had just met him and did not know much about him. But what I had noted that it was indeed nice to meet a group of decent men and hoped that I will in fact get to visit home that Christmas. 

A few days later, I got a call from the school’s fixed line (mobile phones was a luxury in Cuba at that time) and it was Keith on the other end. He had asked me my passport details and promised to call back. I could not believe that he actually called. At that point i hoped for a favorable outcome. Soon after I got another call from Keith indicating that I had a first class ticket from Cuba to St. Lucia to visit my mom. I was shocked and happy; but at the same time asking how could I be so lucky? These things never happen to people like me? Well … so I thought! 

I went home, had a good Christmas and went to Barbados on my way back to visit Keith. At this point, I had to have this discussion about expectations, which was always in the back of my mind. I was somehow also used to the “culture” of men making promises with the expectation of something in return. Mind you, he never once suggested anything of that nature … it was all in my head …, I just did not know how to embrace such a gift. I’d never experienced such altruism before.

The discussion with Keith turned out to be better than expected. It was at this point he made me another offer. To build the home I had dreamed of for my mom, or to pay for my education elsewhere. I opted for the education because the opportunities would be endless.

I went back to Cuba, but we stayed in touch, looking for potential schools. Mind you, he had to take the lead in this since internet connection was also limited in Cuba. At the end of one year in Cuba, I went home and Keith visited my mom in St. Lucia.

One notable gesture was that Keith always introduced me as his daughter. That was also hard for me to embrace. Nevertheless, it did feel good. I felt loved, accepted, appreciated, valued and most importantly, I finally felt like there was someone who believed in me to give me such a chance in life. My mom never said it, but I knew she has been forever grateful for him.

After this year in Cuba, I went on to the University of the West Indies where I studied Civil and Environmental Engineering where I graduated with first class honors. During that time, I wondered how could I pay back for such an opportunity and thought the best gift to him was to do my best and make him proud. I then went on to the Netherlands where I did my masters in Hydraulic Engineering and then further to Exeter University in collaboration with DHI where I did my PhD.

I always spoke of Keith as my dad, especially because he took me in his arms as his daughter. He gave me the feeling of security that I never experienced before especially growing up with a single mom (for the most part – I also spent time with the biological father parents) who was struggling to make ends meet.

I have always hesitated to tell my story so publicly, out of fear of being judged. I thought people would not have accepted that I would be so lucky; I would have had to reciprocate with sexual favors. It is unfortunate that I had this feeling, but my feelings were somehow justifiable. This was the talk in town …, people were making so many assumptions because how could a poor girl get so far ….

Outlook: There are still some good people around. Have a positive outlook on things. Be proud of each others achievements and successes. Let’s not be so quick to judge others. We do not know their story. Be more supportive! 

Today Keith Richards is still part of my life and the lives of many others like me. Join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday!!!! Love you loads … we will forever be grateful for you.

I would like to express my gratitude to Deborah Carrington and Dr. Hartley B. Richards who assisted in providing details for this story.