Who am I? At the age of 34 years old, I’m still trying to find that out. When I was born, I was someone’s daughter. I had brothers and a sister. So, I was someone’s big sister and little sister.
When I was 13 years old, I had my first child. I was no longer someone’s daughter, big sister, and little sister. Now, I was someone’s mother. Not just a mother, but a provider, caretaker, teacher, and somewhat a big sister to my own child.
I still attended school. But, I wasn’t an 8th grade student. I was the 13-year-old classmate with a newborn baby. I did not want to be that. I just wanted to be a regular kid, like everyone else. So, I acted out like everyone else. I was the bad, popular, cool, good grades girl everyone wanted to be around.
After school, I would pick up the baby from daycare. I was still a young black mother.
Who am I? At the age of 16 years old, I had my second child. No sweet 16 for me. It was two sweet babies and smelly diapers. I’m not going to lie. Times was hard and rough. It was way too late to be a regular kid. I completely skipped past being a teenager.
Who am I? I can’t even think about all that. All I know is I need a job. So, I started working at KFC part-time at 16. I really needed the money. So, I worked full-time. I would pay two different babysitters, just to work. Sometimes, I would bring my children to work. I worked beyond full-time – to the point where I had enough money to pay for my first apartment, years later.
But, that job wouldn’t last that long. That was the beginning of a lot of hard times.
September 11, 2001. Who am I? That is a day nobody will ever forget – not even me. Before, I was just a single black mom of two boys. Now, I am a single black mom of two boys on welfare. It was good and bad being on welfare. But, it really helped me get a lot of opportunities, knowledge, and be completely independent.
So, I really had to start focusing on my goals.
Social Services helped me get a lot of great jobs. I worked at a daycare for three years as a teacher’s aide. I also worked for Baltimore City Department of Social Services for a year and a half. I worked in many departments – Homeless Department, Energy Assistance Department, and Food Stamp Department. But, you know how things always get in the way.
Who am I? At this time, I have four kids. My two boys are 20 and 18 years old and my two girls are 11 and 7 years old. Through all, the struggles, heartbreaks, and not having anyone there for me, I was able to get my driver’s license. I tried so many times to go back to school and get my high school diploma. This was something I wanted more than anything. So, I didn’t wait on anybody. I studied and taught myself. In 2013, I received my high school diploma.
Who am I? In 2014, I was attending Baltimore City Community College. I loved being a college student. But, life happens. Everything happens for a reason. My sister became pregnant and learned that she had breast cancer at the same time. When she had the baby, I became his mother also. While she was getting treatment, I was taking care of him. Now, he’s back home.
It’s time for me – to find me.
Looking at my life, now. I am so amazed and blessed. I am still standing. Who am I? I am Jemella Marktina Nation. I am a strong, wonderful, smart, goal-driven, caring, and loving woman and mother. My past is who I was. Today – at this moment – is who I am.
This month’s guest writer in The Breakroom is CNA/GNA candidate Ms. Jemella Marktina Nation. Jemella initially wrote her personal essay “Who Am I?” for a speech class assignment at Caroline Center. Jemella’s classmates were so taken by her remarks that they encouraged her to share her story with all of her fellow trainees during Halfway Hurrah – a time we set aside midway through the 15-week program – for each woman to reflect on her growth and progress and to reaffirm her resolve to achieving her personal and professional goals.
We think “Who Am I?” deserves a larger reading audience. Jemella just says, “I like to write. I’m still learning.” We say, “Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep growing. And, keep being all that you are from this moment forward.”