Oftentimes, when interviewing a woman for this blog, it becomes apparent that to share all the details of her life – as she herself does in the telling – would be to reveal too much. Sometimes, you realize you must hold back some of those details for her own protection. Twenty-four year old, Jiden, a pharmacy technology candidate at Caroline Center, is one of those women.
Jiden’s family immigrated to the United States from Honduras many years ago. Her father and his wife came first, settling down in the Bronx in New York. They were followed by Jiden’s mother who made her home in another area of the Bronx. Shortly thereafter, 7 year-old Jiden arrived in the company of a family friend who dropped Jiden off at her father’s.
Jiden’s father provided stability, safety, and security. Though Jiden’s mother did her best, things at her place were a bit more wobbly. Jiden’s father and stepmother were hard working and fully employed. Jiden’s mother did not work. Jiden’s father and stepmother provided a strong foundation and values, parental supervision and discipline. Her mother gave Jiden fewer boundaries and much more freedom. And so, for reasons that only the very young can understand – and sometimes not even they know why they do the things they do – at 15 years of age, Jiden chose to leave her father’s home and live with her mother. It broke her father’s heart. Confronting her about it, he asked, “Is this what you really want?” Jiden said it was. And so Jiden’s father then made the hardest decision he ever had to make. He let her go. Knowing in his heart that if she ever wanted to come home he would welcome her like the prodigal daughter, but telling her not to expect that she could come and go anytime she pleased. As he dropped her off at her mother’s, he made one last plea. Through tears he asked, “Haven’t I been a good father?” Jiden assured him he had. Then, for reasons she can’t really explain, she left her father crying in the car, and entered her mother’s house.
In Jiden’s words, “That’s when things got ‘real’.”
She dropped out of school and partied hard. Though her mother was not working at the time, Jiden was expected to contribute to the household and help support her many other half-siblings also living there. Jiden actually enjoyed work but had a hard time keeping a job because her papers were never quite in order. What money she did make and was allowed to keep, she spent on more parties and clubs. It was a carefree but reckless life and to no one’s surprise but her own, Jiden wasn’t happy. She had left a sure thing in search of a lost love. And she thought she’d traded containment for freedom, only to realize she’d imprisoned herself, and with that, her hopes and dreams. One night, she got into “an altercation” with another girl outside a club. Six stitches and a miscarriage later, Jiden had reached a new low. She was full of self-loathing and, in her own words, overwhelmed with “hate, darkness, and anger.”
A visit to her father’s church and just the right words at the right time by the preacher led to a conversion moment for Jiden. As she sat there in the pew, she broke down and cried, sensing she was being spoken to directly.
“I had forgotten how God works,” was how Jiden explained it.
It took a little while, but eventually, Jiden got her life back on track. She passed her GED and got her high school diploma. She spent nearly a year back in Honduras, straightening out her paperwork and then, at the invitation of a cousin, moved to Baltimore to start a new life.
She now works as a pharmacy technician at a reputable drug store chain, even as she attends the pharmacy tech program at Caroline Center. She began work at the drug store as a sales assistant and made an impression as a quick study and hard worker. She also speaks fluent Spanish, which is a distinct advantage because many of the customers who come in are Hispanic. When Jiden expressed an interest in working in the pharmacy, her sales manager really didn’t want her to transfer because he valued her work ethic so much. But when he realized how much she wanted it, he didn’t stand in her way. He knew it would be a good move for her with better pay and better opportunity for advancement. And so, he too, let her go.
Still, for the longest time, Jiden felt “unworthy”. Throughout her life, she’d encountered too many people who felt obliged to tell her -rightly or wrongly – that her “story had no hope.” As positive an influence as her father was, somehow it wasn’t enough. Jiden had to find things out the hard way.
“For me, Caroline Center is the missing piece of the puzzle,” Jiden explained. “I needed this group of strangers to push me to a place where I believed in myself again. They teach me it’s OK to feel bad or down, or whatever, but not to give in to it. They validate me. I know now that good people surround themselves with good people. My father taught me that. And Caroline Center teaches me that every day.”
Jiden cannot wait to complete the Caroline Center Pharmacy Technology course and is already promised full time work as a pharm tech by her current employer.
“My life has a movie ending,” Jiden exclaimed, wiping the tears from her eyes and breaking into a beautiful smile. ” I have a new career. I talk to my father and stepmother every day. And my mom and I have a good relationship. I’ve come a long way. It makes me realize, if I can overcome all this, what else can I accomplish?”
At Caroline Center, we can’t wait to find out.
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