I am not sure where to begin… My mom was a single mother, it was just me and my sister. Moved around a lot growing up. I felt like every time I had to rebuild myself. Everything I knew, everything I had done, it didn’t matter. I was a cheerleader, I ran track. When you are young, you find your identity in these things…. I felt lost. Between this, as well as things I would rather not mention, I believe it led me to seek solace in substances..
To be honest, I feel like my life began when I started LEAP. My entire life changed. Mr. Quaints' classes, Personal Growth & Development, were my favorite because I needed them the most. They aided me in accepting myself, the good with the bad. Depression and anxieties were okay, it was how I chose to deal with them that truly mattered. Once I started to open up and grow, it undeniably changed everything for me, including my relationship with my sister and my family. I always felt like I did not belong in my family. I always felt separated.. It's not like that anymore, I feel like I belong, Like I have my family. I am working on my relationship with my children, it's not what I want but it's okay. I know that doors are opening and I am going to keep trying.
The life I had before can not be considered as living, but today I am and I feel amazing.
What really changed is when I started to love myself and believe in myself, it revolutionized my life. I came home and was in a better place mentally, physically, spiritually. The relationship I had with myself was mending. I had a job already, a blessing. Since I have been home, I haven’t stopped. Moving forward, everyday moving forward. I know that staying busy can also be a bad thing; I am trying to find a healthy balance, but for now, it is working for me. It has not been easy, but I have not allowed myself to go down that road of depression because I know where it will take me.
I recently had the pleasure and privilege of sharing my experience on Univision to get it out to the Spanish community. I no longer feel ashamed about my past. I do it hoping that someone will hear my story, my struggles, and relate and know that if I can do it, they can do it too.I do this because it is time to break the stigma associated with prison. The truth is we all deserve a second chance, a chance to redeem ourselves. With every woman that recovers, every woman that gets her life back, those chains begin to loosen. Every time someone speaks up and speaks out, we begin to realize just how many of us are affected, and the stigma starts to fade into the background. And if we allow it, hope will begin to emerge.
Stay true to yourself. Be who you are. Because if you are happy with yourself, the world can't help but love you back. I am 55 going on 56 and this is the best I have felt in my entire life.
Today I can finally say that I matter.
I am worthy and I love myself, the good and the bad.
I accept myself completely and I am 110% sure that without LEAP, and all of its dedicated members, I would not be saying these things, or more importantly, believing these things.
I am more than the black sheep, more than my mistakes.
I am me, Maritza, and I matter!