Maggie is a 29-year-old First Nations woman who works for an Aboriginal social agency in Middletown.  She had a stable early childhood, but when her family moved to a reserve when she was 6, it slowly deteriorated; her father left and her mother went to work at the Casino.  Maggie partied and her sister developed depression.  Maggie ‘cleaned up’ at age 16 after being raped.  She was kicked out of home (she gives a detailed description of the process of negotiating a place to stay while she finished high school) but hasn’t been in one place for a year since then.   Maggie and the father of her 3 children, ages 9, 6 and 5, live in market housing in Middletown, her 24th residence since leaving home. (She conjectures on the pros and cons of various housing options.)  During this time she completed an honours degree in Indigenous Studies and is taking a Bachelor of Social Work by distance education.  Her husband struggles with drug addiction and has been abusive, but is currently clean and sober and planning to complete his grade 12 and train as a paramedic.  They find guidance and strength in traditional spiritual teachings.  This is a story of amazing resilience, nurtured by sustained First Nations support.

FM:  Let’s start by you telling me a bit about your family – where you were raised, who was in the family, what they did to pay the rent, etc., etc..

Okay, so we moved to the First Nations reserve when I was 6.  My sister and I are 14 months apart.  And then there was just my mom and my dad.  My dad has been a mechanical designer all his life, so that’s how he provided for the family.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom and volunteered at our school. 

We were part of a fundamentalist church.  When I was 8 we were no longer a part of the church and my mom started to explore her aboriginal ancestry and culture.  And my dad started to become more distant.  And then over the next 6 years, my mother became a very traditional aboriginal woman and my dad left.  I barely saw him but my sister and I continued to live with our mother.  She had to start working – she was on social assistance after my dad left. 

And shortly after, within a few years, my mom got a job at a Casino as a Bingo runner.  She had to work nights so during our adolescence we had no parents around, really.  My sister became very introverted and depressed.  She was a cutter and attempted suicide.  And I became an extrovert and became a heavy partyer, promiscuity, heavy drinking, experimenting with drugs, and was barely home.  I would hitchhike wherever I wanted to go.  I would couch surf at friends’ houses.  There were times when I slept at a little cabin on a golf course one night.  I was just a wanderer. 

Editor's Note: Maggie's many moves are numbered.

[#1] But when I was 15 my mom sent me to live with my dad for a semester – he lived in Oshawa.  My behaviour didn’t change but he enabled it.  He would buy me booze and smokes and I had no responsibility.  My sister decided to stay with him as well, I guess to not be alone.  It was pretty isolating on the reserve.  There would be community activities but our community is so small, there would be boys playing floor hockey and if my sister and I tried to play, they would just whack us with sticks until we left.  There was just nothing to do.  We didn’t have parental guidance. 

[#2] And I came back to live with my mom when I was 16 and I cleaned up.  I spent most of my time exercising, I started to volunteer at the hospital as a candy-stripper, I got a job.  I just tried to turn my life around for the better after being raped.  But it didn’t matter, the effort I put into my life.  I felt that my mother was still abusive and that living on the reserve was so isolating.  Transportation was such an issue, even for work. 

[#3] At the end of that year, my mom kicked me out anyway because the boyfriend I was seeing broke up with me and I was crying and she just kicked me out for being upset.  It was in the middle of winter and I was walking up the island road and it’s about a 15-minute drive into town, so I was kind of scared about what would happen to me.  I wasn’t given time to pack or anything, I was just told to get out.  It was beginning to storm, getting blizzardy, and this girl I had known since I started school at 6 years old – before we moved to the reserve – her brother was driving and somehow noticed me and picked me up and asked me What are you out here?  Get in.  I was crying, saying my mom kicked me out.  He said okay, he had somewhere to go really quick but would take me to their house afterward.   So afterward I went to their house, spent a couple of weeks there.  They tried to hide it from their parents so I would come in late at nights and just sleep there.  And their mother found out so I had to leave. 

[#4] And I was asking around at school, with all my friends, seeing where I could stay, and they all just said no, wouldn’t look into it, but this one girl, her mother let me stay for a few days until we could find a more stable place.  But I really wanted to finish high school so I wasn’t having any luck finding any place with my friends and I was crying sitting at my locker between classes one day and this girl that I’d never spoke to before, she came up to me and asked what was wrong and I told her.  And my dad wouldn’t take me in either – I was crying because I’d called my dad to see if I could move in with him, and he said no, I’m no longer his responsibility.  So she said that she would ask her mom if I could stay with them until I was done school.  By the end of the day her mother had agreed and I had a place to stay. So I was able to keep my job and pay them $50/wk to stay there.  I ended up graduating high school. 

[#5] My uncle from England invited my sister and I for a trip to stay with him for 2 weeks.  So we went and when I came back, my mother had quit my job for me without my consent so I was no longer able to stay with them.  I ended up having nowhere else to stay again, no job, so my dad decided to take me in.  He felt bad for rejecting me. 

And I haven’t lived anywhere longer than for a year since then. 

FM:  Let’s stop for just a minute and unpack a bit of this – you’ve been going full steam ahead.  I’m going to go back and number each of the places that you lived, and those numbers will form a sort of backbone for the story, and then I’ll ask a few questions about each of them, or whatever to explore those five sectors that I talked about.  So to go back… okay.  Maybe continue the story to bring it up to the present.  You were 18 then, and now you’re 29 and you have 3 kids, ages 9, 6, and 5.  So obviously a bit more history to get in place.  So, start with after you left the school friend’s home.

[#6] So I moved in with my dad and got a job in Oshawa and just worked and stayed with him.  I kept to myself.  One night I decided to go to a concert, a local band playing.  I met the guitarist, hanging around, getting to know him and next thing you know we became a couple.  So after about 8 months of dating I went off to college, so I lived in Peterborough for a semester. [#7]  I didn’t like the program so I withdrew and moved back to Oshawa to live with my boyfriend. [#8] 

So I found another job in Oshawa and we stayed in the basement of his parents’ house and [in] a few months I became pregnant.  All through my pregnancy he became abusive and negligent and not supportive, so I moved back with my dad because the whole family was treating me terribly, they were very abusive.  And I was working as a nanny for $5/hr and I wasn’t getting paid, so after 2 weeks of not getting paid, I didn’t have rent to pay his parents anyway. 

[#9] So I stayed with my dad till I had the baby and after I had the baby, the baby’s father and I reconciled.  He found work. My dad moved out and let us stay in his place.   We needed help with the rent so some of my boyfriend’s friends moved in.  They were partyers and would party in the house and I felt that it was inappropriate with the baby so my dad decided to sell the house and my boyfriend moved back to his parents and I moved in with my sister, back on the reserve.  [#10] 

I stayed with her for a summer because she had her own place.  Moved back in with my boyfriend’s parents, with the baby. [#11]  And got a job in the Casino, working nights, staff at cafeteria.  And his parents would watch the baby while I worked at nights.  That was hard on me so I decided to go out on a limb and go to university.  When I was in my first semester of university, my boyfriend got jealous, thinking I was cheating when I was going to class and kicked me out with the baby. 

[#12] I stayed in a friend’s house in another First Nations, south of Middletown, while I finished my first year at university.  And then [#13] I got myself and my son an apartment and we moved into downtown Middletown. 

That summer I got a job with my First Nation and during that summer I met someone special.  He’s the father of my other two children.  So we met that summer and became friends.  Then we started dating.  Ten months later he was living with us.  At the end of my second year of university, we conceived my second child.   My third year of university I was pregnant and actually had my son during reading break.  Then I brought him to class [to show him off]. 

In between here we had 3 moves:  after I conceived him, [#14] we moved in with his mother in Middletown which was transitional and [#15] we found an apartment in yet another First Nation where we stayed for one semester of my third year of school.   Once the baby was born, [#16] we moved into a house around the corner.   At first there was no running water but the landlady assured us that it would be taken care of by the time the baby was born, and [#17] we stayed with my mother in my First Nation because it wasn’t ready when he was born.  The plan was to stay there a couple weeks but she kicked up out after 3 days.  So we had to stay in the house with no running water, but the landlady let us use her house for showers and to bring back water to bathe the kids. 

After the winter of no running water, realizing she was not actually going to be doing anything about it, we contacted the Middletown Shelter [#18] where they let us stay together as a family until we got subsidized housing.  And within two weeks of staying with them, we had a place through Native Housing. 

[#19] So we stayed there for a year.  I became pregnant with my third child, my daughter.  And because it was a 2-bedroom, we moved into a 3-bedroom just before she was born. [#20] Stayed there for a year and their father got a job at my First Nations and a 5-bedroom 2-bathroom big house became available to us. So we moved there. [#21]  And he became abusive, extremely abusive, so I had to move the kids and I to a shelter in a fourth First Nation, just south of Middletown.  That’s where I finished my university degree. 

Actually, that’s the second time I was in a shelter.  Between the 2 bedroom and the 3 bedroom, my kids and I were in a shelter because their father was abusive and experimenting with stupid drugs, like Oxycontin and hard drugs. 

[#22] Then I got a place again with Native Housing in Middletown where their father and I reconciled again.  We stayed there for a year and I got a job in my First Nation, and he was still working for the First Nation.  Another house became available out there, so we moved again. [#23]  We’ve stayed there for the past year and a half.  I resigned from my job due to conflict of interest with the reserve politics and lateral violence that was occurring in the work place against me.  And got a job in Middletown in an Aboriginal workplace. Moved back to Peterborough 3 months ago. [#24]  That’s my happy life.

FM:  Well, it certainly gives an overview of just about every kind of housing option other than the middle class house with the picket fence!!!

I am proud that we are no longer in subsidized housing or First Nation housing.  That somehow makes me feel better.  And we are determined to stay here at least 5 years, until the kids are done elementary school.  At least. 

FM:  so your partner is with you now?

Yup.  He’s now the legally adopted father of my oldest. 

FM:  And what’s his status re drugs, alcohol, whatever elements were involved in his repeated bouts of abuse?

He’s sober and treats us really well.

FM: How’d he make that transition?

Because last year I refused to let him live with us unless he was clean and sober and treating us properly, and he doesn’t have any supports other than us. 

FM: So desperation?

Yup. 

FM: Did he use any agency or organizational supports?

No.  Which worries me because there could be relapse. 

FM: Would he? 

I constantly suggest it.  He claims he’s open to it, but actions speak louder than words and I haven’t seen any action about it.  What really helps me stay grounded – I haven’t gone through treatment or any formal [help] -- what helps me stay sober and my head on my shoulders in spite of all the other chaos is ceremonies, and I think he’s finding the same.  He hasn’t acknowledged it.  We live a sober lifestyle, and go to ceremonies and cultural teachings and that helps us stay sober and grounded and life just makes sense.  There’s nothing to escape.  If anything you want to be more in tune, so you want to stay sober.  And in the teachings, a big component is the relationships, so we’re taught how to be with each other, how to be as parents.  And how to relate to the rest of the world, the natural world and humans, other people.  And we’re now making a commitment from here out that now we know what’s good for us, that’s how we’re going to live our life, so we don’t have to run, don’t have to escape from anything. 

FM: Is his family background as fractured as yours?

Yes, if not more.  He – I’m not 100% sure if there is intergenerational residential school in my family but there is for sure in his. 

FM: You never said what your degree is in.

Indigenous Studies.  Got an honours degree in it, somehow!

FM: I really have no idea, cannot imagine how you persevered with school through all these jigs and reels.  I thought maybe school was the only place of order and discipline in your life.

Yeah, and it was my way out of that. 

FM: Were you always a good student?

No.  I didn’t even have the self-esteem.  I tried to be.  I tried to get help with homework from my parents.  It wasn’t encouraged.  It was a non-issue.  I just didn’t even try.  I think when people have to worry about how they’re going to get through the day, planning for the future can become irrelevant.  So that’s how I felt anyway, in hindsight.  Until I had kids.  And then it became imperative to be able to offer them something better. 

FM: You said your mom became a significant traditional aboriginal woman, but it sounds to me that she behaved quite differently than what you’ve been saying the cultural teachings are.

Yeah.  When she started working at the Casino, she didn’t have time for the culture, she just became consumed with working, which she had to do what she to do, but there’s a whole different culture within that environment: fast paced, drinking.  She became friends with her co-workers who were younger than her and still partying and she got into that again.  She became an alcoholic, I guess. 

Like that’s how I learned to drive – [drive] my mom home drunk.  So. 

FM: Was your dad any more stable?

Yeah, but he just wasn’t around. Even when I lived with him, he wasn’t present at an emotional level, any kind.  He was really depressed, it turns out.  And he had a really terrible childhood and when he wasn’t around, it was a very strange dynamic between my mom and him.  Because if she wanted, she’d just call him and say Maggie did something and he’d come home and use corporal punishment.  And he would become physically abusive and then find out that [the thing he was punishing me for] hadn’t even happened, that my mom had orchestrated these incidents.  He felt a lot of guilt about that – I don’t know if that contributed to his depression.  But his childhood was pretty brutal.  But we’ve since reconciled and have a pretty good relationship.  And he’s doing better. 

FM: What was the occasion for the reconciliation, if it was a particular thing?

I don’t think it was a particular thing.  Maybe his mid-life crisis.  Actualization and reflecting.  Actually, too, it was seeing me struggle in my adult life. 

FM: And setting a really stellar standard of persevering against all odds. 

Thank you.

FM: But maybe that was a challenge of a sort to him—if she can do it with 3 kids, why can’t I get my life together?

Yeah.  Whereas my mom always put me down.  She’s very abusive.

FM: Emotionally?

Yeah, emotionally and psychologically.  At times physically.  She attacked me when I was 6 months pregnant with my daughter.  During the 3 days we stayed with her she became physically violent with me, attacked me. Because I had confronted her for going out drinking and bringing home a stranger when I was staying there and had a newborn. 

FM: So her life is still really a mess?

It is; she’s more sober now and her promiscuity as far as I know is at a standstill.  She’s doing better, a little bit I guess.  

FM:  You’ve sampled, lemme see, 4 reserves, subsidized native housing, subsidized city housing, and several goes at market housing of various sorts – apartments, houses, etc.  What is the influence of the housing per se on the person or the family getting its act together, d’ya think?

(long pause)  All is can say is the house we’re in now is something that we have to work to keep.  There’s more to lose so we kind of have to rise to meet those standards.  Whereas, as I’ve experienced, even subsidized housing is quick to obtain or First Nation housing can be easily available and it’s relatively inexpensive.  So it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s cheap.  (pause)  But if it had not been quick, easy and cheap, where would we have been?  On the streets.  They’re good transitional housing.

FM: Are you buying?

Renting.  We are going to rent there as long as we can to save as much as we can to consider buying some day.  We’re so just wanting to stay there for awhile, though. 

FM: Makes sense to me!  To go back to what you were saying, there is an in-built dilemma in subsidized housing that you need it but it doesn’t bring out the best in you.  Any idea about how that negative vibe could be addressed?

(long pause)  If there could somehow be programs to focus specifically on people realizing their potential to get out of housing, so they realize they’re better than that.  There are options, there are ways out, that this isn’t the preferred way of living.  But some people just want the easy way out and I can’t project what that would look like if there was only subsidized transitional housing.

FM: I think I understand you to mean that even if that program perspective was in place, not everyone would want or use it.

Yeah.  I don’t know what there was inside of me.  I just couldn’t accept those conditions as permanent for myself and my children.  And I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me or insinuate to me otherwise.  Even still, I’m not the prototype of success, but considering what I’ve come on, maybe for myself, I am.

FM: Well, hardly anybody is at the peak of their life at 30…  And you’ve built a good house on a very crumbly foundation, very – my image in my mind is a rubble heap of a foundation.  So I’m impressed. 

Thank you.  My partner is going to be getting his grade 12.  He hopes to take the paramedic program at a college in Middletown.  I’m in the process of getting my Bachelor of Social Work via distance ed.  We hope to make better careers to continually elevate ourselves for our children. 

FM: Speaking of children, how have they been impacted by this rocky history, d’ya think?

The way I look at it is I think that once we stay somewhere for longer than a year -- once their sense of normalcy is interrupted I seek counseling for the kids, which has so far happened for my oldest.  But that was more specific to his step-dad being in and out, not so much the moves.  And having been exposed to any kind of hostility in the home environment.  We saw such improvements from him seeing the counselor, he didn’t think he wanted to go back any more so we thought he had stabilized.  Whenever we move, we’re there for a couple of months, the kids start asking When are we moving?  How long are we staying here? But other than that, I haven’t seen them impacted.  My parents are concerned for them, my mom tells me how abnormal it is to move so much and how I should get counseling for it.  So I did.  I started seeing a psychologist.  It’s been identified as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.  I don’t disagree, but it was always circumstantial in my opinion.  It’s probably a bit of both; I dunno. I think it’s impacted the kids most in terms of their social relationships with peers.  And I feel terrible for that.

FM: But at 2,5,7, it can be repaired?

I agree. We’ve kept in touch with whoever my oldest has been best friends with, they’re still in touch, they still visit.

FM: And all the moves have been within a 50 km radius, so distance is not that much of a barrier.

I tell them all the time, we’re not moving to the moon. 

FM: Okay…  there’s so much here I’m a bit overwhelmed about where to go from here…  I know what I want to ask.  What kind of a student were you at university; I mean, how did your profs and peers see you?  Did they have any idea of how chaotic your life was outside of class? 

I didn’t have time for peers. I was friendly with people in class; that was the extent of that.  I didn’t wear it.  I really tried – that’s how I’ve always been, just go to school, do the work, go back home, do the work.  There were times when I needed extensions, when I would have had to withdraw, so on a need-to-know basis, professors were made aware of my situation and they were more than accommodating.  Through extensions, letting me bring my children to class.  Yeah. 

FM: Well, that’s quite a different university experience than I’ve been hearing about in these interviews.  It seems you really not just enjoyed, but actually were nurtured by the learning environment.

Umhm.  It was the first time in my whole life that I’ve ever known hope.  And so it was probably the best thing other than my kids that ever happened to me.

FM: How did it come about?  It seems such a non sequitur.

I just realized I have this child and I took a look at my life and realized that all I have to offer him right now is dysfunction and instability and that has eventually got to change.  And I didn’t want to settle for less than the best of myself; I had to give him the best that I could.  So I went to the education manager of the community for my First Nation and I said I need to do something with my life and I was thinking maybe about Early Childhood Education and he suggested what about Native Studies at the Middletown university.  I realized when I was a kid, I wanted to do that, I wanted to take Native Studies at university, so I said okay, I’ll try.

FM: And the First Nations supported you financially?

Absolutely, yeah. 

FM: How important was that? 

I couldn’t have done it otherwise.

FM: Okay… wanted to ask whether anybody knew or cared about the neglect and abuse that was happening in your home when you were a child, e.g. when your sister cut and attempted suicide…

Not outside of our immediate family and that’s when she started to live with my dad, after her suicide attempts.  Because he was able to be with her in the evenings, and she would be up all nights and sleep during the day.  So he would come home and find her on the computer.  So he located the computer in the central area so she wasn’t alone in her room.  And he didn’t make her go to school.

FM: How old was she?

15 to 18.

FM: How’s she doing now?

She’s doing really good.  She’s a stay-at-home mom.  She’s loving it.

FM: Did she get any counseling?

Yes, she was constantly in counseling.  She had tried meds but didn’t like how they made her feel. 

FM: Okay – gonna go through my little check list – we’ve done housing in abundance, education, employment – might want to follow up a bit on that – health at some length – and justice.  So, any involvement with the legal system during this story? 

When I was assaulted by my kid’s father, I called the police and he was arrested and charged.  Actually it was the police that pressed charges based on the physical injury.  It was around this time, too, that I withdrew from school for the year and began again the next year.

FM: That was the first year in university?

This was my fourth year.  And I called the cops on my mother when she attacked me when we stayed with her for 3 days.  They refused to press charges because she has money, she has a house, she’s stable, I’m a mess, I’m young, I have no money, so they said if I press charges on her, they press charges on me.  And I would lose my kids, that’s what they said.  And again I called the cops on my mother when she attacked me when I was 6 months pregnant and the senior officer met with her to get her statement, and his partner of lower seniority met with me to get mine and the officer that met with my mother said the same thing, if you press charges on her I will press charges on you and your kids will be removed – before he’d heard my statement.

FM: Is that ageism or class or [reserve] politics; what’s that?

This wasn’t on the reserve so definitely ageism and classism.  There might be res politics but in my situation it wasn’t a factor for the first incident with my mother.  The second incident was here in Middletown. 

FM: It’s interesting that police are training in domestic assault re partners, but not so comfortable or oriented as to what the dynamics are when it’s intergenerational.  Like for example, did you ever consider going to the cops when your parents were abusive to you?

No, we were sheltered, and part of being in [a fundamentalist] church is being very sheltered.  Like we weren’t exposed to the main stream for as long as she could [avoid it], until we were 10, 11, 12.  One thing that was constantly repeated at home was not to tell anybody.  When I first started getting counseling, my first year at university, about my life, because it didn’t want it to affect my studies, I had to get over the feeling that I was lying or betraying your family. 

FM: What impact do you think that the church had – you mentioned at the start that leaving the church was when your dad began to slip away?

I think my dad leaving had more to do with my mom exploring her traditions.  Because that was something she would do alone. 

FM: So the church era was a time of family solidarity, but it began to slip away.

That’s right.  My mom told me the reason why they decided to get involved with the church was they had no idea how to be parents because their life experiences were so much worse than mine. 

FM: A little ironic that many fundamentalist churches believe in spare the rod and spoil the child, so structure and discipline, for sure, but maybe not the sort that is recommended.

The abuse didn’t happen, either, until later.  My early childhood was a lot different than later, my pre-teen and adolescent years.

FM: More settled, less abusive?

Absolutely.

FM: So you have to think the church was a protective factor?

It was.  My parents even ran the youth group.

FM: So what led your mom to wreck it?

I don’t know. I think the importance of being who she is.  Because racism played a part.  She’s a visible minority, like she could be seen as a brown woman.  And the church isn’t all that accepting so I think they started to feel rejected.  I was young, but I do know that there was some racism and classism that played a role in their leaving the church because people were judgmental – the congregation consisted of rich white people and we lived in a small res house that I used to get teased for living in. 

FM: okay, I have some finish-up questions that may open--- oh no, I said I wanted to ask a bit about employment.  I was interested that you saw your mom working at the Casino as a negative influence.  Also I think you saw work as a positive place when you were young.  And a strong history of work in your family.  What influence does employment have on your story?

A lot of the time what would get me through university was looking back and thinking of stories about my grandmother and her parents.  So my great-grand-parents left the reserve after the Second World ‘war.  Which was not a common time for First Nations people to just pick up and leave.  But they moved to [a nearby town] which at the time, even back then, was somewhat of a metropolitan area compared to the reserve.  And they just worked.  They did not settle for welfare and alcoholism and all the bullshit of the reserve.  They got up and walked out and worked and saved their money and were human beings like anyone else, and wouldn’t allow themselves to be isolated.  My Old Papa was – he left the reserve and did anything he could to provide for his family so that they could have a better life than what was being imposed on the reserve. 

FM: Which side of the family?

My mom’s grandpa.

FM: But the next generation wasn’t so good?

My grandma right now lives in the richest part of [a near-by town]. She’s constantly travelling the world.  She drives the latest models of Cadillacs and SUVs.  Because she worked all her life.  And saved.  She worked in factories, she did what she had to do. 

FM: But she was a lousy parent?

I think that’s where she fell short.  I think it was because she had 5 kids and her husband left her with 5 kids at a time when no one supported a single mother. Never mind an aboriginal single mother.  She had lost her status by marrying him, so she couldn’t live on the reserve, not allowed legally, so there was a lot of struggle and she had to do what she had to do.  There wasn’t day care and there wasn’t money to buy day care so there was negligence.  But she had to do what she had to do.  Same with my mother, when we were adolescents. 

FM: Okay, so let’s try the finish-up questions – which often brings up other stuff…  So:  For the people who will read this story, to give it focus and shape, would you say what you think is the Most Important Event in this story.  It could be something that happened, or something that didn’t happen.  What d’ya think?

(long pause) 

I just didn’t give up.  I think the most important thing is just to persevere and look for supports.  But then, maybe it’s having the supports.  Because I could look for them all I want to, if they’re not there…. 

FM: Earlier you said how important having your first child was and going to university – I thought that might be the answer to this question. 

I really don’t know how to answer that.  Whenever I think of what was the most life-changing thing for me it was definitely having my first child and going to university and I went to university because of my first child.  Thanks to my first child; it was all for him and because of him. 

FM: Yeah, I sometimes think that the way society thinks about early unmarried parenthood is so limited, because in my experience, it’s a turn-around point for many women, in particular, and sometimes guys, except society is even harder on them than on the women, in some ways.  Some girls I’ve worked with said that having a child made them an adult worth investing in, again.  And the guys said they just got told to keep their pecker in their pants and pay support.  So they got double-damned, really. 

FM: Enough philosophizing on my part.  But glad to see it resonates with you.  Next question:  People reading this story will want to know how it ends, and of course they can’t, but how would you predict this story will unfold, a happy ending or not so much?  Optimistic or not really? 

I think about this too in terms of my children’s success and I’m optimistic it will be a happy ending because it can only get better.  So long as I’m in their life, that’s my goal is to continually make life better for them.  They’re in multiple extra-curricular activities each and I focus on their homework and I talk with them about the importance of school and education.  I talk to them about the importance of being a good person and treating other people with compassion and kindness.  I parent them in a gentle soft way and there is no corporal punishment.  And I think there is nothing to run away from or to get kicked out: I would never do that to them.  So I already see the changes I’m making, everything I needed from my parents I’m giving to my kids.  And if I can end up in a semi-decent place, then I think they can, if they so choose. 

FM: Okay… two advice questions.  First one:  What advice would you give your younger self, whether or not your younger self would take that advice, what advice that you think would make this story have a better or easier ending? 

I would advise my younger self to not escape through drugs and alcohol, to not run away from problems that way.  Or any way, but just to look at what’s important, what’s really important.  To plan a better future.  And to walk more consciously.  And that I have more value than I realize. 

FM: Okay.  Second one:  What advice would you give to those of us who would seek to be helpful and useful to young people making this kind of transition?  What advice to us? 

That they’re so lost in themselves, so consumed by the end result of all their trauma.  Like there’s a shell to crack through, it’s a multi-layered, complex state of being they’re in.  And that can translate as rudeness and delinquency.  I think that’s a projection of their state, they’re showing you how they feel. 

FM: We used to call that Acting Out, but then acting out became a shorthand for any misbehavior and we lost the idea of trying to figure out what the thing was that was being expressed through action, i.e acting out. 

Yeah. I think it’s also important to remember that even though the shell may be hard to break, to get through to a person, you can still change someone.  Nothing is ever lost, people will remember everything, it will be locked in their subconscious and unfold later.  It still has the ability to impact somebody even though they’re not openly receptive in the moment.  Kindness, help, support: it can change lives.

FM: I was hearing a plea for patience and perseverance and consideration for what you don’t know, from the outside looking in.  Well said. 

FM: That’s me.  Anything else you want to add? 

No.