When Life At Home Breaks Down

Fresno, CA—Family and home life situations, from absent parents to growing pains, can have tremendous emotional and mental impact on young people. Where family can be the source for one’s success in life, these young writers from The kNOw share stories of how issues at home can create stressful situations and questions about the future.

[divider] To An Absent Father
It’s going to be nine years since the last time I saw you. I was eleven and now I’m 20, next month I’ll be 21.

Do you ever think of me? I think of you from time to time. I want you to know I forgive you. I’m not holding any grudges against you. Not having you in my life has made me who I am today. I love myself for who I am. There was a time when I didn’t love myself. I had low self-esteem and I hated my life, but not anymore. You weren’t there for a reason. It just wasn’t meant to be, but your mistake set me free.

Who knows who I would be today if you had been in my life. With the pain and hurt from your absence, I developed into a beautiful young lady. I love people and I show them I care. Sometimes I stop and stare at what I don’t know. But thoughts of you come to mind, wishing you were here. You were more of a father to me through your absence, rather than if you would have called or visited. Please don’t think these are words of anger because they aren’t. Can I tell you how I feel? This is it, with all serenity.

I love you through it all. It was better to not know you, than to know you and have you walk out of my life like you did when I was very young. You never cared. That’s what my younger siblings have to go through. I’m grown now and I’m secure. But if you want something or someone to worry about, think of your children who are younger than me. They are the ones who need you right now. They are in need of the father they once knew. They look a lot like you. Let my forgiveness motivate you to be there for them. Do right for them, and by doing that, you will have done right for me.
-Laqusha, 20

Growing Pains
Just before I went to sleep last night, I thought about me. I’m finally going to turn 18 this week. It’s not like I’m not happy, but it’s just hard to face the reality that I’m an adult. I have more options, more doors open, which means I have more complex decisions to make, like if I should leave home now or wait for another month until I get an apartment. And if I leave home now, where would I stay? And will I be comfortable staying there? I know it’s just about every teenagers’ dream to be 18, but to my surprise, it’s not every thing it’s cracked up to be right now. At this point, I wouldn’t mind a little vacation time, just to travel back to when things didn’t matter at all, like maybe when I was around the age of 6 or 7…no wait, make that 5. Then I drifted off to sleep.
-Patrice, 18

Broken Family Photo
Growing up, my family rarely ever gets the chance to take family pictures, and when we did, it wouldn’t include everyone. We still don’t have a family picture that is complete, but we do have one picture that comes pretty close. This picture was taken when I was about 3 or 4 years old, and in this picture are both my parents and three of my four brothers, and then me. I love this picture because it reminds me of my childhood and my brothers.

In my family, I grew up as a little baby sister who followed her brothers everywhere. I have nothing but older brothers, and they aren’t exactly perfect brothers but I love them still. When I see this picture of our almost-complete family, it sometimes makes me sad because it makes me feel like our family is broken.

My oldest brother is in and out of prison and always away from his own family. Another brother is going to the Air Force and is hardly home. And then me, I am hardly home now since I am always at school or doing some activity.

Whenever I see this almost-complete family picture, it makes me hope that one day our family will be complete again, and that I could see my brothers everyday. It makes me wish I could have a complete family picture, one that has both parents, my four older brothers, and me. I always imagined this picture could be taken at my graduation, but the way things are going now, it looks as if this picture I always imagined will be just like the last one, with both my parents and just three of my four brothers, and then me.
-Arena, 16

Hanging By A Thread
Before I went to sleep last night, I thought about how I am at a time in my life when things just aren’t simple. I find myself wishing for the old days, the ones that I used to wish would end. I feel useless, almost powerless in the world I live in. I have no job, virtually no skills, no money, so why so much stress? That’s exactly it. I can’t really do anything without money. I need it for almost everything. Without a job and further schooling, I’m pretty much frozen in this predicament.

Home is no longer my refuge. I feel helpless and vulnerable. To my mother, not getting a job during a recession is “acting up”. Not taking classes I can’t pay for at some trade school is a “disappointment”. Hanging out and seeing new places with my boyfriend when there’s absolutely nothing to do at home suddenly makes me “like a tramp”. When someone says things like that to you, you feel small. Your pride is crushed and you feel like a complete failure. I want to give up on life, not necessarily die, but to just halt my overwhelming troubles until I could strain them and see what I should take care of first.

By now, I guess most people would feel complete, but I feel like I’m an egg that hasn’t hatched, or like I have unfinished business. I don’t feel like I had the chance to do the things most teenagers got to do, like driving a car, hanging out, or going to parties. The person inside of me wants to live, but the real world is telling me to grow up and move on.

I don’t know what to do. I feel like I am a constant disappointment, a burden to everyone around me. I scramble to find quick-fix solutions, such as selling my own crafts to earn money, but nothing ever seems to be enough. I try, but I’m scared to try harder in fear that I will create this horrible domino effect of making more problems. I am almost at my wits end, but I’m hanging on by a thread, a cheap one at that. I want to be successful, and have my own business someday. Once I get away from home, I think I’ll be able to make that happen.
-Jaleesa, 19

My Awesome Dad
If I could, I would have stopped my dad’s death about three years ago. He was the provider for our family, the rule, and the protector. When he was alive, I never noticed what he did. I was probably ignorant or maybe just too young to notice, but my whole life has changed ever since he died.

My dad was a leader among our Thao clan relatives, and everyone showed up at our family gatherings. I always thought that was how it would be no matter what, but sadly, I was wrong. The last big gathering our house went through were the three dreadful days of getting ready for my dad’s funeral. I was amazed by all of the people who came to pay their respects. There were even cousins I had never met before. But these days, no more than 25 people gather in our house when we have family gatherings. My dad was someone who helped out everyone, but now, it feels like no one is helping us back.

If I could tell my dad something today, I would tell him that it feels like there is no one who loves my family anymore. I’d tell him how the other relatives don’t care. I’d tell him that life without a real man in the house is hard. Everyone looks down at us and no one seems to respect my mom.

I’d want my dad to tell me how proud he is of me and my success with The kNOw. I know my dad would be showing my articles to the whole world and he would be proud that one of my articles got re-published in a popular Hmong magazine. I want him to read my articles out loud and tell me he is proud to have me as his daughter.

I would tell him that he is a great dad and that he taught me well. I would tell him I miss him and love him very much. I would give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek even though a lot of Asian dads aren’t very affectionate—he wasn’t. I would spend a lot of time with him. I’d want him to know that he is my hero.
-Angelina, 16

(These topics are from The Beat Within, issue 14.08)

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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