What led me here
I was born in Boise, ID 24 years ago. All of my life I have traveled and moved a lot due to my parents being separated since before I was born and my mother marrying into the military when I was very young. I had a mixed, cultural and diverse upbringing. I have a large family mainly in Idaho, Arizona and Nevada. We were not always separated from each other. At one point we all knew each other like one large family and now as I have gotten older everyone has gone their separate ways.
I guess you could say that I initiated some of this going of separate ways… I chose to move out of my father’s house the day after I graduated high school. I could have been less stubborn and bull headed and stayed with him and my stepmom for awhile until I figured things out, but no, that has never been my path. I always hated filling pinned down and like I could not spread my wings, I guess I get that from my mother.
My upbringing was not always perfect. In fact it was downright messy from the beginning! My mother left my father before she gave birth to me, at the time they were living together in Washington and my mother decided she wanted to go back to Idaho. My father was devastated and wanted a family but my mother is stubborn. From the time I was born I would bounce back and forth between my mother and my father and my mother’s family would all take turns taking care of me…. Then my mom married a man in the military and we ended up moving to Germany when I was 6 years old for about a year. I still remember Europe and visiting the Eiffel Tower, David, the Mona Lisa….. but my mother wanted to come back home so we couldn’t stay longer.
Then I moved from state to state to state until I was about 12 and then my mom decided that the man she was married to was no good so we packed up our things and completely emptied the house while he was gone one day…. At the time my little sister was about 2 years old.
It only took a year for us to create our own living hell. I lived with my mom and sister in a 2 bedroom apartment and my mom ended up having to pull me out of school because I started trying drugs (marijuana) and getting involved with boys at 13 years old. My grades were D’s and F’s….so I would be homeschooled and my mom would go to work at night and I would watch Saterra…..but that wasn’t the end of it. The stress was so bad that my mom and I would scream and curse at each other and I didn’t have any friends anymore. I was sad because I never really had a relationship with my father.
That summer I went to visit my father and I ended up deciding to live with him. This was very hard on my mom and sister and for many years my sister did not understand why I left them. Whenever I would go to visit her and I would leave, we would both be balling our eyes out!
But my mother taught me many things despite all of our differences, the arguing, screaming, moving and instability. She was always an activist for equal rights for everything and everybody. When we were poor she would feed the starving children that showed up at our door. Even when we lived in Georgia she would feed the alligators! When I was a little girl she would have me watch documentaries on what happens when little girls talk to strangers. We always had fun together and she always let me be inexplicably who I am …. She never put boundaries on me as a person and encouraged me to do and be what I desired to do and be…. But like with everything else nothing is ever perfect...
I learned to be strong, stand up for myself, deal with tension, fighting, arguing and stress…. I had to learn and cope with all of that from a young age but at the same time I was never boxed in from being who I was/ am.
When I went to live with my father those 5 years he provided me structure and discipline that I did not have with my mother. He made sure I got good grades, was involved with school and not getting into trouble. My stepmother had me involved with the Greek Orthodox Church and I did Greek dancing for 5 years. Even though I had a more stable upbringing those 5 years with my father I always felt something was missing from my life… I felt hemmed…. like I wasn’t free.
Honestly my whole life I have been completely fascinated by history, different cultures, world news, equal rights, activism, environmentalism, humanitarianism …. I remember even when I was 14 I would do research on what women go through in different countries. In high school I had to do a big project for my hospitality class. This project required that I present information that would inform people about other cultures. I had to write a paper, research a lot, put a whole visual presentation together and prepare a speech. I chose to investigate North Africa and the Middle East and I ended up getting gold on that assignment from a panel of judges!
My thirst for knowledge and the way the world works as well as all the cultures in it has never ceased being vigorous in my mind… in high school and even now I read history books on my own and do my own research because I love it so much. For example; did you know that Cleopatra is actually a Greek name and that there were many Cleopatra’s in ancient times?
Back to me not feeling free… the first three years out on my own were extremely difficult…. I moved 12 times, got involved with the wrong people, got arrested twice for underage drinking and for awhile was not even speaking to my family. Somehow I decided I wanted a change and started asking myself in the midst of disappear one day, “Where are all the people that are going to change the world?” … “Where are they?” Then I started running into and getting to know people that were highly spiritual and wanted to help me and I discovered that I had a lot to work on inside of me…. I had a lot of issues! Despite the pain I worked through my internal issues and it took me three years of constantly going within and meditation to get through the worst of my issues…. Basically issues of self esteem, pain, anger, confusion, blame….
I worked through my issues and lived on my own for 2 years and then I decided I was finished with Arizona and I packed up my things and left everything behind and decided that I was going to mend my relationships with my family back in Idaho…. But again I had more lessons to learn. I did mend my relationship with my sister but I quickly realized that everyone was absorbed in their own lives…. Such as it is in America…. People are closer to strangers than their own family most of the time. Even though I moved back “home” nobody seemed excited or really stopped anything to spend much time with me. At that point I was an adult living on my own for 4 years and decided I needed to quite living my life around other people and live my own life. It was a hard decision because I was leaving my sister behind again but she ended up going and living with her dad and being better off.
I decided to move to Vancouver, Washington and live with my cousin. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I knew absolutely nothing about Vancouver, Washington and the only person I knew was my cousin. I completely went into the situation on blind intuition, trust and faith. At that point I needed to follow my heart and take risks….
In the midst of all of this I held in my mind and heart a dream. My dream is that I travel the world and help women in remote places. I didn’t know many details about my dream but I would always tell people, “I want to help women in remote places of the world, they need help” … through all of my ups and downs, suffering and happiness I would think about all of these women… as if they were and are calling out to me…. I feel that they are … I am not downplaying the men or boys here…. I am just speaking of what is in my heart. My love and light are really for all of humanity.
In 2013 I heard of Malala being shot… then my mother bought me her book when it came out, I read it immediately and started following her on social media. Then one day, a year after I followed my heart to Vancouver, I was laying in bed at work and scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and I saw that Malala had posted a documentary on women in Pakistan. I started watching it right then and there…. Then I noticed that in the comments section that the woman in the documentary was commenting! I could not believe it. I asked in the comments section if that was her and she and someone else replied “yes!” I immediately felt something inside of me, like my heart was leading…. My intuition was screaming at me… everything felt right and I immediately started messaging her and asked her if she needed donations…. It just felt right…. I had been wanting to donate to something but I refused to donate to a big fancy organization…. This was exactly what I had been looking for… for years.
The truth is that I had always imagined in my mind that I needed a ton of money in order to travel to these remote places and make a difference in these people’s lives…. But I didn’t realize that we would cross paths over the digital sphere through social media…. I never even imagined that it could happen now. You are speaking to someone on the other side of these issues of women’s rights yet I am affected as much as any woman is. Every time I hear of an injustice I feel their pain….and I imagine that it is me….
That woman is Rifat Arif, also known as Sister Zeph… she has become a best friend, a sister, and ally…. She encourages me every day and prays for me and I do the same for her. I have begun to realize through her and her village more of the grander picture of my hearts calling and what I came to this earth to do…. My life’s work starts here.