I took last week off from the blog. I was in Costa Rica on vacation and frankly I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write a blog post. I avoided my laptop most of the week unless it was urgent. It was fabulous (the trip and not touching a laptop). I highly recommend both.
When you hear from me again at the end of next week I’ll be 41 – 7/11/77 baby. My 40th year was an interesting one. I suppose they all are but this has been a year of transformation and awakening for me. I have had the privilege of being my mom’s daughter my whole life and she taught me confidence to not define myself (most days) by what other people think of me. What a gift that has been and one that I hope to pass down to my own daughter.
So, this year I have shed the final layer of shame and self-doubt that came with my family’s involvement with the justice system (some people would call this “Zero Fs left to give” but I have kept the F word out of this blog so far so we won’t go there). I was always in this weird spot of not wanting to talk about it in most circles and yet not feeling like our experience was terrible enough to “own” in others. Ours has never been the worst case and I have always known we were “lucky” even in the midst of a living hell. But it is OUR story and it’s what we choose to do with it that matters.
So, this past year I joined the JustLeadershipUSA community of justice involved leaders (system survivors if you will) working to cut the U.S. prison population by 50% by 2030. This group and my cohort have become like family to me and I feel so empowered in their presence and with their support.
I told my daughter, the singular most important thing and person in my life, the truth about what happened to us for the first time. And it has opened many doors for us to do things together in this fight toward a more fair and just world. It didn’t feel right carrying that burden anymore so it’s gone too.
I joined the Close the Workhouse campaign in St. Louis, launched this blog and have joined another board of an organization doing amazing things to help people who’ve BEEN to prison (not just their children, like Ava’s Grace Scholarship) go to college and beyond. And I am super pumped about being part of expanding the Midwest Innocence Project’s work into the St. Louis area.
I am feeling good in my own skin – my justice warrioring skin – but I am also reminded how lucky I am to have found a career and a FAMILY that supports me in this journey. I could not pursue this passion without the grace and sacrifice of so many – especially my husband, my mom and a multitude of amazing employers over the years.
My first 40 was fun, fulfilling and fast. Let’s see where the next 40+ leads.
With Gratitude and Hope for the Future,
Founder, Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program
Mom – CEO – Justice Warrior