By Lauren Smith ‘18
When students come to Merrimack College, they are named “warriors.” It’s a nickname mainly used to describe the school’s athletes, but every student at Merrimack has their own battle and every student has a reason why they are a true warrior. Every edition, The Beacon will talk to a student to find out what makes them who they are and why they see themselves as a warrior.
So what makes you a real warrior? Everyone has a story. Do you have anything you want to talk about first of that makes you, you? What obstacles have you had to overcome?
It was originally my mom, my dad, my two sisters, and I and we were a completely normal family, but then my dad started using drugs. So, my mom divorced him and he left us and was in and out of all of our lives. I was six when it happened. When I turned ten, my oldest sister just passed away out of the blew. Then, it was just my mom, my sister, and I. My dad then got a girlfriend, she got pregnant, and then they left and went to Colorado. Once I reached like seventh or eighth grade, I stopped talking to him completely; I would throw up from stress induced migraines and the thought of having to maintain a relationship with him. The only reason I’ve since spoken to him was because my sister just got married and has maintained a relationship with him, so I had to talk to him when I saw him at the wedding.
What was it like having your mom raise you and your sisters alone without any financial support from your dad?
I think having a single mother and watching her do everything on her own financially made me want to be a strong person myself. We struggled, always, always, always. I’ve never called myself a warrior, but I guess I would be considered one because no one would have ever expected me to be where I am today; thriving. I have a 3.8 GPA, I work, and I’m doing stuff that I love and I guess very few would expect that to happen after everything I’ve seen and been through.
How do you think witnessing your dad fall out of the picture and seeing your mom still do well and raise you and your siblings shape you individually as a person? How did your sisters play a role in this?
It made me really strong and independent. When my dad first left and my mom worked nights, my older sister Abby (who passed away) would help me get ready for school, cook us dinner, and she stepped up as the mom when my mom was not around. But when she passed away and my mom still had to work to support us and make money, we all kind of changed and then I had to step up and be independent and learn more at a younger age than most. I’ve met so many people that still don’t even know how to cook, and I’ve been cooking since I was eleven years old! Everything that I have, I’ve paid for on my own. Everything for college, I’ve done on my own because I didn’t want to ask for my mom’s help because she’s been through so much and has so much on her plate that I’ve never wanted to burden her more.
Would you ever consider having a relationship with your dad down the road?
Um, you know, after my sister’s wedding a month ago and I had to see my dad and his girlfriend, and I look at them and realize she had him so much longer than I got to. He doesn’t know who I am or what I’m doing at school.. So I don’t think I would, I don’t think I’d have him at my wedding or with my kids because he doesn’t know who I truly am. He’s a toxic person. For a lot of my life, I was really angry, and I would take it out on every other person. I was so angry at him and I didn’t realize that. Last summer, I decided to completely change, I was so mean and I didn’t like who I was, so I realized I needed to go back and fix a lot of relationships, mostly the one with myself. I was wasting so much energy on anger towards this person who was no longer even present in my life.
So, would you say in a way you forgave him even without ever receiving an apology?
Yes. He never said sorry. I accepted something I probably will never get. My sister had her baby, (she just turned two) and she has brought so much light into our lives and I don’t think any of us have ever been so happy. She filled a giant void that we all had that we never thought would be filled again, so my mom is doing so well and she’s very happy. I never thought I would see her laugh the same and now that’s all she does.
If you don’t mind me asking, how did your other sister pass away?
It’s a long story, but I was the last person in my immediate family to ever speak to her. Ironically, I asked her randomly what her kids names would be if she were to ever have kids. She went to a party and her best friend, Autumn, drove. They were 19. It was not even 5 minutes down the road. My sister didn’t drink at all, they had tested her blood alcohol level and it was 0, and her best friend’s was triple the limit. So when they were at the party later that night, the host’s dad said, “You all have to leave, get out now.” I don’t really know exactly what happened, I don’t know why she got into that car, but she got into the passenger’s seat and her friend wanted to go to another party at least fifteen minutes away. The road was an interstate, it’s not busy, but the speed limit’s 55. She was going 80 mph around a corner bend; it wasn’t icy, it wasn’t raining, the only thing was that it was dark. So, she ended up flipping the car. There was a guard rail and it went through the passenger side and it went through my sister and she bled to death. The driver, my sister’s best friend, only had a broken leg… My sister was trapped in the car, but her friend got out and dragged herself to a house and banged on the door and the people called the ambulance. When the ambulance got there, my sister was alive, they talked to her, and she just kept saying, “Is my friend okay? Is Autumn okay? You know that’s my best friend, is she okay?”
What happened to the friend?
Well, she was supposed to be in jail for a really long time, but she ended up getting the minimum of three years, except her mom begged my mom and said, “Please, I need to see my daughter.” So my mom agreed to the minimum because she has such a big heart, and Autumn was only in a county women’s jail for a year and a half. Then she was only on probation for 2 years, I think. Only that, for manslaughter. We’ll see her every once in a blue moon, and she won’t look at us or speak to us. She acts like she has no idea who we are. She’s never said sorry to me, so that’s another apology I guess I’ll never receive. I was eleven years old and she killed my older sister. She even lived with us for a period of time, too. She only got a year and a half in jail, but she must be living her own hell every day knowing she killed her best friend.
Where you stand now, how do you think that negativity shaped you if in any way positively?
In high school, I actually talked and advocated against drunk driving before big events in front of my class and younger classes just to bring out a positive message from it because you don’t want to be the person to ruin someone’s family or yours even at that. I wouldn’t wish anything like that on my worst enemy. It’s shaped me a lot and I hope as much as I’ve talked about it or tried to, I’ve impacted someone’s decision to not drink and drive or get in the car with someone. In a positive way I’ve done a lot of things to try and change outcomes and promote anti-drunk driving.