My adoptive life gave me a new beginning, one that set me free from the pain of my old life. On January 22, 1987, I was born. It wasn’t easy. I was brought into the world and taken back from the hospital to the projects on the East Coast. Born to a 17-year-old mother and traded for $1,000 for drugs before I was 8 months old was the start to a world of pain and struggle. Childhood consisted of foster care, moving from home to home, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse (from caregivers and social workers). Many people like me would cave and run to drugs or suicide. But there was a fight in me, mostly due to my faith in the God I would hear about in church—a God who loved me. I clung to that message, and it caused me to hope there was something more than just the pain.

I was passed around from home to home until I was 18 years old. When I turned 18, life didn’t get easier; it grew harder. Now 18 years old, coming from a lifetime of pain, I was searching for a little bit of hope, a guide that would show me there was another way to go. I ran to the streets looking for love. The streets are no easier for a child who ages out of care and is searching for stability and love. Typically, those kids end up in addiction, prison, or dead. I knew I had to fight if I was going to survive, and survive I did until age 19 brought forth more dysfunction and pain. Running around with my street family, a small scuffle broke out, leading me into a cage for young adults. After eight months in a detention center, I went searching for love and hope again.

I needed a new beginning.

By age 20 I knew I couldn’t stay the same. I had filled out an application for a ministry in Northern California for troubled teens and young adults. I went there, and it impacted my life for the better. At the facility, I was able to confront a lot of the pain in my past as well realize the pain I had experienced was not my fault. This led me to desire to be the best I could be. I began going to college, and while in college my sophomore year, I wrote a paragraph that captured the hearts of the world. I shared what it was like being me, growing up without my family. Eventually, a movie was made about my life story because while in college, I had impacted a lot of lives and was helping other adopted children to overcome hardships—in education and behavior. However, there was still one dilemma: I desired to have a family of my own.

In 2015, that’s exactly what I got in unexpected places. My family is three families in one that have adopted me into their hearts and lives. My family is enormous. I have every type of family member a person could think of. I have support and love. I have people who encourage me and want what’s best for me. Adoptive life gave me a new beginning. Contrary to my start in life, now I have people who protect me, who treat me with value and worth. Instead of moving from home to home, I have set down my roots.

Adoptive life has given me a new beginning, and every day I am learning new things about being a part of a family after living independently for so long. I had to look out for and take care of me as a child through my young adult years. Today, I still hold the responsibility as an adult to take care of myself, but I also have others who step in to show me they care as well. I am taking it step-by-step each day. It’s hard sometimes when my family has memories that I am not a part of or shares stories of people I don’t know. Yet, each day I am learning to flip my perspective, and listen to those stories in a way that I get to learn about my family. Each day I feel blessed to have a family I can now call my own. Adoptive life gave me a new beginning.