BECAUSE I am authoring this essay, you might be thinking that my dad’s absence brought me to a higher point in life, made me independent, and strong. Truth is, while it did do all these things, the deprivation of my fathers' love brought a lot of physiological pain, confusion, and mommy and daddy issues growing up.
Ever since I was young, I had always been a daddy’s girl. Always wanting to please him and be around him. When I was five years old, he left. That brought a lot of conflicting feelings up towards my mom, and I blamed her.
Unbelievably, with the help of Tik Tok, I have been able to process my feelings and thoughts. Who would have thought that so many other kids were going through exactly what I have felt?
They have been able to put my feelings into words that I could never seem to produce. Often when I try to speak about how I feel, my mouth becomes a dry ocean, and I can never seem to find the words to describe how I feel. Young creators on Tik Tok have helped me voice thoughts and better understand myself. They have helped me deal with my acquired feelings from my childhood.
Since I was a child, I could not have known that my mom kicked my dad out for committing adultery. I will not forget the moment when I arrived home and he was packing up to leave. He told me, “I have to go, sweetie, Mommy is making me leave.” My heart shattered into a million pieces. I was crying and from that day forward blamed my mom for him leaving. It was not until I was a teen that I had time to think about it, and I stopped blaming my mom.
From what I can remember, my dad was not around much, despite what my family says about him taking me to and from school and daycare. Sad to say, but he is very manipulative, so much so that he would make me believe that it was my fault that I had not seen him as much because I am always busy. I remember once I had been calling him for months with no answer, and one day he decided to pick up the phone. I could have been no older than 10. When I asked him why he never answered he said, “I needed space, I didn’t think I had to tell you that.” I think from then on, I felt like I was not good enough for him, or anyone in general.
Soon after, on my birthday, I was told that my dad was arrested, and that is when I fell into a depressed state. The constant disappointments and let downs of being told that he would return home but never did were devastating, and I did not think that I was going to be able to bear it much longer. Even when in law class, I was always sensitive to the jokes that my classmates would make about how inmates had suffered mental trauma and ended up committing suicide when they got out, were beaten, and/or were occasionally raped. I love my dad. Despite how much I missed him, outside of his jail cell life went on.
During his time away my mom, of course, had boyfriends. They would stick around for a while. After a week or so of not seeing them, however, I would realize that they were not coming back. Why they all left I never knew, but it took a toll on me.
Without a shadow of a doubt, my youngest brother’s father leaving hurt me the most. While my dad was locked up, it took me a while to warm up and accept my brother’s father, but I did. I considered him to be my own. I had written him a card for his birthday and told him that I saw him as my second father. Come to find out he was no good, and he left like all the rest.
My biological father eventually made it out of jail. He has been out for about three years now. The sense of abandonment from all the men I had encountered never left, I suppose. My is a tale of Many Many Men.
Although my father’s periodic absence had some negative effects on how I perceived life, the experience offered me blessings in disguise. For one, I also wrote about my dad and how his time in jail affected me for an essay competition in middle school.
I placed third out of 406 kids in the Letters About Literacy competition. I was invited to speak at the Library of Congress in front of many authors and my fellow 7th and 8th-grade competitors. It took a lot for me to expose myself and become vulnerable on that stage, but I did. I brought so many people to tears in the audience and I would not have been able to if not for my dad and my experience.
My grandmother tells me I write about him a lot, and I do. Often, when I try to speak about how I feel, I become as speechless as a mummy with a story to tell and a life lived but dead inside whereas no one can hear me. My thoughts tend to plummet through my head like a tsunami and that is why I choose to write about my feelings, and in this case my father.
Despite all that I have written, no, my dad was not a complete dead beat. He saw me promote to high school, and he has done better. I can say that his time away, although not voluntary, has changed him. He is a better person, and whilst I still tango with my feelings, he is still my father and I have it lucky. He could be in the ground or be a ghost in my life, but he is here.
Granted I am 15 and I often I am told that I am incredibly wise, which I am. His absence has given me some unhealthy habits like overthinking and overanalyzing. It also has made me very understanding and an amazing listener.
My feelings of abandonment and lack of trust has pushed me to work harder for what I want and never rely on anyone for anything--man, or otherwise. With that being said, I can admit that he has shaped me, and our relationship has changed me, for better and for worse.
Amillyah Barnes-Wimberly is a student at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, DC who won 3rd Place in the “Discovering Me…Without You: Personal Essay Contest for Fatherless Teen Girls Ages14-17.”